Introduction

Introduction

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English

Professors Emeriti O'Connell and Sofield; Senior Lecturer Emeritus Lieber; Professors Brooks, Cobham-Sander‡, Frank‡, Hastie‡, Parham*, Sanborn (Director of Studies), and K. Sánchez-Eppler†; Associate Professors Bosman, Mireles Christoff†, Grobe (Chair), Nelson†, and Rangan†; Assistant Professors Abramson, Guilford, Lawson‡, Myint†, and Worsley; Writer-in-Residence Lee*; Lecturer and Director of the Creative Writing Program Kapur; Lecturer and Director of the Intensive Writing Program Reardon; Senior Lecturer B. Sánchez-Eppler; Lecturer Sweeney; Visiting Professor Sanders; Visiting Lecturers Bernitt, Couch, Masiki, and Ocasion; Visiting Instructor Gooptu; Merrill Visiting Poet Dryansky.

Major Program. Students majoring in English are encouraged to explore the Department’s wide range of offerings in literature, film and media, performance studies, cultural studies, and creative writing.

Majoring in English requires the completion of ten courses offered or approved by the Department. The Department organizes its courses into four levels. The courses numbered in the 100s are writing-attentive and writing-intensive courses that introduce students to a variety of genres and media, entail frequent writing, and cultivate students’ skills in close reading. The courses in the 200s emphasize a particular approach to method, genre, medium, period, or discourse. They include introductory courses in creative writing as well as literary, film, or cultural study. The courses in the 300s are electives designed to foster immersion into specific topics in literary, film, cultural studies and creative writing. They help students learn skills and/or study materials that will prepare them for independent work in their 400-level seminars. They are open, however, to both majors and non-majors across the college, and generally do not carry prerequisites for admission. Courses in the 400s are junior and senior seminars emphasizing independent inquiry, critical and theoretical issues, and extensive writing. These courses teach students the intellectual skills vital to framing a research question and conducting independent research.

Majors are required to take at least one 100 course, at least two 200 courses, at least two 300 courses, and at least two 400-level seminars. One of these courses must substantially address material from the period before 1800. While senior thesis and special topics courses also have 400 numbers, these individualized courses cannot count as the 400-level seminar.

In the early spring of each year, senior majors present independent work drawn from one of their 400-level seminars or from their senior theses at the English Department Capstone Symposium to fulfill the Comprehensive Requirement. The ten-minute presentations can take many forms and they will be organized into panels. The Comprehensive Requirement is fulfilled by presenting your work at the Symposium, participating in preparation sessions, and also participating in the conversations that are generated by your classmates’ presentations.

Majors may count towards the ten required courses up to three courses in creative writing. Level and period requirements should be fulfilled with courses from Amherst College English Department offerings. Because 400-level seminars can lead in the senior year to a thesis project, the Department strongly urges majors to take at least one of their required 400-level seminars before the end of the junior year. The Department will not guarantee admission to a particular 400-level seminar in the second semester of the senior year.

Senior Thesis. The senior thesis provides an opportunity for independent study to any senior major who is adequately motivated and prepared to undertake such work. English majors apply for admission to the senior thesis courses (English 498/499) in April of their junior year. Admission to English 498/499 is contingent upon the Department’s judgment of the feasibility and value of the student’s proposal as well as of their preparation and capacity to carry it through to a fruitful conclusion. The Department assigns Thesis Advisors to students whose applications it approves.

To be considered for senior honors a student must submit to the Department a portfolio, which contains normally 50 to 70 pages of writing. The work may take the form of a critical essay, a short film or video, a collection of essays or poems or stories, a play, a mixture of forms, an exploration in education or cultural studies.

Before a student can submit a thesis, the final work must be approved by the student’s designated advisor. Once the thesis is approved, the Department appoints a committee of faculty examiners to read it. Following an interview with the student, the committee conveys its evaluation to the whole Department, which then makes the final recommendation for the level of honors in English.

Departmental Honors Program. The Department awards Latin honors to seniors who have achieved distinction in course work for the major and who have also demonstrated, in a submitted portfolio of critical or creative work, a capacity to excel in composition. Students qualify for Latin honors only if they have attained a B+ average in courses approved for the major; the degree summa cum laude usually presupposes an A average.

Learning Goals. By the time of their graduation, we expect that students who major in English will have become:

  • Adept at reading closely and writing well.
  • Skilled at critical writing about works in multiple genres, including both written texts, performances and visual narratives such as film. Some students may choose to create works of their own in verse, prose fiction or other media.
  • Attentive to the production of literary culture in a range of historical periods and social contexts.
  • Informed about the relationship between literary texts, literary criticism, and theories about cultural production.
  • Well versed in the literature associated with at least one specific area of concentration.
  • Capable of producing a well-researched long essay and/or completing a sustained creative project.

Graduate Study. Students interested in graduate work in English or related fields should discuss their plans with their advisor and other members of the Department to learn about particular programs, requirements for admission, the availability of fellowships, and prospects for a professional career. Many graduate programs in English or comparative literature require reading competence in several foreign languages; while to some extent these programs permit students to satisfy the requirement concurrently with graduate work, we would encourage those interested in graduate study to broaden their language skills while at Amherst. We would also encourage students to consider writing a thesis, for several reasons: to produce a polished writing sample they can submit with their application; to gain, and demonstrate, experience in sustained independent work; and to get a sense of the areas they might want to pursue in graduate school, some knowledge of which is essential for writing an effective admissions essay.

N.B. The English Department does not grant advanced placement on the basis of College Entrance Examination Board scores.

*On leave 2021-22.
†On leave fall semester 2021-22.
‡On leave spring semester 2021-22.

105 Engaging Literature: Close Reading

Why study literature? In many contexts, including the contexts of most other academic disciplines, one reads in order to extract the gist of a text. By studying literature, we enable ourselves to do much more than that. Studying literature makes it possible to recover a relationship to language that we all once had, in which words and their interrelationships were new, strange, and rich with possibility. It makes it possible to develop a more acute awareness of the ongoing tension between language as units of meaning (words, phrases, sentences) and language as units of sound (the beat of syllables, the harmonization of one syllable with another). It even makes it possible for us to carry this sense of everything that is uncanny about language–the medium of our relationship to others and to ourselves–into our lives more generally, to recognize that in just about everything that we say, we mean more than we mean to mean. People who study literature are people who are capable of taking away from conversations, no less than from poems, much more than the gist, the summary, the bottom line. By dwelling on texts patiently, by slowing down the process of moving from mystery to certainty, by opening ourselves to the crosscurrents of potential meanings that are present at every moment in just about every sentence, it is possible for us to become more accurate and nuanced readers of just about everything that happens in our lives.

Eighteen seats reserved for first-year students. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2020

106 Engaging Literature: Craft, Conversation, Community

Literature engages us. It moves us, it delights us, it makes us ask hard questions. How do we engage literature? How do we respond to it in conversation, in writing, in performance, and in our communities? How do we write about literature in a way that effectively engages others?

This course seeks to engage you in a process of seeing literature and your own writing process anew. We will engage with authors, in person, in public, and on the page. We will attend literary events and enter into conversations among writers: authors who are influenced and inspired by each other, literary critics who give us illuminating interpretations, and literary historians who open our eyes to contexts heretofore unseen. Students will practice writing about literature in a range of modes from the personal essay to the book review to the academic paper. Frequent writing workshops will be geared toward the process of revising in a collaborative environment. A first course in reading fictional, dramatic, lyric, and non-fiction texts, this course also challenges Amherst College students to think of themselves as writers.

Preference given to first-year students. Limited to 18 students. Ten seats reserved for first-year students. Omitted 2021-22. Professors Brooks and Mireles Christoff.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2018, Spring 2020

107 Poetry with Friends

This poetry workshop is made for buddies: the ones you build and the ones you bring. Although most poets love to go solo, the contemporary writers we will study in this course prove how writing can be better with friends.

In this course, we will look at contemporary poets who collaborate: to perform, to further their own collections, to create their passion projects. We will look at poetic movements that planted the seed for twenty-first century partnerships and examine contemporary collaborations that prove there’s poetic strength in numbers.

Requirements for this course include a desire to experiment with collaboration. Students are encouraged to register with a friend as a way to begin their writing partnership but will also be paired with a partner or group within the course to write with. Completion of this course will include the creation of two sets of collaborative work. Partners will decide if this means writing individual poems that are in conversation with each other, or writing work collectively. This is a great course for non-majors and good friends.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester: Professor Lawson and Visiting Lecturer Dan Bernitt. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Fall 2021

110 Writing About Humor

Why do we laugh at some jokes but not others? What makes something funny? This class will explore humor as a core rhetorical concept to study audience, genre, purpose, context, and exigency. We will analyze how situational and language humor work in essays, stories, and visual media. Students will build their critical reading and writing skills through short, low-stakes weekly writing and three major papers. We will consider how the intersectional identities of authors and audiences (i.e.: how class, race, gender, and disability, among others) influence joke construction and reception. As we read, we will pay close attention to the way that writers use humor as a tool for social critique and to release tension. Students can expect to build a toolkit for creating arguments with evidence, and they will frequently revise the content, organization, and language in their work. We will work together to develop a community of writers who can mutually support each other through the writing process.

Preference given to first-year Amherst College students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Lecturer Reardon.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

111 Having Arguments

Using a variety of texts–novels, essays, short stories–this course will work to develop the reading and writing of difficult prose, paying particular attention to the kinds of evidence and authority, logic and structure that produce strong arguments. The authors we study may include Peter Singer, Aravind Adiga, Willa Cather, Toni Morrison, George Orwell, Charles Johnson, James Baldwin, Alice Munro, William Carlos Williams. This is an intensive writing course. Frequent short papers will be assigned.

Preference given to first-year Amherst College students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester. Senior Lecturer Emeritus Lieber.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2021, Fall 2021

113 Writing Human Rights

This course explores human rights rhetoric through readings of a range of non-fiction briefs, academic articles, and reportage, alongside fictional works. It asks students, through critical writing, to come to terms with our responsibilities as global citizens for upholding a culture of dignity in our world. Together, we will examine the way that authors use the written word to push readers to empathize with others, reflect on the past, learn about injustices, and imagine new realities–as we do the same in our own writing. We will pay close attention to the way that writers build arguments, use evidence, organize texts, and edit their own work, with an eye on developing strategies for using these skills in class assignments, and transferring them to other classes as well. Through writing projects that analyze, challenge, and extend authors’ arguments about the universality of human rights and the pursuit of social and racial justice, we will evaluate the ways that words fuel and mitigate conflict–in both productive and destructive ways.

Preference given to first-year Amherst College students. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester. Lecturer Reardon.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

114 Narratives of Migration and Transformation

How does migration transform identity? Which techniques do writers use to express and recreate this complex experience on the page? What role can language and narrative technique play in forging a sense of self and home? How might writing be related to refuge? Reading across genres of poetry, fiction and memoir, this class explores how writers have described the experience of locating themselves while departing, arriving or living in between. The course will cover topics such as alienation, assimilation, generational memory, survival, nostalgia, hybridity, and transformation. Students can expect a wide range of writing assignments, both analytical and creative. Readings may include Bapsi Sidhwa, Amitav Ghosh, Zadie Smith, José Olivarez, Warsan Shire, Suji Kwock Kim, Fady Joudah, Edwidge Danticat, Eduardo Corral and Ocean Vuong.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Writer Kapur.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021, Spring 2022

115 Writing (about) the News

This course explores media literacy and the rhetoric of news through readings of a range of multimedia news and academic articles. It asks students, through critical writing, to come to terms with our responsibilities as engaged citizens for understanding, and acting on, the information we encounter in the news. Together, we will examine the way that journalists present the written word in print and digital spaces to inform, analyze, and present opinions–as we do the same in our own writing. We will pay close attention to the way that reporter teams explicitly and implicitly build arguments, use evidence, organize texts, and edit their own work, with an eye on developing strategies for using these skills in class assignments, and transferring them to other classes as well. Through writing projects that ask students to examine conversations on current events, particularly those relating to social and racial justice, students will develop skills to evaluate and contribute to the multimedia news landscape.

Preference given to first-year Amherst College students. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester. Lecturer Reardon.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

116 Literary Storms

In this course we will weather famous storms featured in literary, artistic, and cinematic works from the nineteenth century through the present day. Together, we will make our way through snow, sleet, hurricanes, cyclones, tropical storms, superstorms, and everyday rain showers. This topic will provide a unifying thematic thread for a class focused on the fundamentals of close reading, viewing, writing, and revision. We will examine how various genres, narrative styles, and authorial voices engage this common topic in strikingly different ways. We will also use storms to learn about literary and aesthetic concepts such as the sublime, and to think about the basic building blocks of narrative. How do storms blur lines between setting, plot, characterization, suspense, and closure? What does it mean for a setting to come to life or function as a character?

Together, we will discuss: How do stories of environmental violence and human violence collide? Who gets to tell the story of a storm? What stories emerge on either side of the ostensibly rupturing event itself, before and after the storm? How do storms expose and exacerbate disparities along racial and socioeconomic lines? Can reading local storm stories provide a way of thinking about global climate change?

Some of our storms will be based upon actual events, including Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, and Irene; this will raise complex questions about the boundaries between history and art.

Possible works include paintings by J. M. W. Turner; short stories by Kate Chopin, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Ben Marcus; novels by Zora Neale Hurston, Ben Lerner, and Jesmyn Ward; film by Behn Zeitlin, and documentary by Spike Lee.

Limited to 18 students. In the fall semester, ten seats reserved for first-year students. Fall and spring semesters. Professor Abramson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Spring 2021, Fall 2021

117 Arthurian Literature

(Offered as ENGL 117 and EUST 117) [Before 1800] Knights, monsters, quests, and true love: these are the things we associate with King Arthur and tales of his court. Why has Arthurian literature proved so enchanting to centuries of poets, novelists, and recently, filmmakers? In this introductory English course, we will read and watch Arthurian legends from Chaucer to Monty Python, examining the ways in which they have been represented in different eras. Beginning with the historical foundations of the King Arthur legend, we will examine how it blossomed and took form in later eras. Our focus will be on close literary and visual analysis of British, American, and French (in translation) versions of these legends. We will also discuss what cultural forces lie behind the popularity of Arthurian legend in certain eras: later medieval England and France; the Victorian era; and twentieth-century England and America. There will be frequent writing assignments and presentations, as well as a final creative project.

Open to first-year students and sophomores. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Nelson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2020, Spring 2022

119 From Ordinary to Extraordinary: Literature of the Everyday

This is a class all about the art of noticing. Our primary texts fixate on what Amit Chaudhuri calls “the moment of noticing”: heightened attention to the small, the ordinary, the routine. Many readings will be “day-in-the-life” novels set over a 24-hour period; others dwell on single moments, fleeting impressions, or routine rhythms of daily life. And just as our primary authors practice the art of noticing, so will we adopt a similar stance of scrutiny and attention to detail in this course.

We will also discuss questions such as: How does the ordinary become extraordinary? How does the seemingly mundane or quotidian become infused with meaning? How does art make the familiar newly strange or fascinating? What happens to narrative conventions of plot and the event when writers are more interested in capturing the textures, rhythms, and background environments of everyday life? How does one narrate history in the making, as it unfolds in everyday life? How are major historical events and political structures felt over the course of a typical day? What happens when the ordinary and extraordinary change places?

We will look at short stories, novels, photography, and memoir. Possible authors include Mulk Raj Anand, Amit Chaudhuri, Teju Cole, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Henry James, Ian McEwan, Kathleen Stewart, and Virginia Woolf.

Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Abramson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

120 Reading, Writing, and Teaching

(Offered as ENGL 120, AMST 220 and EDST 120) This course considers from many perspectives what it means to read and write and learn and teach both for ourselves and for others. As part of the work of this course, in addition to the usual class hours, students will serve as weekly tutors and classroom assistants in adult basic education centers in nearby towns. Thus this course consciously engages with the obstacles to and the power of education through course readings, through self-reflexive writing about our own varied educational experiences, and through weekly work in the community. Although this course presses participants to reflect a great deal about teaching, this course does not teach how to teach. Instead it offers an exploration of the contexts and processes of education, and of the politics and desires that suffuse learning. Course readings range across literary genres including essays, poems, autobiographies, and novels in which education and teaching figure centrally, as well as readings in ethnography, sociology, psychology, and philosophy. The writing assignments cross many genres as well.

Limited to 18 students. In the fall semester, eight seats reserved for first-year students. Fall semester: Professor Frank. Spring semester: Lecturer B. Sánchez-Eppler.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

121 Writing the College Experience

(Offered as ENGL 121 and EDST 121) What does equity and access look like in college? What should it look like? In this course, students will learn to critique power structures that have created boundaries around higher education, and they will build their critical reading and writing skills through short, low-stakes weekly writing and three major papers that will be revised many times. We will consider how students’ intersectional identities (i.e.: how class, race, gender, and disability, among others) help them navigate college or create barriers to equity and access. We’ll learn how learning is shaped by cultural and rhetorical contexts. As we read, we will pay close attention to the way that writers build arguments to levy their own critiques with evidence, as well as how they organize texts and edit their own work, with an eye on developing our own strategies for using these skills in this course and others. We will work together to develop a community of writers who can mutually support each other through their own multifaceted college experiences.

Preference given to first-year Amherst College students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Lecturer Reardon.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

125 Representing Illness

With a focus on the skills of close reading and analytical writing, we will look at the ways in which writers imagine illness, how they try to make meaning out of illness, and how they use illness to explore other aspects of experience. This is not a course on the history of illness or the social construction of disease. We will discuss not only what writers say about illness but also how they say it: with what language and in what form they speak the experience of bodily and mental suffering. Readings may include drama by Sophocles, Molière and Margaret Edson; poetry by Donne and Mark Doty; fiction by José Saramago and Mark Haddon; and essays by Susan Sontag, Raphael Campo and Temple Grandin.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Bosman.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2014, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Spring 2022

150 Amherst Poets

From Emily Dickinson to Robert Frost to Sonia Sánchez, Amherst is famous for its poets. More than twenty well-known poets have written, lived, studied and taught in the area surrounding the College. This introductory course is designed to welcome students who have not previously taken a college-level English course into the literary environment of Amherst, as well as into the literary community of poetry readers more broadly, by studying five or six Amherst poets very closely. Our main focus will be on the close-reading skills needed to engage with poetry of all kinds, and on the skills needed to write a college-level essay about literature. We will engage in frequent essay-writing workshops together, and there will be a chance to meet and engage with contemporary Amherst Poets on Zoom.

 Limited to 18 students. Fifteen seats reserved for first-year students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Worsley.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Fall 2020, Spring 2021

162 Black (on) Earth: Introduction to African American Environmental Literature

(Offered as ENGL 162 and BLST 162) African and African-descended people have a long-documented and intimate relationship to the natural world as a source of healing, nurture, and wealth. However, for a people who were stripped of their land in colonial Africa, exploited to work the land by European enslavers in the New World, and hung from trees in the American South, and who still have a precarious relationship to water in such places as Flint, Michigan, and post-Maria Puerto Rico, inhabiting the earth is complicated. How might we begin to tell this entangled history? What kinds of stories have Africans and their descendants developed to address their relationship with nature? What does the term “environmental justice” even mean to and for people of African descent today?

In this course, we will encounter a range of texts, including slave narratives, novels, poems, visual art, and performance written by and about Black subjects, to begin to understand how various authors, artists, and activists represent the rich relationship between blackness and the natural world. Readings may include works by Olaudah Equiano, W. E. B Du Bois, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Zora Neale Hurston, Derek Walcott, Jamaica Kincaid, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, T. Dungy, Britt Rusert, Kimberly N. Ruffin, among others.

Limited to 18 students. Ten seats reserved for first-year students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Cobham-Sander.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020

180 Film and Writing

(Offered as ENGL 180 and FAMS 110) A first course in reading films and writing about them. A varied selection of films for study and criticism, partly to illustrate the main elements of film language and partly to pose challenging texts for reading and writing. Frequent short papers. Two class meetings and one screening per week.

Limited to 25 students. Twelve seats reserved for first-year students. Open to first-year and sophomore students. Fall semester. Professor Guilford.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

182 Constructing Childhood: From Page to Screen

(Offered as ENGL 182, EDST 182 and FAMS 182) How has childhood been imagined across the twentieth century and into our own present? Since the Victorian era, childhood and the experience of being a child have been associated with innocence (and experience), nostalgia (and regret), and a simpler (while deeply complex) time of life. Yet across literature and media, childhood is constructed after the fact, by adults whose perceptions are shaped by their understanding of childhood as a distinct and discrete set of experiences. In this course, we will explore constructions of British and American childhoods on page, stage, and screen, exploring two foundational late Victorian/Edwardian intermedial texts (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Peter Pan), before venturing on a journey exploring cinematic depictions of childhood over the course of the twentieth century. We will examine twentieth-century films depicting children and popular genres designed to appeal to child audiences; how media texts represent children as they navigate conceptions of gender, sexuality, race, and class; and children as both consumers and producers of media in the twenty-first century. Students will explore different genres and modes of expository writing, including personal essay and close textual analysis and do an independent, guided research project. Students will gain a familiarity with key terms and methodologies in English and Film & Media Studies; an ability to think and write critically about literary and cinematic texts; an awareness of historical, social and cultural perceptions of childhood in Britain and the United States; confidence in reading primary and secondary sources; and proficiency in analytical writing, including sentence-level clarity, building arguments, using evidence, and working with and appropriately citing a variety of sources.

This course is designed for entering first-year students. Non-English/FAMS majors and Five College students are welcome. Limited to 18 students. Eighteen seats reserved for first-year students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

212 Storytelling Arts in Mesoamerica

(Offered as ENGL 212 and ARHA 212) [Before 1800] This course will explore the major pictorial narrative traditions of Mesoamerica, focusing on manuscripts of the Aztec, Maya, and Mixtec peoples, as well as other media, including texts and images from murals, ceramics, monuments, and mirrors. These visual and narrative media continue to play important roles in the preservation of Indigenous identity, solidarity, and cultural identity within nation states; the course will examine public, popular, and fine arts reviving, repurposing, and supporting resistance using this imagery.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Lecturer Couch.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020, Spring 2022

214 Re-imagining American Literature, A Survey: Pre-Conquest to 1865

[Before 1800] Until the recent past, and still in high schools and many collegiate institutions, courses that intend to survey American literature represent that oeuvre as nearly exclusively the work of white male writers. In this survey we will often encounter writings by American Indians from different nations, by women, by African Americans, as well as more commonly taught writers like Melville, Thoreau, and Emerson.

Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Emeritus O’Connell.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020

215 Re-imagining American Literature, A Survey:  1865 to the Present

Survey courses have in our time increasingly disappeared, except in most high schools. Attempts to make them sufficiently inclusive have seemed impossible. The chosen approach in this course is to concentrate on the remarkable literatures created by African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, bi-national writers, and working-class writers. We will also read “classic” writers like Willa Cather and Fitzgerald along with some of the working-class writers from the Thirties.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Emeritus O’Connell.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Spring 2021

216 Women Writers of Africa and the African Diaspora

(Offered as BLST 203 [D], ENGL 216, and SWAG 203) The term “Women Writers” suggests, and perhaps assumes, a particular category. How useful is this term in describing the writers we tend to include under the frame? And further, how useful are the designations "African" and "African Diaspora"? We will begin by critically examining these central questions, and revisit them frequently as we read specific texts and the body of works included in this course. Our readings comprise a range of literary and scholarly works by canonical and more recent female writers from Africa, the Caribbean, and continental America. Framed primarily by Postcolonial Criticism, our explorations will center on how writers treat historical and contemporary issues specifically connected to women’s experiences, as well as other issues, such as globalization, modernity, and sexuality. We will consider the continuities and points of departure between writers, periods, and regions, and explore the significance of the writers’ stylistic choices. Here our emphasis will be on how writers appropriate vernacular and conventional modes of writing.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Prof. C. Bailey.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Spring 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2022

217 Making Literary Histories I

[Before 1800] What is “English Literature,” and how does one construct its history? What counts as “England” (especially in relation to Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, and to ancient Greece and Rome)? What is the relationship between histories of literature and political, social, religious and intellectual histories? What is the role of gender in the making of literature, and the making of its histories? These are the kinds of questions we will ask as we read texts from the seventh through the seventeenth centuries, including works such as Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (in translation) and writers from Chaucer and Margery Kempe in the Middle Ages to Margaret Cavendish and John Milton in the Renaissance.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Nelson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Spring 2021

221 Writing Poetry I

A first workshop in the writing of poetry. Class members will read and discuss each others’ work and will study the elements of prosody: the line, stanza forms, meter, free verse, and more. Open to anyone interested in writing poetry and learning about the rudiments of craft. Writing exercises weekly.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester: Visiting Writer Kapur. Spring semester: Merrill Visiting Poet Amy Dryansky. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

222 Playwriting I

(Offered as THDA 270 and ENGL 222) This course explores key aspects of writing for the theater in a workshop style, from a transcultural perspective. Through writing exercises, analysis of scenes, feedback sessions, and the rewriting of materials produced, participants will experience the creative process and start developing their own voice as playwrights.

Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Visiting Artist Carneiro.

 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

223 Sound, Movement, and Text: Interactions and Collaborations

(Offered as THDA 255, ENGL 223, and MUSI 255) This studio course is designed as an interactive laboratory for dancers, composers, actors, writers/poets, vocalists, and sound artists to work together to create meaningful interactions between sound, movement, and text. Working individually and in collaborative groups, students will create original material in the various media and experiment with multiple ways to craft interesting exchanges and dialogues between word, sound, and movement or to create hybrid forms. The emphasis in the course will be to work with exercises and structures that engender deep listening, looking, and imagining. Some of the questions that inform the course include: How do music, voices, electronic, digital, and natural sounds create a sonic world for live performance and vice versa? How can movement inform the writing of text and vice-versa? How can we successfully communicate and collaborate across and between the different languages of sounds, words, and movement? We will have a series of informal studio performances, events, and installations throughout the semester with a culminating final showing/listening at the end of the semester.

Requisite: Previous experience in composition in one or more of the central media, or consent of the instructors. Limited to 16 students. Omitted 2021-2022. Professor Woodson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020

225 Non-Fiction I or Personal Story

How can we re-imagine ourselves and the world through our deeply felt personal questions? This course will focus on using personal non-fiction narratives to consider larger themes of politics, history, current events, and our ever-changing social reality. The course welcomes beginning writers who want to learn how to write more creatively without limiting censors and unnecessary judgment. The class will function as a cooperative workshop to help all write more fluently and with greater joy.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2021-22. Writer-in-Residence Lee.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2011, Fall 2019, Fall 2020

226 Fiction Writing I

A first course in writing fiction. Emphasis will be on experimentation as well as on developing skill and craft. Workshop (discussion) format.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Fall and spring semesters. Lecturer D. Sweeney.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

227 Reading and Writing Electronic Literature

This introductory course explores a variety of approaches to digital storytelling, from branching narratives, to hypertext media and video games, to more recent developments in machine-generated poetry and also embodied and location-based narrative. A hands-on class, it will link conventional understandings of narrative form and content to contemporary conversations about interface and computation, and ask students to think about materiality and textuality by experimenting with digital composition.

Omitted 2021-22. Professors Frank and Parham.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019

228 Liveness and the Livestreaming Studio

(Offered as ENGL 228 and THDA 251) In this course, we will explore theories and practices of “liveness.” What do we feel as alive in literature, drama, film, and television? How do we experience liveness across the forms of media? How does live media vs. recorded media influence our perceptions of its authenticity, and how do we express authenticity in each form? We will explore these questions as we examine works from drama, music, and dance; digital marketing, social media, and social networking; political protest, news broadcasts, and public relations.

With this theoretical and critical background in mind, we will also work on adapting between media by taking an existing creative work and transforming it into a dynamic live-streamed event. Works may be in creative writing, theatre, dance, music, or similar form, and they can be an original creation or a work by another author.

Technological Requirements: To fully participate in the final project, students will be expected to have regular access to an iPhone or Android smartphone with a working camera and a Mac or Windows computer with a working camera. If you lack either of these things, we will work with Academic Technology Services to ensure you have access to this technology during the January term.

Completion of this course will include a live in-class performance on the final day. Previous experience in any form of live performance is encouraged, but not required. Class will meet daily for 165 minutes.

Limited to 20 students. January term. Visiting Lecturer Bernitt.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in January 2022, Spring 2022

231 Three, Two, One: Reading Small Drama

How small can drama get while remaining “dramatic”? During the first half of the twentieth century, it was not unusual for a stage in America (or anywhere in the English-speaking world) to be filled with dozens of actors. Over the last sixty years, though, the crowds onstage have thinned. Today, three-, two-, and even one-person plays are as common as twenty-person plays once were. In this course, we will study the work of playwrights who have found new inspiration within these tight constraints.

As a foundational course in drama, this course will teach you the special skills involved in reading plays. As texts meant to be interpreted and staged by theater-makers, plays are radically under-determined things. So, you cannot sit back and play the role of audience. You must also do the imaginative work of all those people–actors, directors, designers, etc.–who turn a play into a performance. This course will teach you the habits of mind that make this imaginative work possible.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Grobe.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2016, Spring 2022

238 Shakespeare

[Before 1800] Readings in the comedies, histories, and tragedies, with attention to their poetic language, dramatic structure, and power in performance. Texts and topics will vary by instructor.

Limited to 50 students. Fall semester. Professor Bosman.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

240 Reading Poetry

A first course in the critical reading of selected English-language poets, which gives students exposure to significant poets, poetic styles, and literary and cultural contexts for poetry from across the tradition. Attention will be given to prosody and poetic forms, and to different ways of reading poems.

Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Professor Emeritus Sofield.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

250 Reading the Novel

An introduction to the study of the novel, through the exploration of a variety of critical terms (plot, character, point of view, tone, realism, identification, genre fiction, the book) and methodologies (structuralist, Marxist, feminist, psychoanalytic). We will draw on a selection of novels in English to illustrate and complicate those terms; possible authors include Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Wilkie Collins, Henry James, Kazuo Ishiguro, Thomas Pynchon, Toni Morrison, John Edgar Wideman, Emma Donoghue, David Foster Wallace, Monique Truong, Jennifer Egan.

Preference given to sophomores. Limited to 35 students. Fall semester. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

253 Modernists: In Their Words and In Their Worlds

This course provides an introduction to literary modernism in two parts, each part in dialogue with the other. First, in their words: we will look at how early twentieth-century writers described their own formal experiments and aesthetic agendas. This section will pair modernist manifestos and critical essays with fiction and poetry written by those same authors. Second, in their worlds: we will examine the historical, geographical, and cultural dimensions of these famous literary experiments. This section pairs modernist primary works with brief readings focused on World War I, colonization and decolonization, the Harlem Renaissance, and urban technology. When it comes to the dynamic relationship between words and worlds, our goal will be synthesis rather than separation. How does historical change relate to changes in literary form?

Possible authors include Mulk Raj Anand, Joseph Conrad, T.S. Eliot, E.M. Forster, Langston Hughes, James Joyce, Nella Larsen, Katherine Mansfield, Ezra Pound, and Virginia Woolf.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Abramson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Fall 2020

257 From Orientalism to the Asian Century: Methods in Transnational Asian Studies

What has Orientalism got to do with speculative science fiction? How does the history of Asia intersect with French and British colonialism? What does the “Asian Century” have in store for us? This course surveys the emerging field of Transnational Asian Studies through the lens of gender, empire, capitalism and migration. The course traces the historical flows and contemporary exchanges rising out of the vast and diverse Asian continent through literary texts, scholarly writing, and visual media. The course will explore categories such as “Asian/American,” “Afro-Asian,” “coolie” and “transnational” among others, while critiquing early iterations of the field for its United States-centric focus.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Visiting Lecturer Gooptu.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

270 Letter Writers and Epistolarity

The participants in this online course will read letters and write letters. This course became radically enhanced with the distancing imposed as COVID-19 exiled us from campus last spring.

The course depends both on experiences and experiments with the letter as a complex instrument of communication, as literary artefact, as carrier of affect, intention and ideas, and as a record of individual and communal growth. Letter writing will be practiced as a performance that deploys persona, tone, voice, purpose, persuasion, transparency, and decorum. Your discoveries and the development of your thoughts will be circulated as letters written among a small circle of correspondence.

Readings will include letters written by Paul, Seneca, Martin Luther King, Biddy Martin, Dorothy Osborne, John Keats, Rainer Maria Rilke, Lou Andreas-Salomé, Sigmund Freud, Boris Pasternak, Marina Tsvetayeva, Robert Oppenheimer. The reading of epistolary novels will focus our attention on fictional uses of the form (Daddy Longlegs, Dangerous Liaisons, Screwtape Letters). We will also pay attention to the current evolution of letter writing in the time of e-mail and social media, and social isolation.

Capstone projects will be organized as researched and curated presentations of selected online manuscript letters, or as a compiled and analyzed collection of personal or family letters, or as epistolary fiction.

In addition to the expected use of Zoom and emergency uses of Skype, students are expected to become familiar with: Google Drive, Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides; Dropbox; Microsoft Word, Power Point, and Excel; Audible and Kindle; parabol.co; and ProQuest Ebook Central.

January. Lecturer B. Sánchez-Eppler.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Spring 2020, January 2021, January 2022, Spring 2022

271 How Can We Talk About Race, Class, and Gender?

Each of us lives in a world in which race, class and gender–complex and elusive terms–reflect multiple realities. In the last few years they have openly shaped public discourse in the US. They also affect individuals and groups differently: invisible to many, an inescapable felt presence for many others. Denial, controversy, struggle, pride, and hesitation are but some of peoples’ responses. A world of courses could not comprehend the responses or the terms themselves, the histories or the controversies. So this course must necessarily be exploratory and, beyond the usual, open to each participant, even in sharp disagreements.

Memoirs, novels and poems, lively and revelatory social science texts make up the readings. Short weekly writings and three essays complete the work of the course.

Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Emeritus O’Connell.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

272 A Primer to Children’s Literature

Children’s books are a site of first encounter, a doorway to literacy and literature. This course will offer both a history of book production for child readers in England and the United States and an exploration of what these first books can teach us about the attractions, expectations, and responsibilities of reading.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor K. Sánchez-Eppler.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2016, Spring 2018, Spring 2021

273 When Corn Mother Meets King Corn: Cultural Studies of the Americas

(Offered as AMST 280 and ENGL 273) In Penobscot author Joseph Nicolar's 1893 narrative, the Corn Mother proclaims, "I am young in age and I am tender, yet my strength is great and I shall be felt all over the world, because I owe my existence to the beautiful plant of the earth." In contrast, according to one Iowa farmer, from the 2007 documentary "King Corn," "We aren't growing quality. We're growing crap." This course aims to unpack depictions like these in order to probe the ways that corn has changed in its significance within the Americas. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, students will be introduced to critical theories and methodologies from American Studies as they study corn's shifting role, across distinct times and places, as a nourishing provider, cultural transformer, commodity, icon, and symbol.

Beginning with the earliest travels of corn and her stories in the Americas, students will learn about the rich histories, traditions, narratives, and uses of "maize" from indigenous communities and nations, as well as its subsequent proliferation and adaptation throughout the world. In addition to literary and historical sources students will engage with a wide variety of texts (from material culture to popular entertainment, public policy and genetics) in order to deepen their understanding of cultural, political, environmental, and economic changes that have characterized life in the Americas.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professors Brooks and Vigil.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Spring 2019

277 Literature and Culture of the Philippines

This course is an introduction to the art, culture, and history of the Philippines through the narrative spaces of literature. While small in size, the 7,107 islands that make up the Philippines have played an important role in geopolitics, and the scars of a deeply conflicted history of occupation by the Spanish, Americans, and Japanese are evident in the literature. Reading a mixture of canonical and emerging authors will help us understand the complex legacies of colonialism in the islands and in the diaspora.

As a discipline, Asian American Studies has deep roots in social justice activism, and many of the texts we will read are responding to colonial and national structures of power. We will pay close attention to the ways in which art identifies, protests, resists, and survives structures of inequality within and between societies. By nature this is an interdisciplinary project, drawing from history, literature, fine art, and sociology to understand how the literature of the Philippines has changed over time. Our questions will consider the relationships between nation and space, diverse embodiments of national identity and ethnicity, and the cultural and historical contexts that inform these issues.

While the literature of the Philippines is written in many different languages, this course will be concerned with translated and English texts.

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Visiting Lecturer Ocasion.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

278 Digital Africas

(Offered as ENGL 278 and BLST 212 [A]) This course will examine how African writers incorporate digital technologies into their work when they publish traditional print texts, experiment with digital formats, or use the internet to redefine their relationship to local and international audiences. We will reflect on how words and values shift in response to new forms of mediation; on the limits these forms place on the bodies they represent, and on the protections they occasionally offer. Students will read fictional works in print, serialized narratives on blogs, as well as other literary products that circulate via social media. Students also will be introduced to a selection of digital humanities tools that will assist them in accessing, analyzing and responding to these works. Course materials include print, digital and hybrid publications by Oyono, Farah, Adichie, Cole, Maphoto, and Wainaina, among others.

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Cobham-Sander.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2021

279 Global Women's Literature

(Offered as SWAG 279, BLST 302, and ENGL 279) What do we mean by “women’s fiction”? How do we understand women’s genres in different national contexts? This course examines topics in feminist thought such as marriage, sexuality, desire and the home in novels written by women writers from South Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. We will draw on postcolonial literary theory, essays on transnational feminism and historical studies to situate our analyses of these novels. Texts include South African writer Nadine Gordimer’s July's People, Pakistani novelist Bapsi Sidhwa's Cracking India, and Caribbean author Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Shandilya.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Spring 2019, Spring 2020

280 Coming to Terms: Cinema

(Offered as ENGL 280 and FAMS 210) An introduction to cinema studies through consideration of key critical terms, together with a selection of various films (classic and contemporary, foreign and American, popular and avant-garde) for illustration and discussion. The terms for discussion may include, among others: modernity, montage, realism, visual pleasure, ethnography, choreography, streaming, and consumption. Two class meetings and one screening per week.

Limited to 35 students. Spring semester. Professor Guilford.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Spring 2022

282 Knowing Television

(Offered as ENGL 282 and FAMS 215) For better or worse, U.S. broadcast television is a cultural form that is not commonly associated with knowledge. This course will take what might seem a radical counter-position to such assumptions–looking at the ways television teaches us what it is and even trains us in potential critical practices for investigating it. By considering its formal structure, its textual definitions, and the means through which we see it, we will map out how it is that we come to know television.

Prior coursework in Film and Media Studies is recommended, but not required. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 45 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hastie.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2010, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Fall 2016, Fall 2019

283 Television Narratives

(Offered as ENGL 283 and FAMS 234) What stories does television tell? And how does it tell them? This course will approach television’s narratives through a focus on both form and content. We will take into account issues of production, distribution, and exhibition, with attention both to historical developments and contemporary transformations to the medium. In this way, we will explore how shifts in programming, platforms, and viewing habits alter both televisual narration and consumption. By considering television’s specific form–whether commercial networks, cable TV, or subscription platforms like Netflix and Hulu–we will query how this specific media format enables or limits the ways it tells stories and what stories it tells. Each iteration of this course will focus on particular forms of narrative programming, through an emphasis on genre, format, historical eras, or cultural facets. Readings will include key critical works in Television Studies, essays on particular television series, and other works that situate television texts in a broader cultural framework and history. The goal of the course is to think through narrative form, representational systems, authorship, exhibition, and reception habits in order to define not just what television narrative is but also what it can be.

In spring 2021, “Television Narratives” focused on policing race, as represented in US television series, with some forays also in documentary programming and music videos from the late 1980s, early 1990s, and our contemporary period. We began with episodic police and detective series of the late 1960s and 1970s, such as The Mod Squad, Tenafly, and Shaft, when the role of the black detective merged social consciousness and contemporary style, sometimes treading the line between criminality and the law. We then turned to the hybrid episodic-serial format of Hill Street Blues, focusing on the representation of both African-American policing and criminality represented within the series. Our next case study, spanning the 1990s and early 2000s, considered the emergence of the police procedural as a dominant televisual form, with an emphasis on the long-running Law and Order franchise. Our final case study composed the latter half of the course, as we looked at mini series and limited season serials, including the docudrama When They See Us and the one-season series Seven Seconds. During this final unit, we also integrated queries into YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram to consider how the narratives of such series are extended through intertextual connections with clips, interviews, and productions by both fans and artists.

Two sections of this course were offered, each section limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hastie.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021

284 Coming to Terms: Media

(Offered as ENGL 284 and FAMS 216) What do we mean when we talk about “the media”? Coming to Terms: Media will parse this question, approaching the media not as a shadowy monolith but as a complex and changing environment comprised of varied technologies, formats, practices, devices, and platforms (e.g.: photography, gramophone records, online dating, smartphones, Netflix). The course will introduce key terms and critical approaches for the study of modern media in their specificity in an era of digital mediation. We will ask questions such as: What are the formal and technical features of different media? How do they construct us as spectators or users, and shape our perception of the world we inhabit? How do our media practices produce experiences of space, time, and community? And crucially, what are the ideological impacts of these perceptions, constructions, and practices when it comes to race, sex, identity, and the circulation of power and capital?

Each week students will encounter important works of twentieth- and twenty-first-century media and cultural theory and will encounter concrete examples to flesh out the abstract concepts in the readings and engage in ample class participation. Assignments will encourage students to enter into a conversation with these texts as a way of exploring and constructing arguments about contemporary media. The course will provide a strong foundation for advanced work in film and media studies, and related disciplines.

This course has no prerequisites, but it is best suited to students who have completed a 100-level course dealing with the analysis of literature or film. Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Rangan.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Spring 2020, Spring 2022

287 Introduction to Film Studies: The History of American Cinema, 1895-1960

(Offered as ENGL 287 and FAMS 212) This course is designed to introduce students to key issues in film studies, focusing on the history of American cinema from 1895 to 1960. We will pay particular attention to the “golden age” of Hollywood, with forays into other national cinemas by way of comparison and critique. Screenings will range from actualities and trick films, to the early narrative features of D. W. Griffith, to the development of genres including film noir (Double Indemnity), the woman’s film of the 1940s (Now, Voyager), the western (Stagecoach) and the suspense film (Rear Window). Reading and writing assignments and in-class discussions will address how to interpret film on the formal/stylistic level (sequence analysis, close reading, visual language) as well as in the context of major trends and figures in film history. A weekly viewing journal will be expected, as a record of students’ critical responses to the films. In addition, three formal essays are required: a 3-5 page sequence analysis; a 6-8 page critical explication of a piece of film criticism (a scholarly article or book chapter) not already assigned for the course; and a final research paper (8-10 pages), to be revised in conjunction with a peer review workshop. By the end of the semester, students can expect to gain the following: a familiarity with key terms in film language and film analysis; an ability to think and write critically about film, its aesthetics, historical development, technology, and cultural context; an overview of some key films in American cinema history from the silent era to 1960; an appreciation of different film genres, their structure, iconic language, and ideological/cultural meanings; and confidence in reading critical/theoretical essays in film criticism and history.

Limited to 35 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

289 Moving Pictures: The History of Silent Cinema

(Offered as ENGL 289 and FAMS 227) This course focuses on global cinema during the silent era (1895-1927). We will explore the wide range of films produced in cinema’s first three decades, including early actualities, animation, trick films, serials, melodrama, and experimental film. Readings in film history will assist us in investigating the rise of classical narrative, the studio system, star and fan culture, and the transition to sound. In addition to studying the work of Charlie Chaplin, Sergei Eisenstein, D. W. Griffith, Georges Méliès, and Dziga Vertov, the course will highlight filmmaking by women and people of color including Alice Guy-Blaché, Oscar Micheaux, and Lois Weber, among others. A weekly viewing journal will be expected, as a record of students’ critical responses to the films. In addition, three formal essays are required: a 3-5 page sequence analysis; a 5-6 page critical explication of a piece of film criticism (a scholarly article or book chapter) not already assigned for the course; and a final research paper (8-10 pages), to be revised in conjunction with a peer review workshop.

This course will run primarily online, with periodic small-group meetings for students who are in residence on campus and parallel small-group meetings for remote students. The additional evening time slot will provide opportunities for students to screen films and engage in structured small-group discussion synchronously, whether remotely or in person. There may be additional opportunities for in-person meetings (including office hours) as the semester progresses.

Recommended requisite: ENGL 180/FAMS 110, Film and Writing, or an equivalent 100-level course. Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2011, Spring 2021

295 Literature and Psychoanalysis

Why does it seem natural to read ourselves and other people in the same way that we read books? This course will introduce students to psychoanalytic thought and psychoanalytic literary interpretation. Freud famously reads Jensen’s short story Gradiva as a case history, but we will seek out ways of reading literature and psychoanalysis together that go beyond diagnosing characters or authors. How is psychoanalytic theory itself literary? How can it help to open up, rather than reduce, our reading experience? And how does literature in turn help to enrich, deepen, challenge and enliven psychoanalytic theories of subject-formation, language, and interpersonal relations? Putting psychoanalytic and fictional texts in conversation, topics of particular interest may include: dreams, desire, sexuality, mourning, trauma, the unconscious, the uncanny, anxiety, embodiment, racialization, paranoia and the reparative impulse. Psychoanalytic readings will be drawn from Freud, Klein, Lacan, Winnicott, Bollas, Khan, Phillips, Riviere, Fanon, Milner, Sedgwick, Felman, and others. Literary texts change from year to year.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Mireles Christoff.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Spring 2020, Spring 2022

296, 395 Literature and the Nonhuman World

Like every other aspect of human culture, literature interacts with biology–with, in Elizabeth Grosz’s words, “a system of (physical, chemical, organic) differences that engenders historical, social, cultural, and sexual differences.” The aim of this course is to make that fact as intellectually fruitful as possible. What happens to our understanding of literature if we think of it as an expression of life? What happens, that is, if we think of literature as one of the countless things that emerges from a non-personal, non-teleological process of evolution? And what happens if we think of individual works of literature as potential ways of getting closer, conceptually and sensually, to life, to the difference-making process within which we all find ourselves? Readings will include Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, James Welch’s Winter in the Blood, J. M. Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello, and the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Wallace Stevens, and Elizabeth Bishop. A background in the natural sciences is welcome but not necessary.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2020

301 The Qur'ān and Its Controversies

(Offered as RELI 385, ASLC 385 and ENGL 301) 

An exploration of several salient questions concerning the Qur’ān, the Islamic Revealed Book. How have Muslims explained the Qur’ān’s own proclamation of its supernatural origin and its miraculous quality?  How does the Qur’ān engage with and respond to the Hebrew Bible and Christian scriptures? Who has the authority to interpret the Qur’ān and why? These are just a few of the tantalizing questions that will occupy us over the course of the semester. We will also discuss the ways that the Qur’ān has been read as a work of law, theology, and mysticism, and how it has shaped theories of the state. Finally, we will isolate the Qur’ān from the Islamic tradition and explore the many ways that it can be read as a work of literature. 

All readings are in English. No prerequisites. 

Fall semester. Associate Professor Jaffer.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2021

303 Books and Their Afterlives: Writing and/as Technology

Books have a rich history in multiple cultures, and the experience of reading them is often bound up with their material form. In other words, the way we read books has arguably always been tied to how they look, and smell, and feel. So what happens to books in the digital age? What do books feel like when they are on the Internet? From the first printed text to the digital age and beyond, this course will consider the changing shapes, goals, and aims of books. Beginning with the earliest texts produced with moveable type and ending with experimental electronic literature, we will consider the intertwined histories of reading, books, and the technologies used to make them. This course will include sessions held in Frost Library’s Special Collections and one required field trip to Big Wheel Press in Easthampton, Massachusetts.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Professor Henrichs.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Spring 2020

304 Narratives of Suffering

It’s possible to imagine people who have not yet suffered, who have not yet had a peculiarly intense and sustained experience of physical or psychic pain. Those imaginary people are, however, vulnerable to future suffering. Even more importantly, they live in a world in which many others suffer, so many that a refusal to attend to suffering amounts to a refusal of a meaningfully relational existence. Thinking and feeling in response to suffering is, accordingly, an inescapable aspect of what Henri Bergson describes as “a really living life.” But how do we respond to suffering, whether in others or in ourselves? How do we take it in without appropriating it? How do we express it without turning it into a spectacle? These questions and others like them are difficult, but the aim of this course is to generate an intellectual and emotional atmosphere in which we can be transformed by the process of taking them up. Readings include The Book of Job, King Lear, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Art Spiegelman’s Maus, and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2014, Fall 2016, Spring 2019, Fall 2021

306 Modern British and American Poetry, 1900-1950

Readings and discussions centering on the work of Thomas Hardy, W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, and Wallace Stevens. Some attention also to A.E. Housman, Edward Thomas, Ezra Pound, and William Carlos Williams.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Emeritus Pritchard.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2016, Fall 2018

307 Making Genre in the Eighteenth Century

[Before 1800] Imagine a world where the novel was truly a novel form, and where newspapers were a new idea, and where print had only recently been commercialized. The eighteenth century was a time of great flux in Britain and the US, not only in terms of political change and scientific discovery, but also in terms of the literary world. Poets were beginning to panic that their genre was no longer the dominant mode. Daily journals were changing how people perceived the way time passed. Testimonies from abroad were changing people’s awareness of the world at large. Women were reading in secret, since the men around them often tried to restrict which genres they had access to. Writers who wrote for profit were called “hacks.” Even the very idea of the professional author was under question. In this course, we will consider many different genres of writing, including novels, memoirs, newspapers, lectures, journal articles, travel narratives, plays, and poems, during a period when massive innovations were taking place. Although the majority of the texts we will discuss will be those published in the eighteenth century, we will begin the course with some seventeenth-century texts (such as John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Francis Bacon’s essays), in order to more fully understand the creative vision of eighteenth-century writers like Daniel Defoe, Joseph Addison, Jonathan Edwards, Anne Finch, Laurence Sterne, Phillis Wheatley, Jane Austen, and Olaudah Equiano. There will be an emphasis on engaging with these texts as they were originally printed, with a chance to engage with archival materials. The course will end with a consideration of how notions of the difference between authors of different genres still persist in the present day.

Recommended requisite: Previous English class preferred. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 35 students. Spring semester. Professor Worsley.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

309 The Literary Histories of Technology

[Before 1800] What does a reader in 1620 have in common with a reader in 2020? They are both faced with an overwhelming explosion of textual information made possible by technology. In both 1620 and 2020 readers are confronted with massive quantities of information that threaten to overwhelm. The causes differ: in 1620s London, advances in printing and paper-making technologies made textual materials cheaply and widely available on an unprecedented scale. In 2020, we have the Internet.

This course proposes that the seventeenth- and twenty-first centuries share similar methods of controlling their new information environment; both use creative and figurative language to talk about it. Readers in 1620 used recently-Anglicized terms like metaphor or synecdoche, whereas readers in 2020 talk about uploading everything to the cloud. In this course, we will explore the humanist rhetorical handbooks of the English literary Renaissance as a means to two ends: one, to better understand the literary production of canonical authors like Shakespeare; and two, to engage with the rhetoric of digital creativity in the twenty-first century. We juxtapose readings from Renaissance rhetorical handbooks with poetry and essays from that period and with digital humanities scholarship. The final project of the course will ask students to perform individual research as part of a collaborative, multimodal guide to the information structures of the Internet.

Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Professor Henrichs.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019

310 Interpretation in Law & Literature

(Offered as LJST 341 [Analytic Seminar] and ENGL 310) Interpretation lies at the center of legal and literary activity. Both law and literature are in the business of making sense of texts—statutes, constitutions, poems or stories. Both disciplines confront similar questions regarding the nature of interpretive practice: Should interpretation always be directed to recovering the intent of the author? If we abandon intentionalism as a theory of textual meaning, how do we judge the "excellence" of our interpretations? How can the critic or judge continue to claim to read in an "authoritative" manner in the face of interpretive plurality? In the last few years, a remarkable dialogue has burgeoned between law and literature as both disciplines have grappled with life in a world in which "there are no facts, only interpretations." This seminar will examine contemporary theories of interpretation as they inform both legal and literary understandings. Readings will include works of literature (Hemingway, Kafka, Woolf) and court cases, as well as contributions by theorists of interpretation such as Spinoza, Dilthey, Freud, Geertz, Kermode, Dworkin, and Sontag.

Limited to 15 students. Open to juniors and seniors.Omitted 2021-22. Professor Douglas.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Spring 2012, Spring 2015, Spring 2019, Fall 2020

315 Nabokov's Art and Terrors

(Offered as RUSS 225 and ENGL 315) This course undertakes a sustained examination of the works of Vladimir Nabokov (1899–1977). Drawing on the literary masterpieces of Nabokov’s Russian and English periods, we seek to gain a critical appreciation of his literary art and the cultural and aesthetic contexts from which they emerged. Throughout the course, we will consider his abiding themes such as the complex relationship between art and life, and between the poet, the state, and society; the narration of the experience of time; metafiction, its possibilities and constraints; bad art; the experience of exile; and the privileged position of art and aesthetics. The latter are variously inflected as refuge, asylum, or a space of revolt, as well as what enables the artist to counter, but also to inflict, cruelty. The course will also situate Nabokov’s work with the currents of literary modernism; to that end, readings are also drawn from such figures as Jorge Luis Borges, Franz Kafka, Marcel Proust, and Virginia Woolf. Our access into these themes and the author’s narrative art will be through attentive reading, itself a preeminent theme of Nabokov’s work. No familiarity with Russian history or culture expected. All readings in English. 

This course will meet for three hours MWF as well as require asynchronous film screenings for at leat 2 hours per week. 

January term. Prof. Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Spring 2011, Fall 2013, Spring 2016, Fall 2018, Fall 2020, January 2022, Spring 2022

316 Immersive Accompaniment: Reading the Bildungsroman

(Offered as ENGL 316 and SWAG 316) “From whence comes my help?” “From where does your strength come?” The psalmist and Adrienne Rich ask these questions, which we will face while we read coming-of-age narratives that fit in a genre known by its German name, the Bildungsroman. These novels go beyond the pilgrimage out of adolescence, and into explicit representation of intellectual, aesthetic, and spiritual growth experienced in unison with sexual development, awakenings, thrills, mishaps, and marriage. We will pay attention to how we immerse ourselves into the condition of those who grow on the page; not to “identify” with the characters, but to accompany them. From our immersive accompaniment we will re-emerge–intentionally–to write about how we progress, digress, regress, and grow some more. As we read we will explore many terms and theoretical concerns: Erik Erickson on life stages; Donald Winnicott on holding environment and object relation; Jacques Lacan on mirrors and interminability of desire; Silvan Tomkins on affects and nuclear scripts; Shoshana Feldman on re-reading, un-learning, en-gendering, and–again–desire.

Readings will likely include: Plato, Phaedrus; Susan Choi, Trust Exercise; Lazarillo de Tormes; Teresa de Avila, Interior Castle; John Woolman, The Journal; Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse; Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot; Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous; Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre; James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook; Richard Powers, The Overstory.

Omitted 2021-22. Lecturer B. Sánchez-Eppler.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021

318 Childhood in African and Caribbean Literature

(Offered as ENGL 318, BLST 362 [A/CLA], and LLAS 362) The course will concentrate on Caribbean authors. It explores the process of self-definition in literary works from Africa and the Caribbean that are built around child protagonists. We will examine the authors’ various methods of ordering experience through the choice of literary form and narrative technique, as well as the child/author’s perception of his or her society. French texts will be read in translation.

Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Cobham-Sander.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2015, Spring 2020

319 The Postcolonial Novel: Gender, Race and Empire

(Offered as SWAG 331 and ENGL 319) What is the novel? How do we know when a work of literature qualifies as a novel? In this course we will study the postcolonial novel which explodes the certainties of the European novel. Written in the aftermath of empire, these novels question race, class, gender and empire in their subject matter and narrative form. We will consider fiction from South Asia, the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa. Novels include Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh's The Calcutta Chromosome, Caribbean writer Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John and North African author Tayeb Salih's Season of Migration to the North.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Shandilya.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016, Fall 2018, Spring 2020

320 Literature as Translation

(Offered as EUST 303, ENGL 320 and RUSS 310) Acts of translation underwrite many kinds of cultural production, often invisibly. Writers of the Harlem Renaissance, for instance, engaged with black internationalism through bilingualism and translation, as Brent Edwards has reminded us. In this course we will study literary translation as a creative practice involved in the making of subjects and cultures. We will read key statements about translation by theorists and translators, such as Walter Benjamin, Roman Jakobson, Lawrence Venuti, Peter Cole and Gayatri Spivak. We also will directly engage in translation work: each student will regularly present translations in a workshop format to produce a portfolio as a final project. The class will be “polyglot,” meaning that students are welcome to translate from any language of which they have knowledge; when they share translations, they will be asked also to provide interlinear, or “literal,” translations for those who may not understand the language they are working in.

Requisite: Two years of college-level study of the chosen language. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professors Bosman and Ciepiela. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2021

322 Playwriting Studio

(Offered as THDA 370 and ENGL 322) A workshop for writers who want to complete a full-length play or series of shorter plays. Emphasis will be on bringing a script to a level at which it is ready for the stage. The majority of class time will be devoted to reading and commenting on developing works-in-progress.  In addition, we will also hone playwriting skills through class exercises, and study exemplary plays by established writers as a means of exploring a range of dramatic vocabularies.

Requisite: THDA 270, 272, or the equivalent. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Visiting Artist Carneiro.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

323 On The Edge: Writing for Performance

(Offered as THDA 272 and ENGL 323) This course is an exploration of writing for performance using interdisciplinary and experimental approaches. By exposing students to contemporary manifestations of performance across cultures – including those by Rodrigo Garcia, Rimini Protokoll, Romeo Castelluci, Robert Lepage, Carolina Vivas, and Gebing Tian – this course will lead to a new understanding of the art and practice of writing for the theater. In dialogue with other artforms such as literature, music, dance, and cinema, as well as performance theory, we will creatively explore dynamics involving words, bodies, spaces, objects, and media. Through imagining, devising, writing, and performing exercises, participants will develop their own original pieces that will be showcased as works-in-progress at the end of the semester. 

Limited to 18 students. Spring Semester. Visiting Artist Carneiro.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

324 Writing Poetry II—The Lyric Essay

Poetry is often a study of density and lineation but, as the expectations of genre continue to bend, more and more poets are exploring the lyric nature of the personal essay. In this course, we will assess the expansion of poetic form to include “the lyric essay,” reading essays written by poets and lyric memoirs written by essayists. The course will be primarily generative, with students selecting a specific topic to explore throughout the semester as they build their own, long-form, poetic project.

Requisite: ENGL 221 Writing Poetry I. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Lawson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Spring 2019, Fall 2019

324 Writing Poetry II–Poetry in Translation

"It is normally supposed that something always gets lost in translation; I cling, obstinately, to the notion that something can also be gained."  Salman Rushdie

What can we learn about the craft of poetry through the practice of translation? How can engaging with poetry in another language (even in translation) transform our own thinking and writing? This class will explore these questions by reading and translating poetry from around the world and across the centuries. Readings from Homer, Sappho, Catullus, Montale, Ghalib, Mir and a variety of contemporary Arab poets will be augmented with a mix of essays on the practical and theoretical aspects of translation. Students will experiment with a variety of translation-inspired writing exercises and design a final translation project of their choice. There is no language requirement.

 Limited to 12 students. Spring semester. Visiting Writer Kapur.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

325 Her Story Is: Feminist Approaches to Theater and Performance

(Offered as THDA 275, ENGL 325 and SWAG 275) Western text-based theatre has historically hushed the voices of women and those from marginalized communities. This course will focus on examples of such voices, paying special attention to artists, writers, and thinkers who challenge and deconstruct aesthetics that privilege the male gaze. In dialogue with feminist theories of gender and identity, we will read plays and study works by women and gender non-conforming artists, such as Hildegard von Bingen, Juana Ines de la Cruz, Susan Glaspell, Adrienne Kennedy, Marina Abramovich, and Taylor Mac. Finally, we will also inquire into new forms of gender-inspired “artivism,” such as The Kilroy’s, the Guerilla girls, Pussy Riot, and the #MeToo movement in theatres around the world. During this course, students are expected to pursue an individual writing or performance project that will further explore the concepts discussed. For this purpose, we will study the Theater of the Oppressed methodology as applied by contemporary Latinx feminist theater-makers.

Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-2022. Visiting Artist Carneiro. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

326 Fiction Writing II—Moving Beyond Plot

How do stories move? What are the uses and limitations of the term “plot” in describing movement or development in narrative? What culturally-specific assumptions and expectations about storytelling are bound up with conventional notions of plot, and how can we, as writers and readers, unravel them?

In this advanced fiction writing course, students will explore these questions and more through writing, reading, sharing, and thoughtfully critiquing fiction that challenges, resists, or forgoes linear or sequential narrative. Writers of all aesthetic styles, including plot-driven writers, are welcome. The aim of this course is to build a nurturing and inclusive classroom community where all students can cultivate confidence in their work and writing process.

Requisite: ENGL 226 Fiction Writing I. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Visiting Writer Myint.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2016, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2022

330 Race and Otherness in the Middle Ages

(Offered as ENGL 330 and EUST 330) [Before 1800] By many accounts, a concept of “race” does not emerge in the West until the colonizing of the New World in the Renaissance. Yet medieval people had many ways of identifying, exoticizing, excluding, and discriminating against “others.” This was often framed in terms of religion (Christianity vs. Islam), but it also manifests in terms of physiognomic description and ideas of monstrosity in romance and quest narratives. In this course, we will explore how the “othering” of certain medieval peoples creates a racialized language and discourse at once specific to the Middle Ages and relevant to our current understanding of race. We will read from medieval travel narratives (The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, Prester John, The Medieval Romance of Alexander) as well as literature by Chaucer and others, alongside critical race theory and historical scholarship to give context to our discussions. We will also explore how the Middle Ages have been racialized in contemporary political and popular discourse.

Format: If at least 5 in-person students register for this course, it will run in person, with hybrid options for remote students. Course meetings will include a combination of synchronous and asynchronous activities.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Nelson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Spring 2021

332 Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales

[Before 1800] Geoffrey Chaucer’s medieval masterwork, The Canterbury Tales, represents pilgrims from all walks of life, from peasants to artisans to nobility, telling tales that are comical, tragic, religious, and fantastical. In this course, we read almost the entirety of the Tales in its original language. The course aims to give the student rapid mastery of Chaucer’s English and an active appreciation of his poetry. Our focus will be on Chaucer’s poetry and the ethical and political questions this complex and delightful literary work raises, and how we can understand these questions within a modern context. No prior knowledge of Middle English is expected, although a knowledge of grammar in English or another Western language will be helpful.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Nelson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2019

341 Great English Writers

[Before 1800] A study of six classic writers from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: Ben Jonson, Milton, Dryden, Pope, Swift, and Samuel Johnson.  Among the readings are: Jonson, poems and Volpone; Milton, Comus, “Lycidas” and Paradise Lost; Dryden, poems and critical prose; Pope, “The Rape of the Lock,” Essay on Man, The Dunciad; Swift, Tale of a Tub, Gulliver’s Travels, poems; Johnson, poems, Rasselas, Prefaces to Shakespeare and to the Dictionary, passages from Boswell’s Life of Johnson.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Emeritus Pritchard.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Fall 2017, Spring 2020

348 Modern British Literature, 1900-1950

Readings in twentieth-century writers such as Henry James, Bernard Shaw, Joseph Conrad, D.H. Lawrence, Wyndham Lewis, Ford Madox Ford, Virginia Woolf, Evelyn Waugh, W.H. Auden, Robert Graves, George Orwell, Ivy Compton-Burnett.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Emeritus Pritchard.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2011, Spring 2015, Spring 2018

352 Reading Land, Writing Waters

(Offered as ENGL 352 and AMST 355) In this course, we will leave the classroom and get out on the land. The class begins in winter, a time when many people huddle indoors. We will instead go outside and read the winterland, beginning with a tracking workshop. Readings will include Robin Kimmerer’s influential essay, “The Language of Animacy,” which uses the lens of Indigenous languages to reconsider the boundaries of personhood. We will discuss how language shapes the ways in which we categorize other beings, such as animals and trees, as well as other humans. Our close reading of land and texts will enable us to see how our “reading practices” are shaped by language. Spring will take us to local waterways, including Amherst College’s Wildlife Sanctuary and the Quabbin Reservoir, where we will read William Cronon’s classic essay, “The Trouble with Wilderness” in relation to these built environments. Lauret Savoy’s Trace will lead us to consider our embodied experiences and histories in relation to the places where we live. Throughout, we will grapple with critical questions. How are concepts like “nature” and “culture” intertwined with constructions of race and gender? How has the conservation of “wilderness” been entangled with colonial dispossession and removal? Even as we spend much of our class time on the ground, we will cultivate the craft of writing as a deliberative, interactive process, with frequent informal writing, collaborative workshops and creative nonfiction.

The class will meet only twice a week but the two days and the amount of meeting time will depend on the weather and location, including drive time. Students will not spend more than eight hours/week in class.

Limited to 15 students. Spring semester Professor Brooks.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

354 Antebellum US Literature

In this course, we will be studying the relationship between the national acceleration toward war and the imaginative activities of US writers between 1830 and 1865. Through our readings of Emerson, Douglass, Melville, Stowe, Whitman, Jacobs, and others, we will learn about what happened over the course of those 35 years and, at the same time, learn from the examples of those extraordinary writers. As the nation was doubling in size and getting closer to splitting in half, those writers kept trying to find, in pressurized, transfiguring language, a way of getting from where they were to somewhere better. In the increasingly warlike atmosphere of our times, there may be an even greater value to what they achieved.

Spring semester. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

355, 444 Emily Dickinson

(Offered as ENGL 444 and AMST 364) “Experience is the Angled Road / Preferred against the Mind / By–Paradox–the Mind itself–” Emily Dickinson explained in one poem and in this course we will make use of the resources of the town of Amherst to play experience and mind off each other in our efforts to come to terms with her elusive poetry. The course will visit the Dickinson Homestead and the Evergreens (her brother Austen’s house, and a veritable time capsule), make use of Dickinson manuscripts in the Amherst College archives and special collections, local history materials at the Jones Library and the Amherst Historical Society, and set her work in the context of other nineteenth-century writers such as Helen Hunt Jackson, Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, and Harriet Jacobs. But as we explore how Dickinson’s poetry responds to her world, we will also ask how it can speak to our present. One major project of the course will be to develop exhibits and activities for the Emily Dickinson Museum that will help visitors engage with her poems.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor K. Sánchez-Eppler.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2018, January 2021

357 Race and Relationality

(Offered as ENGL 357 and BLST 365 [US]) When we say “race relations,” we are using a phrase drawn from early twentieth-century American sociology, a phrase that conjures up a scenario in which already-existing racial groups are separated by prejudice and misunderstanding. As many sociologists and historians have argued, we need a new paradigm, one that implies neither that race is a primordial reality nor that racism is merely an information problem. In this course, we will be using histories of the race-concept and theories emerging from the “relational turn” in psychoanalysis to explore the interplay of race and relationality in American literature written between the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law (1850) and Brown v. Board of Education (1954). The aim of this necessarily experimental course is to see what happens if we combine a historically informed understanding of the race-concept with a psychoanalytically informed understanding of relationality and bring both of those understandings to bear on works like Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, William Wells Brown’s Clotel, Herman Melville’s “Benito Cereno,” Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson, Nella Larsen’s Passing, and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. All of the varieties of American racial identification will be part of our discussions but the focus will be on the literary evocations of white-black conjunctions.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Fall 2019

359 Living with Inequality

(Offered as ENGL 359 and EDUC 359) Almost 60% of Americans now experience economic struggles. When they can they struggle to balance food, housing, medical care, clothing, and other needs. There are, at the same time, some 600 billionaires whose combined wealth exceeds that of all other Americans. Yet in 1970, a mere fifty years ago, the United States had the most equitable economic order in the world, and probably in history.

Our course moves around the country and among individuals and groups trying to survive scarcities of many kinds. This is not a literature course but one that does often engage language, how people speak their experience. It will be a journey in exploration.

Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Emeritus O’Connell.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

366 Asian-American Writing Across/Between Genres

In Jenny Boully’s essay, “On the EEO Genre Sheet,” she writes, “I am sometimes called a poet, sometimes an essayist, sometimes a lyric essayist, sometimes a prose poet. My second book was published under the guise of fiction/poetry/essay. I find these categorizations odd: I’ve never felt anything but whole.” In this course we will read works by contemporary Asian-American authors that defy and/or exceed genre expectations and examine these texts’ relationship to wholeness and hybridity. How can we read experimental writing as a politically subversive act? How can we read as a politically subversive act? This is not an introductory course on “Asian-American literature,” but a course that will interrogate the term “Asian-American,” both as a marker of identity and of literary genre. Readings may include works by Mary-Kim Arnold, Jenny Boully, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Lily Hoang, Vi Khi Nao, Diana Khoi Nguyen, and Ocean Vuong.

This is a discussion-based course that will require your weekly synchronous attendance, as well as asynchronous group and individual work. Also, though this is an online course, I am open to the possibility of creating in-person opportunities for students on campus, especially as the semester progresses.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Writer Myint.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Fall 2010, Spring 2021

370 Witch Hunt! Magic and Belief in Renaissance Literature

[Before 1800] What was magic in the early modern world? Why did it cause a crisis in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries? How did that crisis shape the literature of its time? We will follow competing ideas about magic as they ran like wildfire through the imagination of artists, playwrights, and preachers from medieval Germany through Renaissance England to Puritan Massachusetts. We will ask how magic in its apparently beneficial forms, such as alchemy and astrology, might relate to the supposedly malevolent practices of witchcraft, which yielded notorious trials and brutal executions on both sides of the Atlantic. Why did cultures balanced between religion and science become obsessed with magic? How did the fear and wonder that it evoked find its way into art? And what can literary figures of witches and sorcerers still tell us about our modern fantasies of self-empowerment and the counter-threat of demonic possession?

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Bosman.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Spring 2020

371 The African-American Playwright: A Select History of Representation and Citizenship

(Offered as THDA 223, BLST 113, and ENGL 371) What is meant by “the African-American experience” within the context of the U.S. American theater? What do the crafting and thematic concerns of plays penned by significant African-descendent writers in the United States tell us about the history of African-American theatrical performance and the larger issues of Black personhood, community, culture, and citizenship it reflects? This course is a thematic and critical survey of pivotal African-American plays from the mid-nineteenth century to the late twentieth century. Through practical dramaturgy and textual analysis we will study these playwrights’ deployment of their creative voice within social conditions that have evolved over the aforementioned period, from state-sanctioned exclusion to conditioned acceptance within U.S. American socio-cultural discourses. We will also examine how the civic work of these plays (and their writers) meet, intersect and coexist with that of other identity-based advocacy movements. Themes explored include slavery, segregation, nationality, class, religion, gender, sexual identity, among others. Playwrights studied may include Ira Aldridge, Angelina Grimke, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Charles Fuller, Lorraine Hansberry, James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka, Adrienne Kennedy, George C. Wolfe, August Wilson, Ntzoke Shange, and others.

Visiting Assistant Professor Jude Sandy. Fall semester.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

372 Reading the Romance

(Offered as ENGL 372 and SWAG 365) Do people the world over love in the same way, or does romance mean different things in different cultures? What happens when love violates social norms? Is the “romance” genre an escape from real-world conflicts or a resolution of them? This course analyzes romantic narratives from across the world through the lens of feminist theories of sexuality, marriage, and romance. We will read heterosexual romances such as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire, alongside queer fiction such as Sarah Waters’ Fingersmiths and Radclyffe Hall’s Well of Loneliness. We will also pay attention to the Western romantic-comedy film, the telenovela and the Bollywood spectacular.

Limited to 18 students. Not open to first-year students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Shandilya.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Spring 2021

374 Gothic/Horror: Literature, Film, Television

(Offered as ENGL 374 and FAMS 374) Gothic fictions are known for their ability to send shivers down the spine, evoking sensations of discomfort, fear, and horror. This interdisciplinary course will explore the genre of the Gothic from its roots in the late eighteenth century through the present, moving among literature, film, television, and digital media forms. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein will be a key text; we will explore intermedial texts like Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Bram Stoker’s Dracula; and the course will end with twenty-first century incarnations of the Gothic (Get Out, Penny Dreadful). Throughout, we will discuss the tangled relationship between sexuality, race, and power that characterizes the genre. Students will  develop a creative project, whether a piece of short fiction or a visual/digital exploration of Gothic themes, keep a weekly reading/viewing journal of their responses to the assigned texts, and facilitate discussion on a given text. In addition, students will write a 3- to 5-page close textual analysis, with a mandatory peer review workshop and revision, and a final research paper (10-12 pages) or creative project. Students will gain a familiarity with key literary and film/media studies terms and approaches; an understanding of major works in the Gothic and horror genres; an ability to think and write critically about Gothic literature and related media, in terms of aesthetics, historical development, and cultural context; confidence in reading critical/theoretical essays in literary studies, cultural studies, and film and media studies; and proficiency in various aspects of project-based work, including identifying a research topic, building arguments, using evidence, and working with and appropriately citing a variety of sources.

Requisite: A 200-level foundations course in English or Film & Media Studies, or equivalent. Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

375 Victorian Sensations, or, When Old Media Were New

(Offered as ENGL 375 and FAMS 317) Ghosts, vampires, madwomen, and typists: what do these figures have in common? In this course, we will investigate the characters and events that made the Victorian period the age of sensation, from the rise of popular fiction and the illustrated newspaper to the introduction of new methods for viewing and experiencing the world on a global scale. The course will focus on nineteenth-century Britain, exploring the ways in which Victorian fiction, poetry, and print and visual media give voice to the period’s obsession with sensory experience. We will read Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White, a tale of deception, mistaken identity and madness, alongside works by Robert Browning, Christina Rossetti, Sheridan Le Fanu, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Bram Stoker, among others. Historians of “old” media–including telegraphy, photography, and early cinema–will assist us in exploring new technologies for communication in the nineteenth century, while media archaeologists and theorists of ephemerality, memory, and the archive will deepen our understanding of the relationship between past and present media cultures. Three formal essays will be required: a literary close reading (3-4 pages); a critical explication of a scholarly article (4-5 pages); and a final research project (a 10-12 page paper or a digital humanities project of similar length and scope).

Requisite: A 200-level foundations course in English. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020

376 Disability Media

(Offered as ENGL 376 and FAMS 355) Moving image and audiovisual media frequently assume a fully able subject despite the infinite variety of our embodied capacities and debilitations. This course will explore how this assumption has shaped the design, narrative forms, audiovisual poetics, exhibition contexts, and modes of spectatorship and engagement of a range of media forms, from cinema to digital interfaces. We will examine how critical, experimental, and therapeutic approaches to media, the uses of media by people with disabilities, and media made in collaboration with disabled makers and protagonists enable us to fundamentally rethink what media can be and do. Readings will draw from disability studies and film and media studies as well as philosophy, science and technology studies, performance studies, sound studies, and other areas. Topics may include: disability tropes and rehabilitation narratives in film and TV; prostheses and “assistive” technologies; subtitles, captions, and the politics of accessibility; inclusive product and interface design; staring as spectatorial mode; sound art and polymodal listening. 

Prior coursework in ENGL or FAMS is recommended but not required. Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rangan.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019

377 The Documentary Impulse

(Offered as ENGL 377 and FAMS 383) Documentary is one of the fastest-growing areas of media production today, enjoying unprecedented commercial success in theaters, on television, and online streaming services. What drives the urgent desire to represent reality? Where did this impulse originate, and how do documentarians continue to channel it today? This course focuses on the innovative forms and ethical dilemmas that have resulted from the pursuit of reality. We look at different approaches to documentary (ethnographic, personal, observational, interactive, essayistic, activist) and emerging forms such as fake news, true crime podcasts, mockumentaries, web-docs, and documentary art. Our discussions consider the shifting boundaries of the documentary genre, the unique ethical and political considerations involved in making documentaries, and the impact of technological and socio-cultural changes on historical trends in documentary.

Open to students with no prior film classes. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rangan.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Spring 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019

378 After COPS: Police, Media, and Prison Abolition

(Offered as ENGL 378 and FAMS 382)

Calls to defund the police may have helped to cancel the notorious reality program COPS, but crime scenes, courtrooms, cops, lawyers, victims, and vigilantes dominate our media and our imaginations. This course asks what needs to be abolished—not just canceled—in our media environment in order for us to imagine a world without prisons. Abolition is, at its core, a transformative project that aims to change the very social relations, conditions, and logics that produce the harms for which police and prisons seem to serve as solutions. A project that once took on the seemingly impossible challenge of ending slavery, abolition has become a movement of interlinked struggles against systemic oppression. We will examine a range of media, historical and contemporary, cinematic and televisual, fictional and documentary, global and local, through the lens of abolition, deconstructing carceral scenarios and affects, and discovering and imagining transformative approaches to narrative, healing, and justice. Students enrolling in this course should be prepared to take on a range of activities including and beyond weekly readings, film/media viewing, and analytical writing, such as independent and collaborative research, site-based field work (if public health guidelines permit), and optional creative media assignments.

Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors, and to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Spring semester. Professor Rangan.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

379 Play and Performance Across “The Black Atlantic”

(Offered as THDA 224, BLST 124, and ENGL 379) What is the “African” in “African-American?” From the point of view of U.S. American theater, what is the relationship between African-American theatrical practices and those of a global African diaspora? Grounded in Paul Gilroy’s and other theorists’ positing of “The Black Atlantic,” this course will examine how notions of shared and distinct cultural heritages collide and co-mingle across the theatrical performance worlds of African and other African-descendant peoples. Our point of reference will be canonical and contemporary plays and dance-theater works by African-American artists like Adrienne Kennedy, August Wilson, Katherine Dunham, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Ronald K. Brown, Marcus Gardley, Jackie Sibblies-Drury, Danai Gurira, and others. We will examine how the conflicts, solidarities and assertions of identity and heritage in these artists’ works relate to that of such African-continental, -Caribbean, -European and trans-national figures as Pearl Primus, Wole Soyinka, Germaine Acogny, Ama Ata Aidoo, Femi Osofisan, Derek Walcott, Aimé Césaire, Trevor Rhone, Natasha Gordon and others. This comparative study will be situated against the seminal backdrop of diaspora cultures of ceremonial performance practices still evident throughout the Black world. 

Visiting Assistant Professor Jude Sandy. Spring semester. 2021-2022.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

381 Cinema and Everyday Life

(Offered as ENGL 381 and FAMS 351) Film theorist Siegfried Kracauer declared that some of the first films showed “life at its least controllable and most unconscious moments, a jumble of transient, forever dissolving patterns accessible only to the camera.” This course will explore the ways contemporary narrative films aesthetically represent everyday life–capturing both its transience and our everyday ruminations. We will further consider the ways we incorporate film into our everyday lives through various modes of viewings (the arthouse, the multiplex, the DVD, the mp3), our means of perception, and in the kinds of souvenirs we keep. We will look at films by Chantal Akerman, Robert Altman, Marleen Gorris, Hirokazu Koreeda, Marzieh Makhmalbaf, Terrence Malick, Lynne Ramsay, Tsai Ming-liang, Agnès Varda, Wong Kar-wai, and Andy Warhol. Readings will include work by Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin, Marlene Dietrich, Sigmund Freud, and various works in film and media studies. Three hours of lectures and three hours of film screening per week.

Not open to first-year students. Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hastie.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Fall 2015, Spring 2020

383 Intimate Film Cultures

(Offered as ENGL 383 and FAMS 360] What’s intimate about cinema? And what, if anything, is cinematic about intimacy? Since its invention, cinema has been closely associated with intimate experience, though understandings of this association have shifted over time. For classical film theorists, cinema’s intimate devices (the close-up, the kiss, etc.) were often invested with revolutionary potential, though more recent cultural theorists have issued strong rejoinders to such claims. Isn’t intimacy crucial to the workings of modern power? Doesn’t cinema structure intimate relations in accordance with normative ideologies? Examining a range of intimate film cultures–from early cinema to surrealism, classical Hollywood, Black British film, and queer world cinema–this course will explore the intimate dimensions of filmic representation and reception, and the reasons cinema’s intimacy has been both celebrated and denounced. Assignments include in-class presentations, critical essays, and weekly entries in personal film journals.

Requisite: One 200-level ENGL or FAMS course, or consent of the instructor. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Guilford.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Spring 2022

391 Literature of Everyday Life

This is a class all about the art of noticing. Our primary texts fixate on what Amit Chaudhuri calls “the moment of noticing”: heightened attention to the (seemingly) small, the ordinary, the routine. Many readings will be “day-in-the-life” novels set over a 24-hour period; others dwell on single moments, fleeting impressions, or routine rhythms of daily life.

We will discuss questions such as: What formal and stylistic strategies do writers employ to capture everyday life? What happens to narrative conventions of plot and the event when writers are more interested in the textures, rhythms, and background environments of everyday life? How does the ordinary become extraordinary? How does one narrate history in the making, as it unfolds in everyday life? How are major historical events and political structures felt over the course of a typical day? Is it a privilege to think about the everyday as either boring or beautiful? Does it even make sense to talk about “everyday literature” when experiences of daily life are so diverse and varied?

This class will pair novels and short stories with select critical readings from affect theory, urban studies, modernist studies, cultural studies, and ecocriticism. Possible authors include James Baldwin, Amit Chaudhuri, Anton Chekhov, Christopher Isherwood, James Joyce, Kathleen Stewart, Madeleine Thien, and Virginia Woolf.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Abramson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020, Spring 2022

392 The Performance of Politics

When someone says that a politician is being “theatrical” or that a protestor is following a “script,” it is rarely meant as a compliment‒but why? The implication is that true politics is never theatrical, never scripted, never performed, never entangled with spectacle. Put so baldly, this claim is pretty hard to believe. If, instead, we take for granted that all politics is performed, we are left with several unanswered questions. What would an eye trained on performance (theater, dance, film, comedy, spoken word, etc.) see in our politics that someone else would not? Are there distinct performance traditions in politics, as there are in the performing arts? How do activists and office-holders enter these traditions, learn their ways, and apply them in everyday settings? How are citizens expected (or trained) to engage with this performance of politics‒either as spectators or co-performers? What are the key genres of political performance, and what should every citizen know about them? This class will teach you to see these as researchable questions‒and as part of an ongoing scholarly conversation in fields ranging from performance studies, art history, and media studies to sociology, anthropology, political theory, and history. Through reading and discussion, students will learn to think in interdisciplinary terms about politics, making connections across fields and methodologies. They will also study representations of political action and debate in film, television, and theater in order to uncover whatever lessons performing artists can teach us about contemporary political life.

January term. Professor Grobe.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in January 2021, January 2022, Spring 2022

416 In the Archives of Childhood: Adventures in Book History

(Offered as ENGL 416 and AMST 367) Children’s books have always been part toy. The odd duality of all books–simultaneously object and text, commodity and meaning–is particularly evident in books made for children. Think how much more varied in the shape and size of volumes, the font and layout of print, the style and quantity of illustration are books intended for children compared to books for adults. Sites of innovation and experimentation in book production, children’s literature provides an excellent ground for studying book history. So too, book history provides a good gauge of shifts in cultural attitudes towards childhood. This course is interested in tracing both the history of childhood and the history of books, and what each can tell us about the other.

The course will provide an extraordinary opportunity for original archival research in the world’s finest collection of early American children’s literature. Half of the course meetings will be held at the American Antiquarian Society, in Worcester, Massachusetts, granting students access to one of America’s premier research libraries and enabling students to work directly with the rare materials housed there and with the society’s knowledgeable curators and librarians. This research will culminate in a substantial independent project.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. This course meets for 180 minutes. On days when the class meets at the American Antiquarian Society students should expect to leave Amherst at 1 p.m. and return by 6:30 p.m. Omitted 2021-22. Professor K. Sánchez-Eppler.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2019

432 Shakespeare: Media, Technology, and Performance

[Before 1800] In 1623, what we now call Shakespeare’s First Folio was printed. As a printed book, it represented an object made with some of that culture’s very latest media technology, namely the printing press. Shakespeare’s plays depict technologies: characters use compasses and astronomical charts, for example. His plays were also staged using technology: set design included pyrotechnics, costuming, and the other necessities of putting on a good show. This course will ask, how did Shakespeare’s plays both represent technology in fiction and require it in performance? In order to investigate Early Modern technologies of performance, we will read selections from Shakespearean plays and poems, as well as Renaissance treatises on science and technology.

Of course, technology plays a large role in modern productions. Whether through discussing the advent of electric lights in playhouses, to film adaptations and high-budget productions from the Royal Shakespeare Company, to digital editions of the plays, to experimental augmented reality interfaces, we will critically engage with the technologies of Shakespearean performance in the past, present, and even future. As a final project, students will complete a multimedia project on a chosen play, combining historical research with digital, creative, and experimental practices.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Professor Henrichs.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

435 The Play of Ideas

(Offered as ENGL 435 and THDA 335) We don’t just think, speak, or write our ideas; we perform them, too. Think TED Talks. Think political movements. Think 400-level seminars in English. In this course, you will read plays that are fueled by an argument and arguments that look an awful lot like plays. Readings will range from ancient philosophical dialogues to modern “plays of ideas”–from essays on pedagogy to works of social theory. As the semester wears on, you will begin to research your own angle on our central theme: Ideas performed. Your final project will be a mock prospectus, in which you imagine this “angle” turning into a thesis project–creative, critical, or a mixture of the two.

Previous experience with drama or performance theory might help, but is hardly required for enrollment. As a matter of fact, this course works best when students from a wide range of majors enroll. The reading load isn’t heavy, but expectations are high that you will turn up to class prepared to engage in an active discussion. I mean, would you show up to a performance not knowing your lines, or fail to speak when you heard your cue? I didn’t think so. See you there.

As a small, advanced seminar, this course will proceed mainly through synchronous small-group discussions of shared texts, videos, and images. Students will also take part in synchronous workshops (during regular course meeting times) on research skills, oral presentations, and the craft of proposing a thesis. Those not proposing a thesis–or who are already writing one–will have the choice to work instead on collaborative final projects in lieu of submitting a mock prospectus.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Grobe.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2013, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2021

441 Medieval and Renaissance Lyric

(Offered as ENGL 441 and EUST 374) [Before 1800] In this course, we read a selection of English and other European lyrics (in translation) from the twelfth through the seventeenth centuries. An exciting, fertile era in poetic innovation, these centuries see the dawn of the first romantic love poetry in these languages, the invention of new forms like the sonnet, and the invention of the lyric “anthology.” Reading the lyrics of the French troubadour poets, Chaucer, Petrarch, Wyatt, Donne, Shakespeare, and the many brilliant anonymous poets of medieval England, we will examine both the text and contexts of these short poems. Close readings will be put in dialogue with cultural contexts (such as the volatile court of Henry VIII, in which Thomas Wyatt wrote), and the material contexts of the lyrics (the medieval and early modern manuscripts and books in which they first appeared). We will further think about how the term “lyric” emerges as a privileged poetic category, by reading contemporary “defenses” of poetry and thinking about why the word “lyric” only appears in the sixteenth century. Does the “lyric” poem change once it is defined? How do later works speak to the earlier tradition?

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Nelson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2014, Fall 2016, Spring 2020, Spring 2022

445 British Romantic Poetry: Nature and the Imagination

Can reading poetry change our understanding of our environment? How might the way we perceive nature be conditioned by the ways in which writers have imagined it? In turn, how might the way we perceive our own imaginations be conditioned by ideas about the natural world? Although “nature” might seem like a universal and unchanging concept, British Romantic writers did much to invent our modern ideas about it. Notions of perception, cognition, and the imagination changed alongside our ideas about nature. We will debate what impact this history has had on current environmental discourse, contemporary ethics, and the Green movement. Some critics have argued, for instance, that the Romantics’ reverence for nature is more destructive than it might at first seem. Might it be more environmentally responsible to get rid of the Romantic concept of “nature” altogether? This course gives students a thorough grounding in Romantic Poetry, the philosophy of aesthetics, and literary theory, while also giving them a chance to follow their own research interests in a final project.

The majority of this course will revolve around discussion in various formats, though there will be opportunities for visits to museums and archives in smaller groups. Since research and individual projects will be a central feature of this class, students will receive individual attention and feedback on their work. Students will also have a chance to engage with scholars working in this area.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Worsley.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020, Spring 2022

448 The Body in Peril–An Exploration of Tragedy through Poetic Form

Writing is the landscape through which poets explore the human body. The fluidity of a text often mirrors our relationship to memory–the recollection of the sensory discovering harmony with the fluidity of a poem’s language and syntax. But what happens when a disruption in one’s fundamental experience of being alters the ways in which we experience the world?

In spaces of distress, poetry often makes courageous leaps in formal reinvention. As opposed to dwelling heavily on the subject of physical disruption, this course will examine ways contemporary writers have discovered, or reimagined, prosody as a way to explore the human experience through vulnerability and authenticity. The course will include close-readings of four to six collections of poetry, some creative writing, and discussions on mindfulness practices–all culminating in a critical/personal essay exploring a selected poem of your choice.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Lawson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019

449 Avant-Garde Poetry

Avant-garde poetry resists definition. In this course, we will explore poetry that defies convention, be it formal (exploding the poetic verse line), material (appearing outside of the conventional venues of the published, mass-produced book), or linguistic (using everyday language rather than poetic diction). We will read widely from a range of twentieth- and twenty-first century poets as well as important nineteenth-century forebears. The course will center on the movements and schools of avant-garde poetry in the Anglo-American tradition, such as modernism (T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein); the Harlem Renaissance (Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson); the Beat Poets (Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder); the New York School (Frank O’Hara, Ted Berrigan); the Black Arts poets (Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni); the Language Poets (Susan Howe, Charles Bernstein); and contemporary poets (Nathaniel Mackey, Alice Notley). We will also look at artists’ books, broadsides, and other poetry that makes interesting use of the conventional materials and layout of poetry and poetic books. We will ask, how do these poets and movements challenge the aesthetic and poetic conventions of their time(s)? How do they expand or challenge the boundaries of poetic forms and subjects? What opportunities and constraints do avant-garde approaches offer to poets of color and/or women poets?

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Nelson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2020

453 The Value of Literature

Why, Rita Felski asks, are people “willing to drive five hundred miles to hear a band playing a certain song, or spend years in graduate school puzzling over a single novel?” Concepts like “cultural capital,” “the hegemonic media industry,” or “interpretive communities” do not fully explain “why it is this particular tune that plays over and over in our heads, why it is Virginia Woolf alone who becomes an object of obsession.” Something else has to be involved, a “rogue something,” in the words of Toni Morrison’s narrator in Jazz, that you “have to figure in before you can figure it out.” In this seminar, students will first explore the phenomenon of aesthetic valuation, then turn to a consideration of when, why, and for whom literary experiences are valuable, and finally embark on independent research projects in which each of them studies a single author in depth and experiments with ways of articulating (in a class presentation and in a final essay) the kinds of value that that author may be said to have.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2017, Fall 2019

458 Indigenous American Epics

(Offered as ENGL 458 and AMST 358) [Before 1800] This course will delve deeply into Indigenous literatures of “Turtle Island,” or North America. The Kiché Maya Popol Wuj (Council Book), the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Great Law of Peace, the Wabanaki creation cycle, and Salish Coyote Stories are rooted in longstanding, complex oral narratives of emergence and transformation, which were recorded by Indigenous authors and scribes. These texts will enable us to consider how the temporal and spatial boundaries of America are both defined and extended by colonization, and disrupted by Indigenous texts and decolonial theory. We will close read these major epics as works of classical literature, narratives of tribal history, and living political constitutions, which embed ecological and cultural adaptation.

Reading each long text (in English translation) over several weeks, we will study the tribally and regionally-specific contexts of each epic narrative as well as the “intellectual trade routes” that link them together. We will also consider the place of these epics within American literature and history and their contributions to historical and contemporary decolonization. We will discuss the ways in which the narratives challenge conceptual boundaries, considering categories such as land/place, gender, sexuality, and other-than-human beings.

Open to juniors and seniors, and to sophomores with consent of the instructor. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Brooks.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2021

470 Decolonial Love

In this upper-level course, we will read literary and theoretical texts that, although loosely grouped in terms of period, geography, and style, are all driven by the same set of questions: Is decolonial love possible? What does it look and feel like? We will read scholars and writers who describe the ways that imperialism, capitalism, racism, and heteropatriarchy structure conventional ways of loving, caring, and forming social bonds, as well as conventional ways of telling stories and writing novels. And we will follow these writers as they imagine alternatives to these conventional structures, asking how we might alter the aspects of ourselves and our worlds that seem as fundamental and as intractable as our aesthetics, our desires, our very pleasures. As a class, we will build transportable definitions of colonialism, anticolonialism, and decoloniality from the texts we study and the contexts in which they were written and that they reflect. We will investigate the power of these analytic categories to interrogate aspects of personal as well as geopolitical experience, particularly aspects of experience that we have sometimes mistakenly believed to be without historical or sociological determinants. Possible texts include: Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks; Moraga and Anzaldúa, eds., This Bridge Called My Back; Stevenson, Life Beside Itself; Muñoz, Cruising Utopia; Lorde, “The Uses of the Erotic”; Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun; Cisneros, The House on Mango Street; Mahajan, The Association of Small Bombs; Cole, Open City; Sollett, Raising Victor Vargas; Lee, BlacKkKlansman; Simpson, Islands of Decolonial Love.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Mireles Christoff.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2022

471 Time, Memory, and Ghosts in Post-Dictatorial Narratives

Giorgio Agamben writes in Remnants of Auschwitz that “trauma is thus an event that has no beginning, no ending, no before, no during, and no after.” In this seminar, we will study texts from different genres–poetry, fiction, and memoir–that attempt to narrativize the timeless, ubiquitous, and haunted event that is a military dictatorship. How do these texts undertake the task of remembering or reimagining the past? How do they fill the gap between memory and history, between testimony and literature, and between past and present? What does or can literature do with a legacy of violence and oppression? Readings may include works by Argentinian-Mexican visual artist and novelist Verónica Gerber Bicecci, the Chilean poet Raúl Zurita, the Padaung (Burmese) memoirist Pascal Khoo Thwe, and the Ghanaian-born novelist Ayesha Harruna Attah.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Writer Myint.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Spring 2022

473 Hybrid Forms

The non-traditional texts of writers like Claudia Rankine, Maggie Nelson, Viet Thanh Nguyen and Alison Bechdel have garnered great success that has introduced new audiences to the world of hybrid forms. Through close reading and a study of works at the apex of literary deconstruction, we will erase the lines drawn between poetry and prose, image and memoir, percentage graph and fiction and will embark on an expedition through contemporary hybrid texts, asking what dictates how we define genre.

Completion of this course will include a collaborative oral presentation guiding the reading of one of the semester’s assigned texts and a final critical research project presented in a hybrid form that breaks the boundaries of expected academia. Use of hybridity in the construction of all class assignments (short essays, personal responses, reflections, etc.) will be strongly encouraged.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Lawson and Visiting Lecturer Bernitt.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Fall 2021

475 Fashion / Media / Modernity

(Offered as ENGL 475 and FAMS 431) Fashion has long been associated with frivolity, ephemerality, and triviality. Yet trends in clothing and design are irrevocably linked to politics, technology, society, and cultural change–from hats to hemlines to heels, fashion can reveal the transformations of an era. How has fashion evolved in the modern age, and what is its relationship to literature, film, and other media forms? What can fashion teach us about our past, present, and future? This advanced seminar will delve into the interdisciplinary field of fashion studies to examine the vicissitudes of fashion from the nineteenth century onward, focusing on Britain, Europe, and the United States, with an eye toward the role of imperialism, Orientalism, and cultural appropriation in shaping fashion’s tangled histories. Students will study literary texts; film and television; print, visual, and digital media; and material culture. Potential case studies include the dandy, the New Woman, and the flapper; wartime fashions; subcultural style; the wedding gown; the sneaker; among other topics. Students will do independent research, culminating in a written research project and/or curated digital exhibit; keep a weekly reading/viewing journal recording their critical responses to the assigned texts; and facilitate discussion on a given topic. Students can expect to gain: a familiarity with key terms and approaches in fashion studies, media studies, and cultural studies; an ability to think and write critically about fashion and fashion media, in terms of aesthetics, historical development, and cultural context; confidence in reading critical/theoretical essays; and proficiency in various aspects of project-based work, including identifying a research topic, building arguments, using evidence, and working with and appropriately citing a variety of sources.

Requisite: At least one 200-level foundations course in English, Film & Media Studies, Art & the History of Art, History, Theater and Dance, and/or Sexuality, Women’s & Gender Studies. Upper-level coursework in one or more of these fields is strongly recommended. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

480 The Film Essay

(Offered as ENGL 480 and FAMS 411) The “essay” derives its meaning from the original French essayer: to try or attempt. In its attempts to work through and experiment with new ideas, the essay form becomes a manifestation of observation, experience, and transformation. Originally developed through the written form, the essay has also taken shape in visual work–photographic, installation, and, of course, cinematic. The “essay film” is exploratory, digressive, subjective; the “video essay” is similarly personal and simultaneously transformative. The “film essay” has the capacity to be all of these things, though in the past few decades this form has become arguably schematic. Working against the conventions of the “academic” or college essay and inspired by visual experimentation, this course will explore film through a variety of manifestations of the written essay. After all, since film comes in multiple forms and offers multiple experiences, it demands multiple possibilities of rhetorical exploration.

The models for writing in this course will come from both visual and written works. Course readings will be collected from a range of historical periods and will run a gamut of approaches to film: theoretical and experiential, critical and poetic, autobiographical and historical. Class screenings will similarly come from a variety of historical eras, genres, and national spaces. Because writing assignments will often explore the cultural experience of the movies, we will visit a variety of screening venues, including a film festival, “archival” and repertory houses, art cinemas, and commercial theaters. Though it will include some lectures to contextualize readings, this course will primarily be discussion-oriented, with attentive writing workshops. Thus experimenting with method and form, students will produce weekly writings, two extended essays, and a collaboratively-produced project.

Requisite: a 200-level foundations course in ENGL or FAMS. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Hastie.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Spring 2020, Fall 2021

481 Conversations with Experimental Filmmakers

(Offered as ENGL 481, ARHA 481, and FAMS 481) Experimental film is a vital area of contemporary media culture where artists engage the moving image from a wide range of creative approaches, exploring film as an aesthetic, poetic, or political medium, rather than a commercial enterprise. By departing from the conventions of mainstream film, experimental filmmakers present their audience with a stimulating challenge, asking viewers to develop new critical frameworks through which to assess films that often resist classification and traditional interpretive approaches.

In this seminar, students will take up this challenge by exploring different ways of entering into conversation with the work of experimental filmmakers. Through weekly screenings, in-class visits by contemporary filmmakers, and group discussions of course readings (such as artists’ writings, interviews, and related theoretical material), we will develop critical and creative vocabularies that help us to analyze and respond to an array of experimental films and videos. Along with completing writing assignments and in-class presentations, students will plan and execute a final project that can assume a number of critical or creative forms, such as an interview with a filmmaker, a short video, or an analytical essay.

Requisite: At least one foundational course in FAMS, ARHA, or ENGL. Open to juniors and seniors, and to sophomores with consent of the instructor. Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Guilford.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016, Fall 2019

484 “It was the ’70s”: US Film, History, and the Cultural Imagination

(Offered as ENGL 484 and FAMS 424) Sometimes referred to as the “silver era” of US film production, the 1970s were a period of aesthetic, technological, and cultural transformation. New “auteurs” emerged as both mavericks and commercial success stories. Independence reigned supreme for some, while others helped to usher in the contemporary blockbuster. At the same time, scholarly study of film was steadily increasing, experimenting with new disciplinary methods, waging debates, and often distancing itself from popular critical writings. All told, such narratives of the era have meant that the 1970s looms large in our cultural imagination of film production. This course will trace film history to consider how narratives of the era have been written and how, in recent years, they have been written anew.

The first half of the course will explore several canonical works, while the second half of the course will consider films that have been recently excavated and/or remade. By intermixing popular critical writings (including reviews, interviews, and essays), academic writings of the era, and recent historical studies, we will consider historical and historiographical methods of film studies scholarship. Moreover, in our discussion of newly excavated or historically underrepresented cases–including works directed by women, examples of Blaxploitation cinema, and independent drama–we will explore how canons are both designed and remade, functioning as emblems of the time of their own critical production. Students will work with primary archival materials along with contemporaneous critical or theoretical models in order to develop their own historical narratives of 1970s film.

Requisite: Prior FAMS coursework or, alternatively, prior 200-level courses in ENGL. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hastie.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020

485 The City in Literature and Early Film

(Offered as ENGL 485 and FAMS 438) This course examines the role of the city in shaping modern experience. We will study literary works by Charles Baudelaire, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, and Virginia Woolf alongside a number of early films, reading these texts against historical and critical discussions of everyday life in the urban environment. Among other themes, we will take up the debate over “flanerie” as a spatial and social practice, investigating the class and gender dynamics of urban and cinematic spectatorship. Our conversations will be shaped by an awareness of the city as a geographically locatable space to be mapped and traversed, but also as a site for imaginary projections of individual and collective experience. In addition to a short creative assignment, two formal essays are required: a midterm paper (5-7 pages) involving close textual analysis of a primary source; and a final research paper (12-15 pages), with a draft to be revised in conjunction with a peer review workshop.

This course will run primarily online, with periodic small-group meetings for students who are in residence on campus and parallel small-group meetings for remote students. The additional evening time slot will provide opportunities for students to screen films and engage in structured small-group discussion synchronously, whether remotely or in person. There may be additional opportunities for in-person meetings (including office hours) as the semester progresses.

Requisite: A 200-level foundations course in English or equivalent. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021

487 Postwar American Cinema, 1945-1960

(Offered as ENGL 487 and FAMS 425) In the years following World War II, a series of rapid and far-reaching transformations–economic, technological, social, political–dramatically reconfigured American life. Throughout this period of change, cinema served as both mirror and catalyst, reflecting national crises and upheavals while also contributing to the transformation of American culture. This seminar explores both sides of this dynamic, examining how postwar American filmmakers devised innovative strategies for representing the dilemmas of their time, and how artists, studios, and lawmakers sought to intervene in such dilemmas via the moving image. We will view and discuss key examples of popular Hollywood genres from this period–film noir, science fiction, the western, etc.–as well as independent, documentary, and avant-garde films created by countercultural, feminist, queer, and Black artists. Weekly readings will engage such subjects as: nuclear anxiety; suburban domesticity and surveillance; Beat culture and spontaneity; totalitarianism; racial prejudice and civil rights; urban renewal and queer desire; gender and consumer culture; blacklisting, and others. Students will explore such issues through in-class presentations, critical essays, and individual research projects.

Requisite: At least one foundational course in ENGL or FAMS. Open to juniors and seniors and to sophomores with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Guilford.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

490 Special Topics

Independent reading courses.

Fall and spring semester. The Department.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

491 The Creole Imagination

(Offered as ENGL 491, BLST 461 [CLA], and LLAS 461) What would it mean to write in the language in which we dream? A language that we can hear, but cannot (yet) see? Is it possible to conceive a language outside the socio-symbolic order? And can one language subvert the codes and values of another? Questions like these have animated the creolité/nation language debate among Caribbean intellectuals since the mid-1970s, producing some of the most significant francophone and anglophone writing of the twentieth century. This course reads across philosophy, cultural theory, politics, and literature in order to consider the claims such works make for the Creole imagination. We will engage the theoretical and creative work of Édouard Glissant, Maryse Condé, Wilson Harris, Derek Walcott, Kamau Brathwaite, Patrick Chamoiseau, Jamaica Kincaid, and Edwidge Danticat. We also will consider how these writers transform some of the fundamental ideas of psychoanalysis, poststructuralism, and critical historiography. At stake in our readings will be the various aesthetic and political aspects of postcolonial struggle–how to think outside the colonial architecture of language; how to contest and subvert what remains from history’s violence; and how to evaluate the claims to authenticity of creolized New World cultural forms.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Cobham-Sander.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2015, Spring 2018, Spring 2020

492 Creative Thesis Workshop

This is a non-required course for English majors who are currently working on a creative writing or hybrid thesis project. It is meant to offer guidance and a sense of community to these writers as they embark on what can feel like a formidable process. In this course, we will discuss and analyze examples of senior theses in various forms, and discuss issues peculiar to the task of planning, researching, and writing a project of this scope. We will read together to help writers identify models and understand the literary tradition(s) they are working in. We will also talk about the kinds of research that each project invites and requires, and about how to conduct and use that research.

Guided writing in class will play a key role in working through issues of technique, structure, and inspiration. Most important, this course offers students the chance to present and critique work-in-progress with a group of their peers.

Please note: This course does not replace ENGL-498, the Senior Tutorial, which covers students’ independent work under the tutelage of a thesis advisor.

Open to senior majors currently writing a creative or hybrid thesis. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Frank.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

494 Globe and Planet in Contemporary Literature

What does it mean to talk about literature as “global”? How do writers engage the idea of the globe politically, aesthetically, and environmentally?

This is a class about problems of scale and scope. We will consider how contemporary writers represent phenomena that cross national borders: particular attention will be paid to climate change, migration and immigration, the idea of the “global city,” war and terrorism, and the living legacies of colonialism, slavery, and diaspora. What are the formal and ethical challenges of thinking on a global scale? When thinking globally, how can we preserve awareness of local and historical differences? What are literary theorists saying about these questions today? Our readings will pair late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century fiction with critical and theoretical work drawn from ecocriticism and the environmental humanities, postcolonial studies, cultural studies, and so-called new global modernisms. This class will also emphasize the process and skills involved in upper-level literary analysis and research: we will experiment with a range of strategies for note-taking, making sense of dense texts, framing research questions, and finding openings and opportunities to engage in ongoing critical debates and conversations.

Possible authors include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Teju Cole, Mohsin Hamid, Jamaica Kincaid, Arundhati Roy, and W. G. Sebald.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Abramson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021, Fall 2021

495 Modernism, Trauma, and Theories of Violence

This course puts modernist formal innovation in conversation with theories of violence and trauma. We will examine the complex intersection between shattering historical violence and modernist formal and aesthetic techniques, including fragmentation, impressionism, collage, empty centers, rupture, abstraction, and multiperspectivalism. We will pay particular attention to what happens when language and literary form run up against the unspeakable, the unimaginable, the blank, the empty.

Critical readings will be drawn from a range of theoretical works on violence and trauma (postcolonialism, psychoanalysis, cognitive psychology, and affect theory). These textual pairings will provide a case study for how close reading can be enriched by theoretical and historical scaffolding. We will focus on the ways that war and violence overspill boundaries–beyond the battlefield, beyond the moment of impact, beyond what is visible, beyond national borders, beyond the signing of peace treaties. We will consider violence done to individual bodies and minds, as well as the ways that the shocks of world wars reverberate historically and around the globe. How do modernist texts blur lines between front-lines/home front, victim/perpetrator, and civilian/combatant?

Possible authors include Edmund Blunden, Cathy Caruth, Sigmund Freud, Frantz Fanon, Toni Morrison, Michael Ondaatje, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, W. G. Sebald, and Virginia Woolf.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Abramson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

496 Literary and Critical Theory

This course introduces students to the basic concepts and methods of literary and critical theory, a body of work that explores and critiques modern assumptions about truth, culture, power, language, representation, subject-formation, and identity. Surveying a wide range of authors and approaches (postcolonial, gender studies and queer theory, critical race theory, psychoanalytic, etc.), students will grapple with complex theoretical texts, consider the place of theory in literary studies and in film, media, and cultural studies as well, and begin to imagine ways of putting theoretical ideas to work for themselves.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Bosman.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2022

497 Critical Thesis Workshop

This is a non-required course for English majors who are currently working on a critical or hybrid (i.e., not pure creative writing) thesis project. It is meant to offer guidance and a sense of scholarly community to students as they embark on what can feel like a formidable (and often lonely) process. In this course, we will discuss and analyze examples of the thesis form. We will analyze and practice some of the many subgenres theses contain (e.g., the introduction, the literature review, the methodological statement, and various ways of incorporating the voices of other critics, historians, or theorists). We will also read a representative range of recent criticism in the field, discussing critical methods, rhetorical tactics, and writerly voices employed in that work. And we will discuss issues peculiar to the task of planning, researching, and writing a long critical thesis. Most important, as in an advanced creative writing workshop, this course offers students the chance to present and critique work-in-progress with a group of their peers.

Please note: This course does not replace ENGL-498, the Senior Tutorial, which covers students’ independent work under the tutelage of a thesis advisor.

A major goal of this course is to foster mutual care and support among English Department thesis writers. With that in mind, the main mode of instruction for this course will be discussion–sometimes about shared readings, sometimes about other students’ writing, and sometimes about the writing process itself. Guided writing in class will play a key role in making the writing process available for discussion. Additionally, students will meet one-on-one (or in small groups) with the professor to discuss their own thesis progress. Finally, students will have the opportunity to take part in structured co-writing sessions outside of class.

Open to juniors and seniors. Preference given to English majors currently writing a critical thesis. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Grobe.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020, Fall 2021

498, 498D, 499 Senior Tutorial

Open to senior English majors who wish to pursue a self-defined project in reading and writing. Students intending to elect this course must submit to the Department a five-page description and rationale for the proposed independent study. Those who propose projects in fiction, verse, playwriting, or autobiography must submit a substantial sample of work in the appropriate mode; students wishing to undertake critical projects must include a tentative bibliography with their proposal. Please consult the English Department website for deadlines and for more information on the senior honors process.

Preregistration is not allowed. Admission with consent of the instructor. Fall semester. The Department.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

Related Courses

About Amherst College

About Amherst College

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English

Professors Emeriti O'Connell and Sofield; Senior Lecturer Emeritus Lieber; Professors Brooks, Cobham-Sander‡, Frank‡, Hastie‡, Parham*, Sanborn (Director of Studies), and K. Sánchez-Eppler†; Associate Professors Bosman, Mireles Christoff†, Grobe (Chair), Nelson†, and Rangan†; Assistant Professors Abramson, Guilford, Lawson‡, Myint†, and Worsley; Writer-in-Residence Lee*; Lecturer and Director of the Creative Writing Program Kapur; Lecturer and Director of the Intensive Writing Program Reardon; Senior Lecturer B. Sánchez-Eppler; Lecturer Sweeney; Visiting Professor Sanders; Visiting Lecturers Bernitt, Couch, Masiki, and Ocasion; Visiting Instructor Gooptu; Merrill Visiting Poet Dryansky.

Major Program. Students majoring in English are encouraged to explore the Department’s wide range of offerings in literature, film and media, performance studies, cultural studies, and creative writing.

Majoring in English requires the completion of ten courses offered or approved by the Department. The Department organizes its courses into four levels. The courses numbered in the 100s are writing-attentive and writing-intensive courses that introduce students to a variety of genres and media, entail frequent writing, and cultivate students’ skills in close reading. The courses in the 200s emphasize a particular approach to method, genre, medium, period, or discourse. They include introductory courses in creative writing as well as literary, film, or cultural study. The courses in the 300s are electives designed to foster immersion into specific topics in literary, film, cultural studies and creative writing. They help students learn skills and/or study materials that will prepare them for independent work in their 400-level seminars. They are open, however, to both majors and non-majors across the college, and generally do not carry prerequisites for admission. Courses in the 400s are junior and senior seminars emphasizing independent inquiry, critical and theoretical issues, and extensive writing. These courses teach students the intellectual skills vital to framing a research question and conducting independent research.

Majors are required to take at least one 100 course, at least two 200 courses, at least two 300 courses, and at least two 400-level seminars. One of these courses must substantially address material from the period before 1800. While senior thesis and special topics courses also have 400 numbers, these individualized courses cannot count as the 400-level seminar.

In the early spring of each year, senior majors present independent work drawn from one of their 400-level seminars or from their senior theses at the English Department Capstone Symposium to fulfill the Comprehensive Requirement. The ten-minute presentations can take many forms and they will be organized into panels. The Comprehensive Requirement is fulfilled by presenting your work at the Symposium, participating in preparation sessions, and also participating in the conversations that are generated by your classmates’ presentations.

Majors may count towards the ten required courses up to three courses in creative writing. Level and period requirements should be fulfilled with courses from Amherst College English Department offerings. Because 400-level seminars can lead in the senior year to a thesis project, the Department strongly urges majors to take at least one of their required 400-level seminars before the end of the junior year. The Department will not guarantee admission to a particular 400-level seminar in the second semester of the senior year.

Senior Thesis. The senior thesis provides an opportunity for independent study to any senior major who is adequately motivated and prepared to undertake such work. English majors apply for admission to the senior thesis courses (English 498/499) in April of their junior year. Admission to English 498/499 is contingent upon the Department’s judgment of the feasibility and value of the student’s proposal as well as of their preparation and capacity to carry it through to a fruitful conclusion. The Department assigns Thesis Advisors to students whose applications it approves.

To be considered for senior honors a student must submit to the Department a portfolio, which contains normally 50 to 70 pages of writing. The work may take the form of a critical essay, a short film or video, a collection of essays or poems or stories, a play, a mixture of forms, an exploration in education or cultural studies.

Before a student can submit a thesis, the final work must be approved by the student’s designated advisor. Once the thesis is approved, the Department appoints a committee of faculty examiners to read it. Following an interview with the student, the committee conveys its evaluation to the whole Department, which then makes the final recommendation for the level of honors in English.

Departmental Honors Program. The Department awards Latin honors to seniors who have achieved distinction in course work for the major and who have also demonstrated, in a submitted portfolio of critical or creative work, a capacity to excel in composition. Students qualify for Latin honors only if they have attained a B+ average in courses approved for the major; the degree summa cum laude usually presupposes an A average.

Learning Goals. By the time of their graduation, we expect that students who major in English will have become:

  • Adept at reading closely and writing well.
  • Skilled at critical writing about works in multiple genres, including both written texts, performances and visual narratives such as film. Some students may choose to create works of their own in verse, prose fiction or other media.
  • Attentive to the production of literary culture in a range of historical periods and social contexts.
  • Informed about the relationship between literary texts, literary criticism, and theories about cultural production.
  • Well versed in the literature associated with at least one specific area of concentration.
  • Capable of producing a well-researched long essay and/or completing a sustained creative project.

Graduate Study. Students interested in graduate work in English or related fields should discuss their plans with their advisor and other members of the Department to learn about particular programs, requirements for admission, the availability of fellowships, and prospects for a professional career. Many graduate programs in English or comparative literature require reading competence in several foreign languages; while to some extent these programs permit students to satisfy the requirement concurrently with graduate work, we would encourage those interested in graduate study to broaden their language skills while at Amherst. We would also encourage students to consider writing a thesis, for several reasons: to produce a polished writing sample they can submit with their application; to gain, and demonstrate, experience in sustained independent work; and to get a sense of the areas they might want to pursue in graduate school, some knowledge of which is essential for writing an effective admissions essay.

N.B. The English Department does not grant advanced placement on the basis of College Entrance Examination Board scores.

*On leave 2021-22.
†On leave fall semester 2021-22.
‡On leave spring semester 2021-22.

105 Engaging Literature: Close Reading

Why study literature? In many contexts, including the contexts of most other academic disciplines, one reads in order to extract the gist of a text. By studying literature, we enable ourselves to do much more than that. Studying literature makes it possible to recover a relationship to language that we all once had, in which words and their interrelationships were new, strange, and rich with possibility. It makes it possible to develop a more acute awareness of the ongoing tension between language as units of meaning (words, phrases, sentences) and language as units of sound (the beat of syllables, the harmonization of one syllable with another). It even makes it possible for us to carry this sense of everything that is uncanny about language–the medium of our relationship to others and to ourselves–into our lives more generally, to recognize that in just about everything that we say, we mean more than we mean to mean. People who study literature are people who are capable of taking away from conversations, no less than from poems, much more than the gist, the summary, the bottom line. By dwelling on texts patiently, by slowing down the process of moving from mystery to certainty, by opening ourselves to the crosscurrents of potential meanings that are present at every moment in just about every sentence, it is possible for us to become more accurate and nuanced readers of just about everything that happens in our lives.

Eighteen seats reserved for first-year students. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2020

106 Engaging Literature: Craft, Conversation, Community

Literature engages us. It moves us, it delights us, it makes us ask hard questions. How do we engage literature? How do we respond to it in conversation, in writing, in performance, and in our communities? How do we write about literature in a way that effectively engages others?

This course seeks to engage you in a process of seeing literature and your own writing process anew. We will engage with authors, in person, in public, and on the page. We will attend literary events and enter into conversations among writers: authors who are influenced and inspired by each other, literary critics who give us illuminating interpretations, and literary historians who open our eyes to contexts heretofore unseen. Students will practice writing about literature in a range of modes from the personal essay to the book review to the academic paper. Frequent writing workshops will be geared toward the process of revising in a collaborative environment. A first course in reading fictional, dramatic, lyric, and non-fiction texts, this course also challenges Amherst College students to think of themselves as writers.

Preference given to first-year students. Limited to 18 students. Ten seats reserved for first-year students. Omitted 2021-22. Professors Brooks and Mireles Christoff.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2018, Spring 2020

107 Poetry with Friends

This poetry workshop is made for buddies: the ones you build and the ones you bring. Although most poets love to go solo, the contemporary writers we will study in this course prove how writing can be better with friends.

In this course, we will look at contemporary poets who collaborate: to perform, to further their own collections, to create their passion projects. We will look at poetic movements that planted the seed for twenty-first century partnerships and examine contemporary collaborations that prove there’s poetic strength in numbers.

Requirements for this course include a desire to experiment with collaboration. Students are encouraged to register with a friend as a way to begin their writing partnership but will also be paired with a partner or group within the course to write with. Completion of this course will include the creation of two sets of collaborative work. Partners will decide if this means writing individual poems that are in conversation with each other, or writing work collectively. This is a great course for non-majors and good friends.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester: Professor Lawson and Visiting Lecturer Dan Bernitt. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Fall 2021

110 Writing About Humor

Why do we laugh at some jokes but not others? What makes something funny? This class will explore humor as a core rhetorical concept to study audience, genre, purpose, context, and exigency. We will analyze how situational and language humor work in essays, stories, and visual media. Students will build their critical reading and writing skills through short, low-stakes weekly writing and three major papers. We will consider how the intersectional identities of authors and audiences (i.e.: how class, race, gender, and disability, among others) influence joke construction and reception. As we read, we will pay close attention to the way that writers use humor as a tool for social critique and to release tension. Students can expect to build a toolkit for creating arguments with evidence, and they will frequently revise the content, organization, and language in their work. We will work together to develop a community of writers who can mutually support each other through the writing process.

Preference given to first-year Amherst College students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Lecturer Reardon.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

111 Having Arguments

Using a variety of texts–novels, essays, short stories–this course will work to develop the reading and writing of difficult prose, paying particular attention to the kinds of evidence and authority, logic and structure that produce strong arguments. The authors we study may include Peter Singer, Aravind Adiga, Willa Cather, Toni Morrison, George Orwell, Charles Johnson, James Baldwin, Alice Munro, William Carlos Williams. This is an intensive writing course. Frequent short papers will be assigned.

Preference given to first-year Amherst College students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester. Senior Lecturer Emeritus Lieber.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2021, Fall 2021

113 Writing Human Rights

This course explores human rights rhetoric through readings of a range of non-fiction briefs, academic articles, and reportage, alongside fictional works. It asks students, through critical writing, to come to terms with our responsibilities as global citizens for upholding a culture of dignity in our world. Together, we will examine the way that authors use the written word to push readers to empathize with others, reflect on the past, learn about injustices, and imagine new realities–as we do the same in our own writing. We will pay close attention to the way that writers build arguments, use evidence, organize texts, and edit their own work, with an eye on developing strategies for using these skills in class assignments, and transferring them to other classes as well. Through writing projects that analyze, challenge, and extend authors’ arguments about the universality of human rights and the pursuit of social and racial justice, we will evaluate the ways that words fuel and mitigate conflict–in both productive and destructive ways.

Preference given to first-year Amherst College students. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester. Lecturer Reardon.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

114 Narratives of Migration and Transformation

How does migration transform identity? Which techniques do writers use to express and recreate this complex experience on the page? What role can language and narrative technique play in forging a sense of self and home? How might writing be related to refuge? Reading across genres of poetry, fiction and memoir, this class explores how writers have described the experience of locating themselves while departing, arriving or living in between. The course will cover topics such as alienation, assimilation, generational memory, survival, nostalgia, hybridity, and transformation. Students can expect a wide range of writing assignments, both analytical and creative. Readings may include Bapsi Sidhwa, Amitav Ghosh, Zadie Smith, José Olivarez, Warsan Shire, Suji Kwock Kim, Fady Joudah, Edwidge Danticat, Eduardo Corral and Ocean Vuong.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Writer Kapur.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021, Spring 2022

115 Writing (about) the News

This course explores media literacy and the rhetoric of news through readings of a range of multimedia news and academic articles. It asks students, through critical writing, to come to terms with our responsibilities as engaged citizens for understanding, and acting on, the information we encounter in the news. Together, we will examine the way that journalists present the written word in print and digital spaces to inform, analyze, and present opinions–as we do the same in our own writing. We will pay close attention to the way that reporter teams explicitly and implicitly build arguments, use evidence, organize texts, and edit their own work, with an eye on developing strategies for using these skills in class assignments, and transferring them to other classes as well. Through writing projects that ask students to examine conversations on current events, particularly those relating to social and racial justice, students will develop skills to evaluate and contribute to the multimedia news landscape.

Preference given to first-year Amherst College students. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester. Lecturer Reardon.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

116 Literary Storms

In this course we will weather famous storms featured in literary, artistic, and cinematic works from the nineteenth century through the present day. Together, we will make our way through snow, sleet, hurricanes, cyclones, tropical storms, superstorms, and everyday rain showers. This topic will provide a unifying thematic thread for a class focused on the fundamentals of close reading, viewing, writing, and revision. We will examine how various genres, narrative styles, and authorial voices engage this common topic in strikingly different ways. We will also use storms to learn about literary and aesthetic concepts such as the sublime, and to think about the basic building blocks of narrative. How do storms blur lines between setting, plot, characterization, suspense, and closure? What does it mean for a setting to come to life or function as a character?

Together, we will discuss: How do stories of environmental violence and human violence collide? Who gets to tell the story of a storm? What stories emerge on either side of the ostensibly rupturing event itself, before and after the storm? How do storms expose and exacerbate disparities along racial and socioeconomic lines? Can reading local storm stories provide a way of thinking about global climate change?

Some of our storms will be based upon actual events, including Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, and Irene; this will raise complex questions about the boundaries between history and art.

Possible works include paintings by J. M. W. Turner; short stories by Kate Chopin, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Ben Marcus; novels by Zora Neale Hurston, Ben Lerner, and Jesmyn Ward; film by Behn Zeitlin, and documentary by Spike Lee.

Limited to 18 students. In the fall semester, ten seats reserved for first-year students. Fall and spring semesters. Professor Abramson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Spring 2021, Fall 2021

117 Arthurian Literature

(Offered as ENGL 117 and EUST 117) [Before 1800] Knights, monsters, quests, and true love: these are the things we associate with King Arthur and tales of his court. Why has Arthurian literature proved so enchanting to centuries of poets, novelists, and recently, filmmakers? In this introductory English course, we will read and watch Arthurian legends from Chaucer to Monty Python, examining the ways in which they have been represented in different eras. Beginning with the historical foundations of the King Arthur legend, we will examine how it blossomed and took form in later eras. Our focus will be on close literary and visual analysis of British, American, and French (in translation) versions of these legends. We will also discuss what cultural forces lie behind the popularity of Arthurian legend in certain eras: later medieval England and France; the Victorian era; and twentieth-century England and America. There will be frequent writing assignments and presentations, as well as a final creative project.

Open to first-year students and sophomores. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Nelson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2020, Spring 2022

119 From Ordinary to Extraordinary: Literature of the Everyday

This is a class all about the art of noticing. Our primary texts fixate on what Amit Chaudhuri calls “the moment of noticing”: heightened attention to the small, the ordinary, the routine. Many readings will be “day-in-the-life” novels set over a 24-hour period; others dwell on single moments, fleeting impressions, or routine rhythms of daily life. And just as our primary authors practice the art of noticing, so will we adopt a similar stance of scrutiny and attention to detail in this course.

We will also discuss questions such as: How does the ordinary become extraordinary? How does the seemingly mundane or quotidian become infused with meaning? How does art make the familiar newly strange or fascinating? What happens to narrative conventions of plot and the event when writers are more interested in capturing the textures, rhythms, and background environments of everyday life? How does one narrate history in the making, as it unfolds in everyday life? How are major historical events and political structures felt over the course of a typical day? What happens when the ordinary and extraordinary change places?

We will look at short stories, novels, photography, and memoir. Possible authors include Mulk Raj Anand, Amit Chaudhuri, Teju Cole, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Henry James, Ian McEwan, Kathleen Stewart, and Virginia Woolf.

Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Abramson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

120 Reading, Writing, and Teaching

(Offered as ENGL 120, AMST 220 and EDST 120) This course considers from many perspectives what it means to read and write and learn and teach both for ourselves and for others. As part of the work of this course, in addition to the usual class hours, students will serve as weekly tutors and classroom assistants in adult basic education centers in nearby towns. Thus this course consciously engages with the obstacles to and the power of education through course readings, through self-reflexive writing about our own varied educational experiences, and through weekly work in the community. Although this course presses participants to reflect a great deal about teaching, this course does not teach how to teach. Instead it offers an exploration of the contexts and processes of education, and of the politics and desires that suffuse learning. Course readings range across literary genres including essays, poems, autobiographies, and novels in which education and teaching figure centrally, as well as readings in ethnography, sociology, psychology, and philosophy. The writing assignments cross many genres as well.

Limited to 18 students. In the fall semester, eight seats reserved for first-year students. Fall semester: Professor Frank. Spring semester: Lecturer B. Sánchez-Eppler.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

121 Writing the College Experience

(Offered as ENGL 121 and EDST 121) What does equity and access look like in college? What should it look like? In this course, students will learn to critique power structures that have created boundaries around higher education, and they will build their critical reading and writing skills through short, low-stakes weekly writing and three major papers that will be revised many times. We will consider how students’ intersectional identities (i.e.: how class, race, gender, and disability, among others) help them navigate college or create barriers to equity and access. We’ll learn how learning is shaped by cultural and rhetorical contexts. As we read, we will pay close attention to the way that writers build arguments to levy their own critiques with evidence, as well as how they organize texts and edit their own work, with an eye on developing our own strategies for using these skills in this course and others. We will work together to develop a community of writers who can mutually support each other through their own multifaceted college experiences.

Preference given to first-year Amherst College students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Lecturer Reardon.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

125 Representing Illness

With a focus on the skills of close reading and analytical writing, we will look at the ways in which writers imagine illness, how they try to make meaning out of illness, and how they use illness to explore other aspects of experience. This is not a course on the history of illness or the social construction of disease. We will discuss not only what writers say about illness but also how they say it: with what language and in what form they speak the experience of bodily and mental suffering. Readings may include drama by Sophocles, Molière and Margaret Edson; poetry by Donne and Mark Doty; fiction by José Saramago and Mark Haddon; and essays by Susan Sontag, Raphael Campo and Temple Grandin.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Bosman.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2014, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Spring 2022

150 Amherst Poets

From Emily Dickinson to Robert Frost to Sonia Sánchez, Amherst is famous for its poets. More than twenty well-known poets have written, lived, studied and taught in the area surrounding the College. This introductory course is designed to welcome students who have not previously taken a college-level English course into the literary environment of Amherst, as well as into the literary community of poetry readers more broadly, by studying five or six Amherst poets very closely. Our main focus will be on the close-reading skills needed to engage with poetry of all kinds, and on the skills needed to write a college-level essay about literature. We will engage in frequent essay-writing workshops together, and there will be a chance to meet and engage with contemporary Amherst Poets on Zoom.

 Limited to 18 students. Fifteen seats reserved for first-year students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Worsley.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Fall 2020, Spring 2021

162 Black (on) Earth: Introduction to African American Environmental Literature

(Offered as ENGL 162 and BLST 162) African and African-descended people have a long-documented and intimate relationship to the natural world as a source of healing, nurture, and wealth. However, for a people who were stripped of their land in colonial Africa, exploited to work the land by European enslavers in the New World, and hung from trees in the American South, and who still have a precarious relationship to water in such places as Flint, Michigan, and post-Maria Puerto Rico, inhabiting the earth is complicated. How might we begin to tell this entangled history? What kinds of stories have Africans and their descendants developed to address their relationship with nature? What does the term “environmental justice” even mean to and for people of African descent today?

In this course, we will encounter a range of texts, including slave narratives, novels, poems, visual art, and performance written by and about Black subjects, to begin to understand how various authors, artists, and activists represent the rich relationship between blackness and the natural world. Readings may include works by Olaudah Equiano, W. E. B Du Bois, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Zora Neale Hurston, Derek Walcott, Jamaica Kincaid, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, T. Dungy, Britt Rusert, Kimberly N. Ruffin, among others.

Limited to 18 students. Ten seats reserved for first-year students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Cobham-Sander.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020

180 Film and Writing

(Offered as ENGL 180 and FAMS 110) A first course in reading films and writing about them. A varied selection of films for study and criticism, partly to illustrate the main elements of film language and partly to pose challenging texts for reading and writing. Frequent short papers. Two class meetings and one screening per week.

Limited to 25 students. Twelve seats reserved for first-year students. Open to first-year and sophomore students. Fall semester. Professor Guilford.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

182 Constructing Childhood: From Page to Screen

(Offered as ENGL 182, EDST 182 and FAMS 182) How has childhood been imagined across the twentieth century and into our own present? Since the Victorian era, childhood and the experience of being a child have been associated with innocence (and experience), nostalgia (and regret), and a simpler (while deeply complex) time of life. Yet across literature and media, childhood is constructed after the fact, by adults whose perceptions are shaped by their understanding of childhood as a distinct and discrete set of experiences. In this course, we will explore constructions of British and American childhoods on page, stage, and screen, exploring two foundational late Victorian/Edwardian intermedial texts (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Peter Pan), before venturing on a journey exploring cinematic depictions of childhood over the course of the twentieth century. We will examine twentieth-century films depicting children and popular genres designed to appeal to child audiences; how media texts represent children as they navigate conceptions of gender, sexuality, race, and class; and children as both consumers and producers of media in the twenty-first century. Students will explore different genres and modes of expository writing, including personal essay and close textual analysis and do an independent, guided research project. Students will gain a familiarity with key terms and methodologies in English and Film & Media Studies; an ability to think and write critically about literary and cinematic texts; an awareness of historical, social and cultural perceptions of childhood in Britain and the United States; confidence in reading primary and secondary sources; and proficiency in analytical writing, including sentence-level clarity, building arguments, using evidence, and working with and appropriately citing a variety of sources.

This course is designed for entering first-year students. Non-English/FAMS majors and Five College students are welcome. Limited to 18 students. Eighteen seats reserved for first-year students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

212 Storytelling Arts in Mesoamerica

(Offered as ENGL 212 and ARHA 212) [Before 1800] This course will explore the major pictorial narrative traditions of Mesoamerica, focusing on manuscripts of the Aztec, Maya, and Mixtec peoples, as well as other media, including texts and images from murals, ceramics, monuments, and mirrors. These visual and narrative media continue to play important roles in the preservation of Indigenous identity, solidarity, and cultural identity within nation states; the course will examine public, popular, and fine arts reviving, repurposing, and supporting resistance using this imagery.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Lecturer Couch.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020, Spring 2022

214 Re-imagining American Literature, A Survey: Pre-Conquest to 1865

[Before 1800] Until the recent past, and still in high schools and many collegiate institutions, courses that intend to survey American literature represent that oeuvre as nearly exclusively the work of white male writers. In this survey we will often encounter writings by American Indians from different nations, by women, by African Americans, as well as more commonly taught writers like Melville, Thoreau, and Emerson.

Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Emeritus O’Connell.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020

215 Re-imagining American Literature, A Survey:  1865 to the Present

Survey courses have in our time increasingly disappeared, except in most high schools. Attempts to make them sufficiently inclusive have seemed impossible. The chosen approach in this course is to concentrate on the remarkable literatures created by African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, bi-national writers, and working-class writers. We will also read “classic” writers like Willa Cather and Fitzgerald along with some of the working-class writers from the Thirties.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Emeritus O’Connell.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Spring 2021

216 Women Writers of Africa and the African Diaspora

(Offered as BLST 203 [D], ENGL 216, and SWAG 203) The term “Women Writers” suggests, and perhaps assumes, a particular category. How useful is this term in describing the writers we tend to include under the frame? And further, how useful are the designations "African" and "African Diaspora"? We will begin by critically examining these central questions, and revisit them frequently as we read specific texts and the body of works included in this course. Our readings comprise a range of literary and scholarly works by canonical and more recent female writers from Africa, the Caribbean, and continental America. Framed primarily by Postcolonial Criticism, our explorations will center on how writers treat historical and contemporary issues specifically connected to women’s experiences, as well as other issues, such as globalization, modernity, and sexuality. We will consider the continuities and points of departure between writers, periods, and regions, and explore the significance of the writers’ stylistic choices. Here our emphasis will be on how writers appropriate vernacular and conventional modes of writing.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Prof. C. Bailey.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Spring 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2022

217 Making Literary Histories I

[Before 1800] What is “English Literature,” and how does one construct its history? What counts as “England” (especially in relation to Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, and to ancient Greece and Rome)? What is the relationship between histories of literature and political, social, religious and intellectual histories? What is the role of gender in the making of literature, and the making of its histories? These are the kinds of questions we will ask as we read texts from the seventh through the seventeenth centuries, including works such as Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (in translation) and writers from Chaucer and Margery Kempe in the Middle Ages to Margaret Cavendish and John Milton in the Renaissance.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Nelson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Spring 2021

221 Writing Poetry I

A first workshop in the writing of poetry. Class members will read and discuss each others’ work and will study the elements of prosody: the line, stanza forms, meter, free verse, and more. Open to anyone interested in writing poetry and learning about the rudiments of craft. Writing exercises weekly.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester: Visiting Writer Kapur. Spring semester: Merrill Visiting Poet Amy Dryansky. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

222 Playwriting I

(Offered as THDA 270 and ENGL 222) This course explores key aspects of writing for the theater in a workshop style, from a transcultural perspective. Through writing exercises, analysis of scenes, feedback sessions, and the rewriting of materials produced, participants will experience the creative process and start developing their own voice as playwrights.

Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Visiting Artist Carneiro.

 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

223 Sound, Movement, and Text: Interactions and Collaborations

(Offered as THDA 255, ENGL 223, and MUSI 255) This studio course is designed as an interactive laboratory for dancers, composers, actors, writers/poets, vocalists, and sound artists to work together to create meaningful interactions between sound, movement, and text. Working individually and in collaborative groups, students will create original material in the various media and experiment with multiple ways to craft interesting exchanges and dialogues between word, sound, and movement or to create hybrid forms. The emphasis in the course will be to work with exercises and structures that engender deep listening, looking, and imagining. Some of the questions that inform the course include: How do music, voices, electronic, digital, and natural sounds create a sonic world for live performance and vice versa? How can movement inform the writing of text and vice-versa? How can we successfully communicate and collaborate across and between the different languages of sounds, words, and movement? We will have a series of informal studio performances, events, and installations throughout the semester with a culminating final showing/listening at the end of the semester.

Requisite: Previous experience in composition in one or more of the central media, or consent of the instructors. Limited to 16 students. Omitted 2021-2022. Professor Woodson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020

225 Non-Fiction I or Personal Story

How can we re-imagine ourselves and the world through our deeply felt personal questions? This course will focus on using personal non-fiction narratives to consider larger themes of politics, history, current events, and our ever-changing social reality. The course welcomes beginning writers who want to learn how to write more creatively without limiting censors and unnecessary judgment. The class will function as a cooperative workshop to help all write more fluently and with greater joy.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2021-22. Writer-in-Residence Lee.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2011, Fall 2019, Fall 2020

226 Fiction Writing I

A first course in writing fiction. Emphasis will be on experimentation as well as on developing skill and craft. Workshop (discussion) format.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Fall and spring semesters. Lecturer D. Sweeney.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

227 Reading and Writing Electronic Literature

This introductory course explores a variety of approaches to digital storytelling, from branching narratives, to hypertext media and video games, to more recent developments in machine-generated poetry and also embodied and location-based narrative. A hands-on class, it will link conventional understandings of narrative form and content to contemporary conversations about interface and computation, and ask students to think about materiality and textuality by experimenting with digital composition.

Omitted 2021-22. Professors Frank and Parham.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019

228 Liveness and the Livestreaming Studio

(Offered as ENGL 228 and THDA 251) In this course, we will explore theories and practices of “liveness.” What do we feel as alive in literature, drama, film, and television? How do we experience liveness across the forms of media? How does live media vs. recorded media influence our perceptions of its authenticity, and how do we express authenticity in each form? We will explore these questions as we examine works from drama, music, and dance; digital marketing, social media, and social networking; political protest, news broadcasts, and public relations.

With this theoretical and critical background in mind, we will also work on adapting between media by taking an existing creative work and transforming it into a dynamic live-streamed event. Works may be in creative writing, theatre, dance, music, or similar form, and they can be an original creation or a work by another author.

Technological Requirements: To fully participate in the final project, students will be expected to have regular access to an iPhone or Android smartphone with a working camera and a Mac or Windows computer with a working camera. If you lack either of these things, we will work with Academic Technology Services to ensure you have access to this technology during the January term.

Completion of this course will include a live in-class performance on the final day. Previous experience in any form of live performance is encouraged, but not required. Class will meet daily for 165 minutes.

Limited to 20 students. January term. Visiting Lecturer Bernitt.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in January 2022, Spring 2022

231 Three, Two, One: Reading Small Drama

How small can drama get while remaining “dramatic”? During the first half of the twentieth century, it was not unusual for a stage in America (or anywhere in the English-speaking world) to be filled with dozens of actors. Over the last sixty years, though, the crowds onstage have thinned. Today, three-, two-, and even one-person plays are as common as twenty-person plays once were. In this course, we will study the work of playwrights who have found new inspiration within these tight constraints.

As a foundational course in drama, this course will teach you the special skills involved in reading plays. As texts meant to be interpreted and staged by theater-makers, plays are radically under-determined things. So, you cannot sit back and play the role of audience. You must also do the imaginative work of all those people–actors, directors, designers, etc.–who turn a play into a performance. This course will teach you the habits of mind that make this imaginative work possible.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Grobe.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2016, Spring 2022

238 Shakespeare

[Before 1800] Readings in the comedies, histories, and tragedies, with attention to their poetic language, dramatic structure, and power in performance. Texts and topics will vary by instructor.

Limited to 50 students. Fall semester. Professor Bosman.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

240 Reading Poetry

A first course in the critical reading of selected English-language poets, which gives students exposure to significant poets, poetic styles, and literary and cultural contexts for poetry from across the tradition. Attention will be given to prosody and poetic forms, and to different ways of reading poems.

Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Professor Emeritus Sofield.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

250 Reading the Novel

An introduction to the study of the novel, through the exploration of a variety of critical terms (plot, character, point of view, tone, realism, identification, genre fiction, the book) and methodologies (structuralist, Marxist, feminist, psychoanalytic). We will draw on a selection of novels in English to illustrate and complicate those terms; possible authors include Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Wilkie Collins, Henry James, Kazuo Ishiguro, Thomas Pynchon, Toni Morrison, John Edgar Wideman, Emma Donoghue, David Foster Wallace, Monique Truong, Jennifer Egan.

Preference given to sophomores. Limited to 35 students. Fall semester. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

253 Modernists: In Their Words and In Their Worlds

This course provides an introduction to literary modernism in two parts, each part in dialogue with the other. First, in their words: we will look at how early twentieth-century writers described their own formal experiments and aesthetic agendas. This section will pair modernist manifestos and critical essays with fiction and poetry written by those same authors. Second, in their worlds: we will examine the historical, geographical, and cultural dimensions of these famous literary experiments. This section pairs modernist primary works with brief readings focused on World War I, colonization and decolonization, the Harlem Renaissance, and urban technology. When it comes to the dynamic relationship between words and worlds, our goal will be synthesis rather than separation. How does historical change relate to changes in literary form?

Possible authors include Mulk Raj Anand, Joseph Conrad, T.S. Eliot, E.M. Forster, Langston Hughes, James Joyce, Nella Larsen, Katherine Mansfield, Ezra Pound, and Virginia Woolf.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Abramson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Fall 2020

257 From Orientalism to the Asian Century: Methods in Transnational Asian Studies

What has Orientalism got to do with speculative science fiction? How does the history of Asia intersect with French and British colonialism? What does the “Asian Century” have in store for us? This course surveys the emerging field of Transnational Asian Studies through the lens of gender, empire, capitalism and migration. The course traces the historical flows and contemporary exchanges rising out of the vast and diverse Asian continent through literary texts, scholarly writing, and visual media. The course will explore categories such as “Asian/American,” “Afro-Asian,” “coolie” and “transnational” among others, while critiquing early iterations of the field for its United States-centric focus.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Visiting Lecturer Gooptu.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

270 Letter Writers and Epistolarity

The participants in this online course will read letters and write letters. This course became radically enhanced with the distancing imposed as COVID-19 exiled us from campus last spring.

The course depends both on experiences and experiments with the letter as a complex instrument of communication, as literary artefact, as carrier of affect, intention and ideas, and as a record of individual and communal growth. Letter writing will be practiced as a performance that deploys persona, tone, voice, purpose, persuasion, transparency, and decorum. Your discoveries and the development of your thoughts will be circulated as letters written among a small circle of correspondence.

Readings will include letters written by Paul, Seneca, Martin Luther King, Biddy Martin, Dorothy Osborne, John Keats, Rainer Maria Rilke, Lou Andreas-Salomé, Sigmund Freud, Boris Pasternak, Marina Tsvetayeva, Robert Oppenheimer. The reading of epistolary novels will focus our attention on fictional uses of the form (Daddy Longlegs, Dangerous Liaisons, Screwtape Letters). We will also pay attention to the current evolution of letter writing in the time of e-mail and social media, and social isolation.

Capstone projects will be organized as researched and curated presentations of selected online manuscript letters, or as a compiled and analyzed collection of personal or family letters, or as epistolary fiction.

In addition to the expected use of Zoom and emergency uses of Skype, students are expected to become familiar with: Google Drive, Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides; Dropbox; Microsoft Word, Power Point, and Excel; Audible and Kindle; parabol.co; and ProQuest Ebook Central.

January. Lecturer B. Sánchez-Eppler.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Spring 2020, January 2021, January 2022, Spring 2022

271 How Can We Talk About Race, Class, and Gender?

Each of us lives in a world in which race, class and gender–complex and elusive terms–reflect multiple realities. In the last few years they have openly shaped public discourse in the US. They also affect individuals and groups differently: invisible to many, an inescapable felt presence for many others. Denial, controversy, struggle, pride, and hesitation are but some of peoples’ responses. A world of courses could not comprehend the responses or the terms themselves, the histories or the controversies. So this course must necessarily be exploratory and, beyond the usual, open to each participant, even in sharp disagreements.

Memoirs, novels and poems, lively and revelatory social science texts make up the readings. Short weekly writings and three essays complete the work of the course.

Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Emeritus O’Connell.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

272 A Primer to Children’s Literature

Children’s books are a site of first encounter, a doorway to literacy and literature. This course will offer both a history of book production for child readers in England and the United States and an exploration of what these first books can teach us about the attractions, expectations, and responsibilities of reading.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor K. Sánchez-Eppler.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2016, Spring 2018, Spring 2021

273 When Corn Mother Meets King Corn: Cultural Studies of the Americas

(Offered as AMST 280 and ENGL 273) In Penobscot author Joseph Nicolar's 1893 narrative, the Corn Mother proclaims, "I am young in age and I am tender, yet my strength is great and I shall be felt all over the world, because I owe my existence to the beautiful plant of the earth." In contrast, according to one Iowa farmer, from the 2007 documentary "King Corn," "We aren't growing quality. We're growing crap." This course aims to unpack depictions like these in order to probe the ways that corn has changed in its significance within the Americas. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, students will be introduced to critical theories and methodologies from American Studies as they study corn's shifting role, across distinct times and places, as a nourishing provider, cultural transformer, commodity, icon, and symbol.

Beginning with the earliest travels of corn and her stories in the Americas, students will learn about the rich histories, traditions, narratives, and uses of "maize" from indigenous communities and nations, as well as its subsequent proliferation and adaptation throughout the world. In addition to literary and historical sources students will engage with a wide variety of texts (from material culture to popular entertainment, public policy and genetics) in order to deepen their understanding of cultural, political, environmental, and economic changes that have characterized life in the Americas.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professors Brooks and Vigil.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Spring 2019

277 Literature and Culture of the Philippines

This course is an introduction to the art, culture, and history of the Philippines through the narrative spaces of literature. While small in size, the 7,107 islands that make up the Philippines have played an important role in geopolitics, and the scars of a deeply conflicted history of occupation by the Spanish, Americans, and Japanese are evident in the literature. Reading a mixture of canonical and emerging authors will help us understand the complex legacies of colonialism in the islands and in the diaspora.

As a discipline, Asian American Studies has deep roots in social justice activism, and many of the texts we will read are responding to colonial and national structures of power. We will pay close attention to the ways in which art identifies, protests, resists, and survives structures of inequality within and between societies. By nature this is an interdisciplinary project, drawing from history, literature, fine art, and sociology to understand how the literature of the Philippines has changed over time. Our questions will consider the relationships between nation and space, diverse embodiments of national identity and ethnicity, and the cultural and historical contexts that inform these issues.

While the literature of the Philippines is written in many different languages, this course will be concerned with translated and English texts.

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Visiting Lecturer Ocasion.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

278 Digital Africas

(Offered as ENGL 278 and BLST 212 [A]) This course will examine how African writers incorporate digital technologies into their work when they publish traditional print texts, experiment with digital formats, or use the internet to redefine their relationship to local and international audiences. We will reflect on how words and values shift in response to new forms of mediation; on the limits these forms place on the bodies they represent, and on the protections they occasionally offer. Students will read fictional works in print, serialized narratives on blogs, as well as other literary products that circulate via social media. Students also will be introduced to a selection of digital humanities tools that will assist them in accessing, analyzing and responding to these works. Course materials include print, digital and hybrid publications by Oyono, Farah, Adichie, Cole, Maphoto, and Wainaina, among others.

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Cobham-Sander.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2021

279 Global Women's Literature

(Offered as SWAG 279, BLST 302, and ENGL 279) What do we mean by “women’s fiction”? How do we understand women’s genres in different national contexts? This course examines topics in feminist thought such as marriage, sexuality, desire and the home in novels written by women writers from South Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. We will draw on postcolonial literary theory, essays on transnational feminism and historical studies to situate our analyses of these novels. Texts include South African writer Nadine Gordimer’s July's People, Pakistani novelist Bapsi Sidhwa's Cracking India, and Caribbean author Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Shandilya.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Spring 2019, Spring 2020

280 Coming to Terms: Cinema

(Offered as ENGL 280 and FAMS 210) An introduction to cinema studies through consideration of key critical terms, together with a selection of various films (classic and contemporary, foreign and American, popular and avant-garde) for illustration and discussion. The terms for discussion may include, among others: modernity, montage, realism, visual pleasure, ethnography, choreography, streaming, and consumption. Two class meetings and one screening per week.

Limited to 35 students. Spring semester. Professor Guilford.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Spring 2022

282 Knowing Television

(Offered as ENGL 282 and FAMS 215) For better or worse, U.S. broadcast television is a cultural form that is not commonly associated with knowledge. This course will take what might seem a radical counter-position to such assumptions–looking at the ways television teaches us what it is and even trains us in potential critical practices for investigating it. By considering its formal structure, its textual definitions, and the means through which we see it, we will map out how it is that we come to know television.

Prior coursework in Film and Media Studies is recommended, but not required. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 45 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hastie.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2010, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Fall 2016, Fall 2019

283 Television Narratives

(Offered as ENGL 283 and FAMS 234) What stories does television tell? And how does it tell them? This course will approach television’s narratives through a focus on both form and content. We will take into account issues of production, distribution, and exhibition, with attention both to historical developments and contemporary transformations to the medium. In this way, we will explore how shifts in programming, platforms, and viewing habits alter both televisual narration and consumption. By considering television’s specific form–whether commercial networks, cable TV, or subscription platforms like Netflix and Hulu–we will query how this specific media format enables or limits the ways it tells stories and what stories it tells. Each iteration of this course will focus on particular forms of narrative programming, through an emphasis on genre, format, historical eras, or cultural facets. Readings will include key critical works in Television Studies, essays on particular television series, and other works that situate television texts in a broader cultural framework and history. The goal of the course is to think through narrative form, representational systems, authorship, exhibition, and reception habits in order to define not just what television narrative is but also what it can be.

In spring 2021, “Television Narratives” focused on policing race, as represented in US television series, with some forays also in documentary programming and music videos from the late 1980s, early 1990s, and our contemporary period. We began with episodic police and detective series of the late 1960s and 1970s, such as The Mod Squad, Tenafly, and Shaft, when the role of the black detective merged social consciousness and contemporary style, sometimes treading the line between criminality and the law. We then turned to the hybrid episodic-serial format of Hill Street Blues, focusing on the representation of both African-American policing and criminality represented within the series. Our next case study, spanning the 1990s and early 2000s, considered the emergence of the police procedural as a dominant televisual form, with an emphasis on the long-running Law and Order franchise. Our final case study composed the latter half of the course, as we looked at mini series and limited season serials, including the docudrama When They See Us and the one-season series Seven Seconds. During this final unit, we also integrated queries into YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram to consider how the narratives of such series are extended through intertextual connections with clips, interviews, and productions by both fans and artists.

Two sections of this course were offered, each section limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hastie.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021

284 Coming to Terms: Media

(Offered as ENGL 284 and FAMS 216) What do we mean when we talk about “the media”? Coming to Terms: Media will parse this question, approaching the media not as a shadowy monolith but as a complex and changing environment comprised of varied technologies, formats, practices, devices, and platforms (e.g.: photography, gramophone records, online dating, smartphones, Netflix). The course will introduce key terms and critical approaches for the study of modern media in their specificity in an era of digital mediation. We will ask questions such as: What are the formal and technical features of different media? How do they construct us as spectators or users, and shape our perception of the world we inhabit? How do our media practices produce experiences of space, time, and community? And crucially, what are the ideological impacts of these perceptions, constructions, and practices when it comes to race, sex, identity, and the circulation of power and capital?

Each week students will encounter important works of twentieth- and twenty-first-century media and cultural theory and will encounter concrete examples to flesh out the abstract concepts in the readings and engage in ample class participation. Assignments will encourage students to enter into a conversation with these texts as a way of exploring and constructing arguments about contemporary media. The course will provide a strong foundation for advanced work in film and media studies, and related disciplines.

This course has no prerequisites, but it is best suited to students who have completed a 100-level course dealing with the analysis of literature or film. Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Rangan.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Spring 2020, Spring 2022

287 Introduction to Film Studies: The History of American Cinema, 1895-1960

(Offered as ENGL 287 and FAMS 212) This course is designed to introduce students to key issues in film studies, focusing on the history of American cinema from 1895 to 1960. We will pay particular attention to the “golden age” of Hollywood, with forays into other national cinemas by way of comparison and critique. Screenings will range from actualities and trick films, to the early narrative features of D. W. Griffith, to the development of genres including film noir (Double Indemnity), the woman’s film of the 1940s (Now, Voyager), the western (Stagecoach) and the suspense film (Rear Window). Reading and writing assignments and in-class discussions will address how to interpret film on the formal/stylistic level (sequence analysis, close reading, visual language) as well as in the context of major trends and figures in film history. A weekly viewing journal will be expected, as a record of students’ critical responses to the films. In addition, three formal essays are required: a 3-5 page sequence analysis; a 6-8 page critical explication of a piece of film criticism (a scholarly article or book chapter) not already assigned for the course; and a final research paper (8-10 pages), to be revised in conjunction with a peer review workshop. By the end of the semester, students can expect to gain the following: a familiarity with key terms in film language and film analysis; an ability to think and write critically about film, its aesthetics, historical development, technology, and cultural context; an overview of some key films in American cinema history from the silent era to 1960; an appreciation of different film genres, their structure, iconic language, and ideological/cultural meanings; and confidence in reading critical/theoretical essays in film criticism and history.

Limited to 35 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

289 Moving Pictures: The History of Silent Cinema

(Offered as ENGL 289 and FAMS 227) This course focuses on global cinema during the silent era (1895-1927). We will explore the wide range of films produced in cinema’s first three decades, including early actualities, animation, trick films, serials, melodrama, and experimental film. Readings in film history will assist us in investigating the rise of classical narrative, the studio system, star and fan culture, and the transition to sound. In addition to studying the work of Charlie Chaplin, Sergei Eisenstein, D. W. Griffith, Georges Méliès, and Dziga Vertov, the course will highlight filmmaking by women and people of color including Alice Guy-Blaché, Oscar Micheaux, and Lois Weber, among others. A weekly viewing journal will be expected, as a record of students’ critical responses to the films. In addition, three formal essays are required: a 3-5 page sequence analysis; a 5-6 page critical explication of a piece of film criticism (a scholarly article or book chapter) not already assigned for the course; and a final research paper (8-10 pages), to be revised in conjunction with a peer review workshop.

This course will run primarily online, with periodic small-group meetings for students who are in residence on campus and parallel small-group meetings for remote students. The additional evening time slot will provide opportunities for students to screen films and engage in structured small-group discussion synchronously, whether remotely or in person. There may be additional opportunities for in-person meetings (including office hours) as the semester progresses.

Recommended requisite: ENGL 180/FAMS 110, Film and Writing, or an equivalent 100-level course. Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2011, Spring 2021

295 Literature and Psychoanalysis

Why does it seem natural to read ourselves and other people in the same way that we read books? This course will introduce students to psychoanalytic thought and psychoanalytic literary interpretation. Freud famously reads Jensen’s short story Gradiva as a case history, but we will seek out ways of reading literature and psychoanalysis together that go beyond diagnosing characters or authors. How is psychoanalytic theory itself literary? How can it help to open up, rather than reduce, our reading experience? And how does literature in turn help to enrich, deepen, challenge and enliven psychoanalytic theories of subject-formation, language, and interpersonal relations? Putting psychoanalytic and fictional texts in conversation, topics of particular interest may include: dreams, desire, sexuality, mourning, trauma, the unconscious, the uncanny, anxiety, embodiment, racialization, paranoia and the reparative impulse. Psychoanalytic readings will be drawn from Freud, Klein, Lacan, Winnicott, Bollas, Khan, Phillips, Riviere, Fanon, Milner, Sedgwick, Felman, and others. Literary texts change from year to year.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Mireles Christoff.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Spring 2020, Spring 2022

296, 395 Literature and the Nonhuman World

Like every other aspect of human culture, literature interacts with biology–with, in Elizabeth Grosz’s words, “a system of (physical, chemical, organic) differences that engenders historical, social, cultural, and sexual differences.” The aim of this course is to make that fact as intellectually fruitful as possible. What happens to our understanding of literature if we think of it as an expression of life? What happens, that is, if we think of literature as one of the countless things that emerges from a non-personal, non-teleological process of evolution? And what happens if we think of individual works of literature as potential ways of getting closer, conceptually and sensually, to life, to the difference-making process within which we all find ourselves? Readings will include Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, James Welch’s Winter in the Blood, J. M. Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello, and the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Wallace Stevens, and Elizabeth Bishop. A background in the natural sciences is welcome but not necessary.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2020

301 The Qur'ān and Its Controversies

(Offered as RELI 385, ASLC 385 and ENGL 301) 

An exploration of several salient questions concerning the Qur’ān, the Islamic Revealed Book. How have Muslims explained the Qur’ān’s own proclamation of its supernatural origin and its miraculous quality?  How does the Qur’ān engage with and respond to the Hebrew Bible and Christian scriptures? Who has the authority to interpret the Qur’ān and why? These are just a few of the tantalizing questions that will occupy us over the course of the semester. We will also discuss the ways that the Qur’ān has been read as a work of law, theology, and mysticism, and how it has shaped theories of the state. Finally, we will isolate the Qur’ān from the Islamic tradition and explore the many ways that it can be read as a work of literature. 

All readings are in English. No prerequisites. 

Fall semester. Associate Professor Jaffer.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2021

303 Books and Their Afterlives: Writing and/as Technology

Books have a rich history in multiple cultures, and the experience of reading them is often bound up with their material form. In other words, the way we read books has arguably always been tied to how they look, and smell, and feel. So what happens to books in the digital age? What do books feel like when they are on the Internet? From the first printed text to the digital age and beyond, this course will consider the changing shapes, goals, and aims of books. Beginning with the earliest texts produced with moveable type and ending with experimental electronic literature, we will consider the intertwined histories of reading, books, and the technologies used to make them. This course will include sessions held in Frost Library’s Special Collections and one required field trip to Big Wheel Press in Easthampton, Massachusetts.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Professor Henrichs.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Spring 2020

304 Narratives of Suffering

It’s possible to imagine people who have not yet suffered, who have not yet had a peculiarly intense and sustained experience of physical or psychic pain. Those imaginary people are, however, vulnerable to future suffering. Even more importantly, they live in a world in which many others suffer, so many that a refusal to attend to suffering amounts to a refusal of a meaningfully relational existence. Thinking and feeling in response to suffering is, accordingly, an inescapable aspect of what Henri Bergson describes as “a really living life.” But how do we respond to suffering, whether in others or in ourselves? How do we take it in without appropriating it? How do we express it without turning it into a spectacle? These questions and others like them are difficult, but the aim of this course is to generate an intellectual and emotional atmosphere in which we can be transformed by the process of taking them up. Readings include The Book of Job, King Lear, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Art Spiegelman’s Maus, and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2014, Fall 2016, Spring 2019, Fall 2021

306 Modern British and American Poetry, 1900-1950

Readings and discussions centering on the work of Thomas Hardy, W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, and Wallace Stevens. Some attention also to A.E. Housman, Edward Thomas, Ezra Pound, and William Carlos Williams.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Emeritus Pritchard.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2016, Fall 2018

307 Making Genre in the Eighteenth Century

[Before 1800] Imagine a world where the novel was truly a novel form, and where newspapers were a new idea, and where print had only recently been commercialized. The eighteenth century was a time of great flux in Britain and the US, not only in terms of political change and scientific discovery, but also in terms of the literary world. Poets were beginning to panic that their genre was no longer the dominant mode. Daily journals were changing how people perceived the way time passed. Testimonies from abroad were changing people’s awareness of the world at large. Women were reading in secret, since the men around them often tried to restrict which genres they had access to. Writers who wrote for profit were called “hacks.” Even the very idea of the professional author was under question. In this course, we will consider many different genres of writing, including novels, memoirs, newspapers, lectures, journal articles, travel narratives, plays, and poems, during a period when massive innovations were taking place. Although the majority of the texts we will discuss will be those published in the eighteenth century, we will begin the course with some seventeenth-century texts (such as John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Francis Bacon’s essays), in order to more fully understand the creative vision of eighteenth-century writers like Daniel Defoe, Joseph Addison, Jonathan Edwards, Anne Finch, Laurence Sterne, Phillis Wheatley, Jane Austen, and Olaudah Equiano. There will be an emphasis on engaging with these texts as they were originally printed, with a chance to engage with archival materials. The course will end with a consideration of how notions of the difference between authors of different genres still persist in the present day.

Recommended requisite: Previous English class preferred. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 35 students. Spring semester. Professor Worsley.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

309 The Literary Histories of Technology

[Before 1800] What does a reader in 1620 have in common with a reader in 2020? They are both faced with an overwhelming explosion of textual information made possible by technology. In both 1620 and 2020 readers are confronted with massive quantities of information that threaten to overwhelm. The causes differ: in 1620s London, advances in printing and paper-making technologies made textual materials cheaply and widely available on an unprecedented scale. In 2020, we have the Internet.

This course proposes that the seventeenth- and twenty-first centuries share similar methods of controlling their new information environment; both use creative and figurative language to talk about it. Readers in 1620 used recently-Anglicized terms like metaphor or synecdoche, whereas readers in 2020 talk about uploading everything to the cloud. In this course, we will explore the humanist rhetorical handbooks of the English literary Renaissance as a means to two ends: one, to better understand the literary production of canonical authors like Shakespeare; and two, to engage with the rhetoric of digital creativity in the twenty-first century. We juxtapose readings from Renaissance rhetorical handbooks with poetry and essays from that period and with digital humanities scholarship. The final project of the course will ask students to perform individual research as part of a collaborative, multimodal guide to the information structures of the Internet.

Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Professor Henrichs.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019

310 Interpretation in Law & Literature

(Offered as LJST 341 [Analytic Seminar] and ENGL 310) Interpretation lies at the center of legal and literary activity. Both law and literature are in the business of making sense of texts—statutes, constitutions, poems or stories. Both disciplines confront similar questions regarding the nature of interpretive practice: Should interpretation always be directed to recovering the intent of the author? If we abandon intentionalism as a theory of textual meaning, how do we judge the "excellence" of our interpretations? How can the critic or judge continue to claim to read in an "authoritative" manner in the face of interpretive plurality? In the last few years, a remarkable dialogue has burgeoned between law and literature as both disciplines have grappled with life in a world in which "there are no facts, only interpretations." This seminar will examine contemporary theories of interpretation as they inform both legal and literary understandings. Readings will include works of literature (Hemingway, Kafka, Woolf) and court cases, as well as contributions by theorists of interpretation such as Spinoza, Dilthey, Freud, Geertz, Kermode, Dworkin, and Sontag.

Limited to 15 students. Open to juniors and seniors.Omitted 2021-22. Professor Douglas.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Spring 2012, Spring 2015, Spring 2019, Fall 2020

315 Nabokov's Art and Terrors

(Offered as RUSS 225 and ENGL 315) This course undertakes a sustained examination of the works of Vladimir Nabokov (1899–1977). Drawing on the literary masterpieces of Nabokov’s Russian and English periods, we seek to gain a critical appreciation of his literary art and the cultural and aesthetic contexts from which they emerged. Throughout the course, we will consider his abiding themes such as the complex relationship between art and life, and between the poet, the state, and society; the narration of the experience of time; metafiction, its possibilities and constraints; bad art; the experience of exile; and the privileged position of art and aesthetics. The latter are variously inflected as refuge, asylum, or a space of revolt, as well as what enables the artist to counter, but also to inflict, cruelty. The course will also situate Nabokov’s work with the currents of literary modernism; to that end, readings are also drawn from such figures as Jorge Luis Borges, Franz Kafka, Marcel Proust, and Virginia Woolf. Our access into these themes and the author’s narrative art will be through attentive reading, itself a preeminent theme of Nabokov’s work. No familiarity with Russian history or culture expected. All readings in English. 

This course will meet for three hours MWF as well as require asynchronous film screenings for at leat 2 hours per week. 

January term. Prof. Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Spring 2011, Fall 2013, Spring 2016, Fall 2018, Fall 2020, January 2022, Spring 2022

316 Immersive Accompaniment: Reading the Bildungsroman

(Offered as ENGL 316 and SWAG 316) “From whence comes my help?” “From where does your strength come?” The psalmist and Adrienne Rich ask these questions, which we will face while we read coming-of-age narratives that fit in a genre known by its German name, the Bildungsroman. These novels go beyond the pilgrimage out of adolescence, and into explicit representation of intellectual, aesthetic, and spiritual growth experienced in unison with sexual development, awakenings, thrills, mishaps, and marriage. We will pay attention to how we immerse ourselves into the condition of those who grow on the page; not to “identify” with the characters, but to accompany them. From our immersive accompaniment we will re-emerge–intentionally–to write about how we progress, digress, regress, and grow some more. As we read we will explore many terms and theoretical concerns: Erik Erickson on life stages; Donald Winnicott on holding environment and object relation; Jacques Lacan on mirrors and interminability of desire; Silvan Tomkins on affects and nuclear scripts; Shoshana Feldman on re-reading, un-learning, en-gendering, and–again–desire.

Readings will likely include: Plato, Phaedrus; Susan Choi, Trust Exercise; Lazarillo de Tormes; Teresa de Avila, Interior Castle; John Woolman, The Journal; Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse; Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot; Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous; Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre; James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook; Richard Powers, The Overstory.

Omitted 2021-22. Lecturer B. Sánchez-Eppler.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021

318 Childhood in African and Caribbean Literature

(Offered as ENGL 318, BLST 362 [A/CLA], and LLAS 362) The course will concentrate on Caribbean authors. It explores the process of self-definition in literary works from Africa and the Caribbean that are built around child protagonists. We will examine the authors’ various methods of ordering experience through the choice of literary form and narrative technique, as well as the child/author’s perception of his or her society. French texts will be read in translation.

Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Cobham-Sander.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2015, Spring 2020

319 The Postcolonial Novel: Gender, Race and Empire

(Offered as SWAG 331 and ENGL 319) What is the novel? How do we know when a work of literature qualifies as a novel? In this course we will study the postcolonial novel which explodes the certainties of the European novel. Written in the aftermath of empire, these novels question race, class, gender and empire in their subject matter and narrative form. We will consider fiction from South Asia, the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa. Novels include Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh's The Calcutta Chromosome, Caribbean writer Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John and North African author Tayeb Salih's Season of Migration to the North.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Shandilya.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016, Fall 2018, Spring 2020

320 Literature as Translation

(Offered as EUST 303, ENGL 320 and RUSS 310) Acts of translation underwrite many kinds of cultural production, often invisibly. Writers of the Harlem Renaissance, for instance, engaged with black internationalism through bilingualism and translation, as Brent Edwards has reminded us. In this course we will study literary translation as a creative practice involved in the making of subjects and cultures. We will read key statements about translation by theorists and translators, such as Walter Benjamin, Roman Jakobson, Lawrence Venuti, Peter Cole and Gayatri Spivak. We also will directly engage in translation work: each student will regularly present translations in a workshop format to produce a portfolio as a final project. The class will be “polyglot,” meaning that students are welcome to translate from any language of which they have knowledge; when they share translations, they will be asked also to provide interlinear, or “literal,” translations for those who may not understand the language they are working in.

Requisite: Two years of college-level study of the chosen language. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professors Bosman and Ciepiela. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2021

322 Playwriting Studio

(Offered as THDA 370 and ENGL 322) A workshop for writers who want to complete a full-length play or series of shorter plays. Emphasis will be on bringing a script to a level at which it is ready for the stage. The majority of class time will be devoted to reading and commenting on developing works-in-progress.  In addition, we will also hone playwriting skills through class exercises, and study exemplary plays by established writers as a means of exploring a range of dramatic vocabularies.

Requisite: THDA 270, 272, or the equivalent. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Visiting Artist Carneiro.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

323 On The Edge: Writing for Performance

(Offered as THDA 272 and ENGL 323) This course is an exploration of writing for performance using interdisciplinary and experimental approaches. By exposing students to contemporary manifestations of performance across cultures – including those by Rodrigo Garcia, Rimini Protokoll, Romeo Castelluci, Robert Lepage, Carolina Vivas, and Gebing Tian – this course will lead to a new understanding of the art and practice of writing for the theater. In dialogue with other artforms such as literature, music, dance, and cinema, as well as performance theory, we will creatively explore dynamics involving words, bodies, spaces, objects, and media. Through imagining, devising, writing, and performing exercises, participants will develop their own original pieces that will be showcased as works-in-progress at the end of the semester. 

Limited to 18 students. Spring Semester. Visiting Artist Carneiro.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

324 Writing Poetry II—The Lyric Essay

Poetry is often a study of density and lineation but, as the expectations of genre continue to bend, more and more poets are exploring the lyric nature of the personal essay. In this course, we will assess the expansion of poetic form to include “the lyric essay,” reading essays written by poets and lyric memoirs written by essayists. The course will be primarily generative, with students selecting a specific topic to explore throughout the semester as they build their own, long-form, poetic project.

Requisite: ENGL 221 Writing Poetry I. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Lawson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Spring 2019, Fall 2019

324 Writing Poetry II–Poetry in Translation

"It is normally supposed that something always gets lost in translation; I cling, obstinately, to the notion that something can also be gained."  Salman Rushdie

What can we learn about the craft of poetry through the practice of translation? How can engaging with poetry in another language (even in translation) transform our own thinking and writing? This class will explore these questions by reading and translating poetry from around the world and across the centuries. Readings from Homer, Sappho, Catullus, Montale, Ghalib, Mir and a variety of contemporary Arab poets will be augmented with a mix of essays on the practical and theoretical aspects of translation. Students will experiment with a variety of translation-inspired writing exercises and design a final translation project of their choice. There is no language requirement.

 Limited to 12 students. Spring semester. Visiting Writer Kapur.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

325 Her Story Is: Feminist Approaches to Theater and Performance

(Offered as THDA 275, ENGL 325 and SWAG 275) Western text-based theatre has historically hushed the voices of women and those from marginalized communities. This course will focus on examples of such voices, paying special attention to artists, writers, and thinkers who challenge and deconstruct aesthetics that privilege the male gaze. In dialogue with feminist theories of gender and identity, we will read plays and study works by women and gender non-conforming artists, such as Hildegard von Bingen, Juana Ines de la Cruz, Susan Glaspell, Adrienne Kennedy, Marina Abramovich, and Taylor Mac. Finally, we will also inquire into new forms of gender-inspired “artivism,” such as The Kilroy’s, the Guerilla girls, Pussy Riot, and the #MeToo movement in theatres around the world. During this course, students are expected to pursue an individual writing or performance project that will further explore the concepts discussed. For this purpose, we will study the Theater of the Oppressed methodology as applied by contemporary Latinx feminist theater-makers.

Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-2022. Visiting Artist Carneiro. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

326 Fiction Writing II—Moving Beyond Plot

How do stories move? What are the uses and limitations of the term “plot” in describing movement or development in narrative? What culturally-specific assumptions and expectations about storytelling are bound up with conventional notions of plot, and how can we, as writers and readers, unravel them?

In this advanced fiction writing course, students will explore these questions and more through writing, reading, sharing, and thoughtfully critiquing fiction that challenges, resists, or forgoes linear or sequential narrative. Writers of all aesthetic styles, including plot-driven writers, are welcome. The aim of this course is to build a nurturing and inclusive classroom community where all students can cultivate confidence in their work and writing process.

Requisite: ENGL 226 Fiction Writing I. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Visiting Writer Myint.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2016, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2022

330 Race and Otherness in the Middle Ages

(Offered as ENGL 330 and EUST 330) [Before 1800] By many accounts, a concept of “race” does not emerge in the West until the colonizing of the New World in the Renaissance. Yet medieval people had many ways of identifying, exoticizing, excluding, and discriminating against “others.” This was often framed in terms of religion (Christianity vs. Islam), but it also manifests in terms of physiognomic description and ideas of monstrosity in romance and quest narratives. In this course, we will explore how the “othering” of certain medieval peoples creates a racialized language and discourse at once specific to the Middle Ages and relevant to our current understanding of race. We will read from medieval travel narratives (The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, Prester John, The Medieval Romance of Alexander) as well as literature by Chaucer and others, alongside critical race theory and historical scholarship to give context to our discussions. We will also explore how the Middle Ages have been racialized in contemporary political and popular discourse.

Format: If at least 5 in-person students register for this course, it will run in person, with hybrid options for remote students. Course meetings will include a combination of synchronous and asynchronous activities.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Nelson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Spring 2021

332 Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales

[Before 1800] Geoffrey Chaucer’s medieval masterwork, The Canterbury Tales, represents pilgrims from all walks of life, from peasants to artisans to nobility, telling tales that are comical, tragic, religious, and fantastical. In this course, we read almost the entirety of the Tales in its original language. The course aims to give the student rapid mastery of Chaucer’s English and an active appreciation of his poetry. Our focus will be on Chaucer’s poetry and the ethical and political questions this complex and delightful literary work raises, and how we can understand these questions within a modern context. No prior knowledge of Middle English is expected, although a knowledge of grammar in English or another Western language will be helpful.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Nelson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2019

341 Great English Writers

[Before 1800] A study of six classic writers from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: Ben Jonson, Milton, Dryden, Pope, Swift, and Samuel Johnson.  Among the readings are: Jonson, poems and Volpone; Milton, Comus, “Lycidas” and Paradise Lost; Dryden, poems and critical prose; Pope, “The Rape of the Lock,” Essay on Man, The Dunciad; Swift, Tale of a Tub, Gulliver’s Travels, poems; Johnson, poems, Rasselas, Prefaces to Shakespeare and to the Dictionary, passages from Boswell’s Life of Johnson.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Emeritus Pritchard.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Fall 2017, Spring 2020

348 Modern British Literature, 1900-1950

Readings in twentieth-century writers such as Henry James, Bernard Shaw, Joseph Conrad, D.H. Lawrence, Wyndham Lewis, Ford Madox Ford, Virginia Woolf, Evelyn Waugh, W.H. Auden, Robert Graves, George Orwell, Ivy Compton-Burnett.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Emeritus Pritchard.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2011, Spring 2015, Spring 2018

352 Reading Land, Writing Waters

(Offered as ENGL 352 and AMST 355) In this course, we will leave the classroom and get out on the land. The class begins in winter, a time when many people huddle indoors. We will instead go outside and read the winterland, beginning with a tracking workshop. Readings will include Robin Kimmerer’s influential essay, “The Language of Animacy,” which uses the lens of Indigenous languages to reconsider the boundaries of personhood. We will discuss how language shapes the ways in which we categorize other beings, such as animals and trees, as well as other humans. Our close reading of land and texts will enable us to see how our “reading practices” are shaped by language. Spring will take us to local waterways, including Amherst College’s Wildlife Sanctuary and the Quabbin Reservoir, where we will read William Cronon’s classic essay, “The Trouble with Wilderness” in relation to these built environments. Lauret Savoy’s Trace will lead us to consider our embodied experiences and histories in relation to the places where we live. Throughout, we will grapple with critical questions. How are concepts like “nature” and “culture” intertwined with constructions of race and gender? How has the conservation of “wilderness” been entangled with colonial dispossession and removal? Even as we spend much of our class time on the ground, we will cultivate the craft of writing as a deliberative, interactive process, with frequent informal writing, collaborative workshops and creative nonfiction.

The class will meet only twice a week but the two days and the amount of meeting time will depend on the weather and location, including drive time. Students will not spend more than eight hours/week in class.

Limited to 15 students. Spring semester Professor Brooks.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

354 Antebellum US Literature

In this course, we will be studying the relationship between the national acceleration toward war and the imaginative activities of US writers between 1830 and 1865. Through our readings of Emerson, Douglass, Melville, Stowe, Whitman, Jacobs, and others, we will learn about what happened over the course of those 35 years and, at the same time, learn from the examples of those extraordinary writers. As the nation was doubling in size and getting closer to splitting in half, those writers kept trying to find, in pressurized, transfiguring language, a way of getting from where they were to somewhere better. In the increasingly warlike atmosphere of our times, there may be an even greater value to what they achieved.

Spring semester. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

355, 444 Emily Dickinson

(Offered as ENGL 444 and AMST 364) “Experience is the Angled Road / Preferred against the Mind / By–Paradox–the Mind itself–” Emily Dickinson explained in one poem and in this course we will make use of the resources of the town of Amherst to play experience and mind off each other in our efforts to come to terms with her elusive poetry. The course will visit the Dickinson Homestead and the Evergreens (her brother Austen’s house, and a veritable time capsule), make use of Dickinson manuscripts in the Amherst College archives and special collections, local history materials at the Jones Library and the Amherst Historical Society, and set her work in the context of other nineteenth-century writers such as Helen Hunt Jackson, Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, and Harriet Jacobs. But as we explore how Dickinson’s poetry responds to her world, we will also ask how it can speak to our present. One major project of the course will be to develop exhibits and activities for the Emily Dickinson Museum that will help visitors engage with her poems.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor K. Sánchez-Eppler.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2018, January 2021

357 Race and Relationality

(Offered as ENGL 357 and BLST 365 [US]) When we say “race relations,” we are using a phrase drawn from early twentieth-century American sociology, a phrase that conjures up a scenario in which already-existing racial groups are separated by prejudice and misunderstanding. As many sociologists and historians have argued, we need a new paradigm, one that implies neither that race is a primordial reality nor that racism is merely an information problem. In this course, we will be using histories of the race-concept and theories emerging from the “relational turn” in psychoanalysis to explore the interplay of race and relationality in American literature written between the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law (1850) and Brown v. Board of Education (1954). The aim of this necessarily experimental course is to see what happens if we combine a historically informed understanding of the race-concept with a psychoanalytically informed understanding of relationality and bring both of those understandings to bear on works like Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, William Wells Brown’s Clotel, Herman Melville’s “Benito Cereno,” Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson, Nella Larsen’s Passing, and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. All of the varieties of American racial identification will be part of our discussions but the focus will be on the literary evocations of white-black conjunctions.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Fall 2019

359 Living with Inequality

(Offered as ENGL 359 and EDUC 359) Almost 60% of Americans now experience economic struggles. When they can they struggle to balance food, housing, medical care, clothing, and other needs. There are, at the same time, some 600 billionaires whose combined wealth exceeds that of all other Americans. Yet in 1970, a mere fifty years ago, the United States had the most equitable economic order in the world, and probably in history.

Our course moves around the country and among individuals and groups trying to survive scarcities of many kinds. This is not a literature course but one that does often engage language, how people speak their experience. It will be a journey in exploration.

Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Emeritus O’Connell.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

366 Asian-American Writing Across/Between Genres

In Jenny Boully’s essay, “On the EEO Genre Sheet,” she writes, “I am sometimes called a poet, sometimes an essayist, sometimes a lyric essayist, sometimes a prose poet. My second book was published under the guise of fiction/poetry/essay. I find these categorizations odd: I’ve never felt anything but whole.” In this course we will read works by contemporary Asian-American authors that defy and/or exceed genre expectations and examine these texts’ relationship to wholeness and hybridity. How can we read experimental writing as a politically subversive act? How can we read as a politically subversive act? This is not an introductory course on “Asian-American literature,” but a course that will interrogate the term “Asian-American,” both as a marker of identity and of literary genre. Readings may include works by Mary-Kim Arnold, Jenny Boully, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Lily Hoang, Vi Khi Nao, Diana Khoi Nguyen, and Ocean Vuong.

This is a discussion-based course that will require your weekly synchronous attendance, as well as asynchronous group and individual work. Also, though this is an online course, I am open to the possibility of creating in-person opportunities for students on campus, especially as the semester progresses.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Writer Myint.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Fall 2010, Spring 2021

370 Witch Hunt! Magic and Belief in Renaissance Literature

[Before 1800] What was magic in the early modern world? Why did it cause a crisis in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries? How did that crisis shape the literature of its time? We will follow competing ideas about magic as they ran like wildfire through the imagination of artists, playwrights, and preachers from medieval Germany through Renaissance England to Puritan Massachusetts. We will ask how magic in its apparently beneficial forms, such as alchemy and astrology, might relate to the supposedly malevolent practices of witchcraft, which yielded notorious trials and brutal executions on both sides of the Atlantic. Why did cultures balanced between religion and science become obsessed with magic? How did the fear and wonder that it evoked find its way into art? And what can literary figures of witches and sorcerers still tell us about our modern fantasies of self-empowerment and the counter-threat of demonic possession?

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Bosman.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Spring 2020

371 The African-American Playwright: A Select History of Representation and Citizenship

(Offered as THDA 223, BLST 113, and ENGL 371) What is meant by “the African-American experience” within the context of the U.S. American theater? What do the crafting and thematic concerns of plays penned by significant African-descendent writers in the United States tell us about the history of African-American theatrical performance and the larger issues of Black personhood, community, culture, and citizenship it reflects? This course is a thematic and critical survey of pivotal African-American plays from the mid-nineteenth century to the late twentieth century. Through practical dramaturgy and textual analysis we will study these playwrights’ deployment of their creative voice within social conditions that have evolved over the aforementioned period, from state-sanctioned exclusion to conditioned acceptance within U.S. American socio-cultural discourses. We will also examine how the civic work of these plays (and their writers) meet, intersect and coexist with that of other identity-based advocacy movements. Themes explored include slavery, segregation, nationality, class, religion, gender, sexual identity, among others. Playwrights studied may include Ira Aldridge, Angelina Grimke, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Charles Fuller, Lorraine Hansberry, James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka, Adrienne Kennedy, George C. Wolfe, August Wilson, Ntzoke Shange, and others.

Visiting Assistant Professor Jude Sandy. Fall semester.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

372 Reading the Romance

(Offered as ENGL 372 and SWAG 365) Do people the world over love in the same way, or does romance mean different things in different cultures? What happens when love violates social norms? Is the “romance” genre an escape from real-world conflicts or a resolution of them? This course analyzes romantic narratives from across the world through the lens of feminist theories of sexuality, marriage, and romance. We will read heterosexual romances such as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire, alongside queer fiction such as Sarah Waters’ Fingersmiths and Radclyffe Hall’s Well of Loneliness. We will also pay attention to the Western romantic-comedy film, the telenovela and the Bollywood spectacular.

Limited to 18 students. Not open to first-year students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Shandilya.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Spring 2021

374 Gothic/Horror: Literature, Film, Television

(Offered as ENGL 374 and FAMS 374) Gothic fictions are known for their ability to send shivers down the spine, evoking sensations of discomfort, fear, and horror. This interdisciplinary course will explore the genre of the Gothic from its roots in the late eighteenth century through the present, moving among literature, film, television, and digital media forms. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein will be a key text; we will explore intermedial texts like Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Bram Stoker’s Dracula; and the course will end with twenty-first century incarnations of the Gothic (Get Out, Penny Dreadful). Throughout, we will discuss the tangled relationship between sexuality, race, and power that characterizes the genre. Students will  develop a creative project, whether a piece of short fiction or a visual/digital exploration of Gothic themes, keep a weekly reading/viewing journal of their responses to the assigned texts, and facilitate discussion on a given text. In addition, students will write a 3- to 5-page close textual analysis, with a mandatory peer review workshop and revision, and a final research paper (10-12 pages) or creative project. Students will gain a familiarity with key literary and film/media studies terms and approaches; an understanding of major works in the Gothic and horror genres; an ability to think and write critically about Gothic literature and related media, in terms of aesthetics, historical development, and cultural context; confidence in reading critical/theoretical essays in literary studies, cultural studies, and film and media studies; and proficiency in various aspects of project-based work, including identifying a research topic, building arguments, using evidence, and working with and appropriately citing a variety of sources.

Requisite: A 200-level foundations course in English or Film & Media Studies, or equivalent. Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

375 Victorian Sensations, or, When Old Media Were New

(Offered as ENGL 375 and FAMS 317) Ghosts, vampires, madwomen, and typists: what do these figures have in common? In this course, we will investigate the characters and events that made the Victorian period the age of sensation, from the rise of popular fiction and the illustrated newspaper to the introduction of new methods for viewing and experiencing the world on a global scale. The course will focus on nineteenth-century Britain, exploring the ways in which Victorian fiction, poetry, and print and visual media give voice to the period’s obsession with sensory experience. We will read Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White, a tale of deception, mistaken identity and madness, alongside works by Robert Browning, Christina Rossetti, Sheridan Le Fanu, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Bram Stoker, among others. Historians of “old” media–including telegraphy, photography, and early cinema–will assist us in exploring new technologies for communication in the nineteenth century, while media archaeologists and theorists of ephemerality, memory, and the archive will deepen our understanding of the relationship between past and present media cultures. Three formal essays will be required: a literary close reading (3-4 pages); a critical explication of a scholarly article (4-5 pages); and a final research project (a 10-12 page paper or a digital humanities project of similar length and scope).

Requisite: A 200-level foundations course in English. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020

376 Disability Media

(Offered as ENGL 376 and FAMS 355) Moving image and audiovisual media frequently assume a fully able subject despite the infinite variety of our embodied capacities and debilitations. This course will explore how this assumption has shaped the design, narrative forms, audiovisual poetics, exhibition contexts, and modes of spectatorship and engagement of a range of media forms, from cinema to digital interfaces. We will examine how critical, experimental, and therapeutic approaches to media, the uses of media by people with disabilities, and media made in collaboration with disabled makers and protagonists enable us to fundamentally rethink what media can be and do. Readings will draw from disability studies and film and media studies as well as philosophy, science and technology studies, performance studies, sound studies, and other areas. Topics may include: disability tropes and rehabilitation narratives in film and TV; prostheses and “assistive” technologies; subtitles, captions, and the politics of accessibility; inclusive product and interface design; staring as spectatorial mode; sound art and polymodal listening. 

Prior coursework in ENGL or FAMS is recommended but not required. Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rangan.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019

377 The Documentary Impulse

(Offered as ENGL 377 and FAMS 383) Documentary is one of the fastest-growing areas of media production today, enjoying unprecedented commercial success in theaters, on television, and online streaming services. What drives the urgent desire to represent reality? Where did this impulse originate, and how do documentarians continue to channel it today? This course focuses on the innovative forms and ethical dilemmas that have resulted from the pursuit of reality. We look at different approaches to documentary (ethnographic, personal, observational, interactive, essayistic, activist) and emerging forms such as fake news, true crime podcasts, mockumentaries, web-docs, and documentary art. Our discussions consider the shifting boundaries of the documentary genre, the unique ethical and political considerations involved in making documentaries, and the impact of technological and socio-cultural changes on historical trends in documentary.

Open to students with no prior film classes. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rangan.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Spring 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019

378 After COPS: Police, Media, and Prison Abolition

(Offered as ENGL 378 and FAMS 382)

Calls to defund the police may have helped to cancel the notorious reality program COPS, but crime scenes, courtrooms, cops, lawyers, victims, and vigilantes dominate our media and our imaginations. This course asks what needs to be abolished—not just canceled—in our media environment in order for us to imagine a world without prisons. Abolition is, at its core, a transformative project that aims to change the very social relations, conditions, and logics that produce the harms for which police and prisons seem to serve as solutions. A project that once took on the seemingly impossible challenge of ending slavery, abolition has become a movement of interlinked struggles against systemic oppression. We will examine a range of media, historical and contemporary, cinematic and televisual, fictional and documentary, global and local, through the lens of abolition, deconstructing carceral scenarios and affects, and discovering and imagining transformative approaches to narrative, healing, and justice. Students enrolling in this course should be prepared to take on a range of activities including and beyond weekly readings, film/media viewing, and analytical writing, such as independent and collaborative research, site-based field work (if public health guidelines permit), and optional creative media assignments.

Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors, and to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Spring semester. Professor Rangan.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

379 Play and Performance Across “The Black Atlantic”

(Offered as THDA 224, BLST 124, and ENGL 379) What is the “African” in “African-American?” From the point of view of U.S. American theater, what is the relationship between African-American theatrical practices and those of a global African diaspora? Grounded in Paul Gilroy’s and other theorists’ positing of “The Black Atlantic,” this course will examine how notions of shared and distinct cultural heritages collide and co-mingle across the theatrical performance worlds of African and other African-descendant peoples. Our point of reference will be canonical and contemporary plays and dance-theater works by African-American artists like Adrienne Kennedy, August Wilson, Katherine Dunham, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Ronald K. Brown, Marcus Gardley, Jackie Sibblies-Drury, Danai Gurira, and others. We will examine how the conflicts, solidarities and assertions of identity and heritage in these artists’ works relate to that of such African-continental, -Caribbean, -European and trans-national figures as Pearl Primus, Wole Soyinka, Germaine Acogny, Ama Ata Aidoo, Femi Osofisan, Derek Walcott, Aimé Césaire, Trevor Rhone, Natasha Gordon and others. This comparative study will be situated against the seminal backdrop of diaspora cultures of ceremonial performance practices still evident throughout the Black world. 

Visiting Assistant Professor Jude Sandy. Spring semester. 2021-2022.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

381 Cinema and Everyday Life

(Offered as ENGL 381 and FAMS 351) Film theorist Siegfried Kracauer declared that some of the first films showed “life at its least controllable and most unconscious moments, a jumble of transient, forever dissolving patterns accessible only to the camera.” This course will explore the ways contemporary narrative films aesthetically represent everyday life–capturing both its transience and our everyday ruminations. We will further consider the ways we incorporate film into our everyday lives through various modes of viewings (the arthouse, the multiplex, the DVD, the mp3), our means of perception, and in the kinds of souvenirs we keep. We will look at films by Chantal Akerman, Robert Altman, Marleen Gorris, Hirokazu Koreeda, Marzieh Makhmalbaf, Terrence Malick, Lynne Ramsay, Tsai Ming-liang, Agnès Varda, Wong Kar-wai, and Andy Warhol. Readings will include work by Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin, Marlene Dietrich, Sigmund Freud, and various works in film and media studies. Three hours of lectures and three hours of film screening per week.

Not open to first-year students. Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hastie.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Fall 2015, Spring 2020

383 Intimate Film Cultures

(Offered as ENGL 383 and FAMS 360] What’s intimate about cinema? And what, if anything, is cinematic about intimacy? Since its invention, cinema has been closely associated with intimate experience, though understandings of this association have shifted over time. For classical film theorists, cinema’s intimate devices (the close-up, the kiss, etc.) were often invested with revolutionary potential, though more recent cultural theorists have issued strong rejoinders to such claims. Isn’t intimacy crucial to the workings of modern power? Doesn’t cinema structure intimate relations in accordance with normative ideologies? Examining a range of intimate film cultures–from early cinema to surrealism, classical Hollywood, Black British film, and queer world cinema–this course will explore the intimate dimensions of filmic representation and reception, and the reasons cinema’s intimacy has been both celebrated and denounced. Assignments include in-class presentations, critical essays, and weekly entries in personal film journals.

Requisite: One 200-level ENGL or FAMS course, or consent of the instructor. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Guilford.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Spring 2022

391 Literature of Everyday Life

This is a class all about the art of noticing. Our primary texts fixate on what Amit Chaudhuri calls “the moment of noticing”: heightened attention to the (seemingly) small, the ordinary, the routine. Many readings will be “day-in-the-life” novels set over a 24-hour period; others dwell on single moments, fleeting impressions, or routine rhythms of daily life.

We will discuss questions such as: What formal and stylistic strategies do writers employ to capture everyday life? What happens to narrative conventions of plot and the event when writers are more interested in the textures, rhythms, and background environments of everyday life? How does the ordinary become extraordinary? How does one narrate history in the making, as it unfolds in everyday life? How are major historical events and political structures felt over the course of a typical day? Is it a privilege to think about the everyday as either boring or beautiful? Does it even make sense to talk about “everyday literature” when experiences of daily life are so diverse and varied?

This class will pair novels and short stories with select critical readings from affect theory, urban studies, modernist studies, cultural studies, and ecocriticism. Possible authors include James Baldwin, Amit Chaudhuri, Anton Chekhov, Christopher Isherwood, James Joyce, Kathleen Stewart, Madeleine Thien, and Virginia Woolf.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Abramson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020, Spring 2022

392 The Performance of Politics

When someone says that a politician is being “theatrical” or that a protestor is following a “script,” it is rarely meant as a compliment‒but why? The implication is that true politics is never theatrical, never scripted, never performed, never entangled with spectacle. Put so baldly, this claim is pretty hard to believe. If, instead, we take for granted that all politics is performed, we are left with several unanswered questions. What would an eye trained on performance (theater, dance, film, comedy, spoken word, etc.) see in our politics that someone else would not? Are there distinct performance traditions in politics, as there are in the performing arts? How do activists and office-holders enter these traditions, learn their ways, and apply them in everyday settings? How are citizens expected (or trained) to engage with this performance of politics‒either as spectators or co-performers? What are the key genres of political performance, and what should every citizen know about them? This class will teach you to see these as researchable questions‒and as part of an ongoing scholarly conversation in fields ranging from performance studies, art history, and media studies to sociology, anthropology, political theory, and history. Through reading and discussion, students will learn to think in interdisciplinary terms about politics, making connections across fields and methodologies. They will also study representations of political action and debate in film, television, and theater in order to uncover whatever lessons performing artists can teach us about contemporary political life.

January term. Professor Grobe.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in January 2021, January 2022, Spring 2022

416 In the Archives of Childhood: Adventures in Book History

(Offered as ENGL 416 and AMST 367) Children’s books have always been part toy. The odd duality of all books–simultaneously object and text, commodity and meaning–is particularly evident in books made for children. Think how much more varied in the shape and size of volumes, the font and layout of print, the style and quantity of illustration are books intended for children compared to books for adults. Sites of innovation and experimentation in book production, children’s literature provides an excellent ground for studying book history. So too, book history provides a good gauge of shifts in cultural attitudes towards childhood. This course is interested in tracing both the history of childhood and the history of books, and what each can tell us about the other.

The course will provide an extraordinary opportunity for original archival research in the world’s finest collection of early American children’s literature. Half of the course meetings will be held at the American Antiquarian Society, in Worcester, Massachusetts, granting students access to one of America’s premier research libraries and enabling students to work directly with the rare materials housed there and with the society’s knowledgeable curators and librarians. This research will culminate in a substantial independent project.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. This course meets for 180 minutes. On days when the class meets at the American Antiquarian Society students should expect to leave Amherst at 1 p.m. and return by 6:30 p.m. Omitted 2021-22. Professor K. Sánchez-Eppler.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2019

432 Shakespeare: Media, Technology, and Performance

[Before 1800] In 1623, what we now call Shakespeare’s First Folio was printed. As a printed book, it represented an object made with some of that culture’s very latest media technology, namely the printing press. Shakespeare’s plays depict technologies: characters use compasses and astronomical charts, for example. His plays were also staged using technology: set design included pyrotechnics, costuming, and the other necessities of putting on a good show. This course will ask, how did Shakespeare’s plays both represent technology in fiction and require it in performance? In order to investigate Early Modern technologies of performance, we will read selections from Shakespearean plays and poems, as well as Renaissance treatises on science and technology.

Of course, technology plays a large role in modern productions. Whether through discussing the advent of electric lights in playhouses, to film adaptations and high-budget productions from the Royal Shakespeare Company, to digital editions of the plays, to experimental augmented reality interfaces, we will critically engage with the technologies of Shakespearean performance in the past, present, and even future. As a final project, students will complete a multimedia project on a chosen play, combining historical research with digital, creative, and experimental practices.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Professor Henrichs.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

435 The Play of Ideas

(Offered as ENGL 435 and THDA 335) We don’t just think, speak, or write our ideas; we perform them, too. Think TED Talks. Think political movements. Think 400-level seminars in English. In this course, you will read plays that are fueled by an argument and arguments that look an awful lot like plays. Readings will range from ancient philosophical dialogues to modern “plays of ideas”–from essays on pedagogy to works of social theory. As the semester wears on, you will begin to research your own angle on our central theme: Ideas performed. Your final project will be a mock prospectus, in which you imagine this “angle” turning into a thesis project–creative, critical, or a mixture of the two.

Previous experience with drama or performance theory might help, but is hardly required for enrollment. As a matter of fact, this course works best when students from a wide range of majors enroll. The reading load isn’t heavy, but expectations are high that you will turn up to class prepared to engage in an active discussion. I mean, would you show up to a performance not knowing your lines, or fail to speak when you heard your cue? I didn’t think so. See you there.

As a small, advanced seminar, this course will proceed mainly through synchronous small-group discussions of shared texts, videos, and images. Students will also take part in synchronous workshops (during regular course meeting times) on research skills, oral presentations, and the craft of proposing a thesis. Those not proposing a thesis–or who are already writing one–will have the choice to work instead on collaborative final projects in lieu of submitting a mock prospectus.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Grobe.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2013, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2021

441 Medieval and Renaissance Lyric

(Offered as ENGL 441 and EUST 374) [Before 1800] In this course, we read a selection of English and other European lyrics (in translation) from the twelfth through the seventeenth centuries. An exciting, fertile era in poetic innovation, these centuries see the dawn of the first romantic love poetry in these languages, the invention of new forms like the sonnet, and the invention of the lyric “anthology.” Reading the lyrics of the French troubadour poets, Chaucer, Petrarch, Wyatt, Donne, Shakespeare, and the many brilliant anonymous poets of medieval England, we will examine both the text and contexts of these short poems. Close readings will be put in dialogue with cultural contexts (such as the volatile court of Henry VIII, in which Thomas Wyatt wrote), and the material contexts of the lyrics (the medieval and early modern manuscripts and books in which they first appeared). We will further think about how the term “lyric” emerges as a privileged poetic category, by reading contemporary “defenses” of poetry and thinking about why the word “lyric” only appears in the sixteenth century. Does the “lyric” poem change once it is defined? How do later works speak to the earlier tradition?

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Nelson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2014, Fall 2016, Spring 2020, Spring 2022

445 British Romantic Poetry: Nature and the Imagination

Can reading poetry change our understanding of our environment? How might the way we perceive nature be conditioned by the ways in which writers have imagined it? In turn, how might the way we perceive our own imaginations be conditioned by ideas about the natural world? Although “nature” might seem like a universal and unchanging concept, British Romantic writers did much to invent our modern ideas about it. Notions of perception, cognition, and the imagination changed alongside our ideas about nature. We will debate what impact this history has had on current environmental discourse, contemporary ethics, and the Green movement. Some critics have argued, for instance, that the Romantics’ reverence for nature is more destructive than it might at first seem. Might it be more environmentally responsible to get rid of the Romantic concept of “nature” altogether? This course gives students a thorough grounding in Romantic Poetry, the philosophy of aesthetics, and literary theory, while also giving them a chance to follow their own research interests in a final project.

The majority of this course will revolve around discussion in various formats, though there will be opportunities for visits to museums and archives in smaller groups. Since research and individual projects will be a central feature of this class, students will receive individual attention and feedback on their work. Students will also have a chance to engage with scholars working in this area.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Worsley.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020, Spring 2022

448 The Body in Peril–An Exploration of Tragedy through Poetic Form

Writing is the landscape through which poets explore the human body. The fluidity of a text often mirrors our relationship to memory–the recollection of the sensory discovering harmony with the fluidity of a poem’s language and syntax. But what happens when a disruption in one’s fundamental experience of being alters the ways in which we experience the world?

In spaces of distress, poetry often makes courageous leaps in formal reinvention. As opposed to dwelling heavily on the subject of physical disruption, this course will examine ways contemporary writers have discovered, or reimagined, prosody as a way to explore the human experience through vulnerability and authenticity. The course will include close-readings of four to six collections of poetry, some creative writing, and discussions on mindfulness practices–all culminating in a critical/personal essay exploring a selected poem of your choice.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Lawson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019

449 Avant-Garde Poetry

Avant-garde poetry resists definition. In this course, we will explore poetry that defies convention, be it formal (exploding the poetic verse line), material (appearing outside of the conventional venues of the published, mass-produced book), or linguistic (using everyday language rather than poetic diction). We will read widely from a range of twentieth- and twenty-first century poets as well as important nineteenth-century forebears. The course will center on the movements and schools of avant-garde poetry in the Anglo-American tradition, such as modernism (T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein); the Harlem Renaissance (Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson); the Beat Poets (Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder); the New York School (Frank O’Hara, Ted Berrigan); the Black Arts poets (Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni); the Language Poets (Susan Howe, Charles Bernstein); and contemporary poets (Nathaniel Mackey, Alice Notley). We will also look at artists’ books, broadsides, and other poetry that makes interesting use of the conventional materials and layout of poetry and poetic books. We will ask, how do these poets and movements challenge the aesthetic and poetic conventions of their time(s)? How do they expand or challenge the boundaries of poetic forms and subjects? What opportunities and constraints do avant-garde approaches offer to poets of color and/or women poets?

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Nelson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2020

453 The Value of Literature

Why, Rita Felski asks, are people “willing to drive five hundred miles to hear a band playing a certain song, or spend years in graduate school puzzling over a single novel?” Concepts like “cultural capital,” “the hegemonic media industry,” or “interpretive communities” do not fully explain “why it is this particular tune that plays over and over in our heads, why it is Virginia Woolf alone who becomes an object of obsession.” Something else has to be involved, a “rogue something,” in the words of Toni Morrison’s narrator in Jazz, that you “have to figure in before you can figure it out.” In this seminar, students will first explore the phenomenon of aesthetic valuation, then turn to a consideration of when, why, and for whom literary experiences are valuable, and finally embark on independent research projects in which each of them studies a single author in depth and experiments with ways of articulating (in a class presentation and in a final essay) the kinds of value that that author may be said to have.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2017, Fall 2019

458 Indigenous American Epics

(Offered as ENGL 458 and AMST 358) [Before 1800] This course will delve deeply into Indigenous literatures of “Turtle Island,” or North America. The Kiché Maya Popol Wuj (Council Book), the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Great Law of Peace, the Wabanaki creation cycle, and Salish Coyote Stories are rooted in longstanding, complex oral narratives of emergence and transformation, which were recorded by Indigenous authors and scribes. These texts will enable us to consider how the temporal and spatial boundaries of America are both defined and extended by colonization, and disrupted by Indigenous texts and decolonial theory. We will close read these major epics as works of classical literature, narratives of tribal history, and living political constitutions, which embed ecological and cultural adaptation.

Reading each long text (in English translation) over several weeks, we will study the tribally and regionally-specific contexts of each epic narrative as well as the “intellectual trade routes” that link them together. We will also consider the place of these epics within American literature and history and their contributions to historical and contemporary decolonization. We will discuss the ways in which the narratives challenge conceptual boundaries, considering categories such as land/place, gender, sexuality, and other-than-human beings.

Open to juniors and seniors, and to sophomores with consent of the instructor. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Brooks.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2021

470 Decolonial Love

In this upper-level course, we will read literary and theoretical texts that, although loosely grouped in terms of period, geography, and style, are all driven by the same set of questions: Is decolonial love possible? What does it look and feel like? We will read scholars and writers who describe the ways that imperialism, capitalism, racism, and heteropatriarchy structure conventional ways of loving, caring, and forming social bonds, as well as conventional ways of telling stories and writing novels. And we will follow these writers as they imagine alternatives to these conventional structures, asking how we might alter the aspects of ourselves and our worlds that seem as fundamental and as intractable as our aesthetics, our desires, our very pleasures. As a class, we will build transportable definitions of colonialism, anticolonialism, and decoloniality from the texts we study and the contexts in which they were written and that they reflect. We will investigate the power of these analytic categories to interrogate aspects of personal as well as geopolitical experience, particularly aspects of experience that we have sometimes mistakenly believed to be without historical or sociological determinants. Possible texts include: Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks; Moraga and Anzaldúa, eds., This Bridge Called My Back; Stevenson, Life Beside Itself; Muñoz, Cruising Utopia; Lorde, “The Uses of the Erotic”; Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun; Cisneros, The House on Mango Street; Mahajan, The Association of Small Bombs; Cole, Open City; Sollett, Raising Victor Vargas; Lee, BlacKkKlansman; Simpson, Islands of Decolonial Love.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Mireles Christoff.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2022

471 Time, Memory, and Ghosts in Post-Dictatorial Narratives

Giorgio Agamben writes in Remnants of Auschwitz that “trauma is thus an event that has no beginning, no ending, no before, no during, and no after.” In this seminar, we will study texts from different genres–poetry, fiction, and memoir–that attempt to narrativize the timeless, ubiquitous, and haunted event that is a military dictatorship. How do these texts undertake the task of remembering or reimagining the past? How do they fill the gap between memory and history, between testimony and literature, and between past and present? What does or can literature do with a legacy of violence and oppression? Readings may include works by Argentinian-Mexican visual artist and novelist Verónica Gerber Bicecci, the Chilean poet Raúl Zurita, the Padaung (Burmese) memoirist Pascal Khoo Thwe, and the Ghanaian-born novelist Ayesha Harruna Attah.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Writer Myint.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Spring 2022

473 Hybrid Forms

The non-traditional texts of writers like Claudia Rankine, Maggie Nelson, Viet Thanh Nguyen and Alison Bechdel have garnered great success that has introduced new audiences to the world of hybrid forms. Through close reading and a study of works at the apex of literary deconstruction, we will erase the lines drawn between poetry and prose, image and memoir, percentage graph and fiction and will embark on an expedition through contemporary hybrid texts, asking what dictates how we define genre.

Completion of this course will include a collaborative oral presentation guiding the reading of one of the semester’s assigned texts and a final critical research project presented in a hybrid form that breaks the boundaries of expected academia. Use of hybridity in the construction of all class assignments (short essays, personal responses, reflections, etc.) will be strongly encouraged.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Lawson and Visiting Lecturer Bernitt.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Fall 2021

475 Fashion / Media / Modernity

(Offered as ENGL 475 and FAMS 431) Fashion has long been associated with frivolity, ephemerality, and triviality. Yet trends in clothing and design are irrevocably linked to politics, technology, society, and cultural change–from hats to hemlines to heels, fashion can reveal the transformations of an era. How has fashion evolved in the modern age, and what is its relationship to literature, film, and other media forms? What can fashion teach us about our past, present, and future? This advanced seminar will delve into the interdisciplinary field of fashion studies to examine the vicissitudes of fashion from the nineteenth century onward, focusing on Britain, Europe, and the United States, with an eye toward the role of imperialism, Orientalism, and cultural appropriation in shaping fashion’s tangled histories. Students will study literary texts; film and television; print, visual, and digital media; and material culture. Potential case studies include the dandy, the New Woman, and the flapper; wartime fashions; subcultural style; the wedding gown; the sneaker; among other topics. Students will do independent research, culminating in a written research project and/or curated digital exhibit; keep a weekly reading/viewing journal recording their critical responses to the assigned texts; and facilitate discussion on a given topic. Students can expect to gain: a familiarity with key terms and approaches in fashion studies, media studies, and cultural studies; an ability to think and write critically about fashion and fashion media, in terms of aesthetics, historical development, and cultural context; confidence in reading critical/theoretical essays; and proficiency in various aspects of project-based work, including identifying a research topic, building arguments, using evidence, and working with and appropriately citing a variety of sources.

Requisite: At least one 200-level foundations course in English, Film & Media Studies, Art & the History of Art, History, Theater and Dance, and/or Sexuality, Women’s & Gender Studies. Upper-level coursework in one or more of these fields is strongly recommended. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

480 The Film Essay

(Offered as ENGL 480 and FAMS 411) The “essay” derives its meaning from the original French essayer: to try or attempt. In its attempts to work through and experiment with new ideas, the essay form becomes a manifestation of observation, experience, and transformation. Originally developed through the written form, the essay has also taken shape in visual work–photographic, installation, and, of course, cinematic. The “essay film” is exploratory, digressive, subjective; the “video essay” is similarly personal and simultaneously transformative. The “film essay” has the capacity to be all of these things, though in the past few decades this form has become arguably schematic. Working against the conventions of the “academic” or college essay and inspired by visual experimentation, this course will explore film through a variety of manifestations of the written essay. After all, since film comes in multiple forms and offers multiple experiences, it demands multiple possibilities of rhetorical exploration.

The models for writing in this course will come from both visual and written works. Course readings will be collected from a range of historical periods and will run a gamut of approaches to film: theoretical and experiential, critical and poetic, autobiographical and historical. Class screenings will similarly come from a variety of historical eras, genres, and national spaces. Because writing assignments will often explore the cultural experience of the movies, we will visit a variety of screening venues, including a film festival, “archival” and repertory houses, art cinemas, and commercial theaters. Though it will include some lectures to contextualize readings, this course will primarily be discussion-oriented, with attentive writing workshops. Thus experimenting with method and form, students will produce weekly writings, two extended essays, and a collaboratively-produced project.

Requisite: a 200-level foundations course in ENGL or FAMS. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Hastie.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Spring 2020, Fall 2021

481 Conversations with Experimental Filmmakers

(Offered as ENGL 481, ARHA 481, and FAMS 481) Experimental film is a vital area of contemporary media culture where artists engage the moving image from a wide range of creative approaches, exploring film as an aesthetic, poetic, or political medium, rather than a commercial enterprise. By departing from the conventions of mainstream film, experimental filmmakers present their audience with a stimulating challenge, asking viewers to develop new critical frameworks through which to assess films that often resist classification and traditional interpretive approaches.

In this seminar, students will take up this challenge by exploring different ways of entering into conversation with the work of experimental filmmakers. Through weekly screenings, in-class visits by contemporary filmmakers, and group discussions of course readings (such as artists’ writings, interviews, and related theoretical material), we will develop critical and creative vocabularies that help us to analyze and respond to an array of experimental films and videos. Along with completing writing assignments and in-class presentations, students will plan and execute a final project that can assume a number of critical or creative forms, such as an interview with a filmmaker, a short video, or an analytical essay.

Requisite: At least one foundational course in FAMS, ARHA, or ENGL. Open to juniors and seniors, and to sophomores with consent of the instructor. Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Guilford.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016, Fall 2019

484 “It was the ’70s”: US Film, History, and the Cultural Imagination

(Offered as ENGL 484 and FAMS 424) Sometimes referred to as the “silver era” of US film production, the 1970s were a period of aesthetic, technological, and cultural transformation. New “auteurs” emerged as both mavericks and commercial success stories. Independence reigned supreme for some, while others helped to usher in the contemporary blockbuster. At the same time, scholarly study of film was steadily increasing, experimenting with new disciplinary methods, waging debates, and often distancing itself from popular critical writings. All told, such narratives of the era have meant that the 1970s looms large in our cultural imagination of film production. This course will trace film history to consider how narratives of the era have been written and how, in recent years, they have been written anew.

The first half of the course will explore several canonical works, while the second half of the course will consider films that have been recently excavated and/or remade. By intermixing popular critical writings (including reviews, interviews, and essays), academic writings of the era, and recent historical studies, we will consider historical and historiographical methods of film studies scholarship. Moreover, in our discussion of newly excavated or historically underrepresented cases–including works directed by women, examples of Blaxploitation cinema, and independent drama–we will explore how canons are both designed and remade, functioning as emblems of the time of their own critical production. Students will work with primary archival materials along with contemporaneous critical or theoretical models in order to develop their own historical narratives of 1970s film.

Requisite: Prior FAMS coursework or, alternatively, prior 200-level courses in ENGL. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hastie.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020

485 The City in Literature and Early Film

(Offered as ENGL 485 and FAMS 438) This course examines the role of the city in shaping modern experience. We will study literary works by Charles Baudelaire, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, and Virginia Woolf alongside a number of early films, reading these texts against historical and critical discussions of everyday life in the urban environment. Among other themes, we will take up the debate over “flanerie” as a spatial and social practice, investigating the class and gender dynamics of urban and cinematic spectatorship. Our conversations will be shaped by an awareness of the city as a geographically locatable space to be mapped and traversed, but also as a site for imaginary projections of individual and collective experience. In addition to a short creative assignment, two formal essays are required: a midterm paper (5-7 pages) involving close textual analysis of a primary source; and a final research paper (12-15 pages), with a draft to be revised in conjunction with a peer review workshop.

This course will run primarily online, with periodic small-group meetings for students who are in residence on campus and parallel small-group meetings for remote students. The additional evening time slot will provide opportunities for students to screen films and engage in structured small-group discussion synchronously, whether remotely or in person. There may be additional opportunities for in-person meetings (including office hours) as the semester progresses.

Requisite: A 200-level foundations course in English or equivalent. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021

487 Postwar American Cinema, 1945-1960

(Offered as ENGL 487 and FAMS 425) In the years following World War II, a series of rapid and far-reaching transformations–economic, technological, social, political–dramatically reconfigured American life. Throughout this period of change, cinema served as both mirror and catalyst, reflecting national crises and upheavals while also contributing to the transformation of American culture. This seminar explores both sides of this dynamic, examining how postwar American filmmakers devised innovative strategies for representing the dilemmas of their time, and how artists, studios, and lawmakers sought to intervene in such dilemmas via the moving image. We will view and discuss key examples of popular Hollywood genres from this period–film noir, science fiction, the western, etc.–as well as independent, documentary, and avant-garde films created by countercultural, feminist, queer, and Black artists. Weekly readings will engage such subjects as: nuclear anxiety; suburban domesticity and surveillance; Beat culture and spontaneity; totalitarianism; racial prejudice and civil rights; urban renewal and queer desire; gender and consumer culture; blacklisting, and others. Students will explore such issues through in-class presentations, critical essays, and individual research projects.

Requisite: At least one foundational course in ENGL or FAMS. Open to juniors and seniors and to sophomores with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Guilford.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

490 Special Topics

Independent reading courses.

Fall and spring semester. The Department.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

491 The Creole Imagination

(Offered as ENGL 491, BLST 461 [CLA], and LLAS 461) What would it mean to write in the language in which we dream? A language that we can hear, but cannot (yet) see? Is it possible to conceive a language outside the socio-symbolic order? And can one language subvert the codes and values of another? Questions like these have animated the creolité/nation language debate among Caribbean intellectuals since the mid-1970s, producing some of the most significant francophone and anglophone writing of the twentieth century. This course reads across philosophy, cultural theory, politics, and literature in order to consider the claims such works make for the Creole imagination. We will engage the theoretical and creative work of Édouard Glissant, Maryse Condé, Wilson Harris, Derek Walcott, Kamau Brathwaite, Patrick Chamoiseau, Jamaica Kincaid, and Edwidge Danticat. We also will consider how these writers transform some of the fundamental ideas of psychoanalysis, poststructuralism, and critical historiography. At stake in our readings will be the various aesthetic and political aspects of postcolonial struggle–how to think outside the colonial architecture of language; how to contest and subvert what remains from history’s violence; and how to evaluate the claims to authenticity of creolized New World cultural forms.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Cobham-Sander.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2015, Spring 2018, Spring 2020

492 Creative Thesis Workshop

This is a non-required course for English majors who are currently working on a creative writing or hybrid thesis project. It is meant to offer guidance and a sense of community to these writers as they embark on what can feel like a formidable process. In this course, we will discuss and analyze examples of senior theses in various forms, and discuss issues peculiar to the task of planning, researching, and writing a project of this scope. We will read together to help writers identify models and understand the literary tradition(s) they are working in. We will also talk about the kinds of research that each project invites and requires, and about how to conduct and use that research.

Guided writing in class will play a key role in working through issues of technique, structure, and inspiration. Most important, this course offers students the chance to present and critique work-in-progress with a group of their peers.

Please note: This course does not replace ENGL-498, the Senior Tutorial, which covers students’ independent work under the tutelage of a thesis advisor.

Open to senior majors currently writing a creative or hybrid thesis. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Frank.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

494 Globe and Planet in Contemporary Literature

What does it mean to talk about literature as “global”? How do writers engage the idea of the globe politically, aesthetically, and environmentally?

This is a class about problems of scale and scope. We will consider how contemporary writers represent phenomena that cross national borders: particular attention will be paid to climate change, migration and immigration, the idea of the “global city,” war and terrorism, and the living legacies of colonialism, slavery, and diaspora. What are the formal and ethical challenges of thinking on a global scale? When thinking globally, how can we preserve awareness of local and historical differences? What are literary theorists saying about these questions today? Our readings will pair late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century fiction with critical and theoretical work drawn from ecocriticism and the environmental humanities, postcolonial studies, cultural studies, and so-called new global modernisms. This class will also emphasize the process and skills involved in upper-level literary analysis and research: we will experiment with a range of strategies for note-taking, making sense of dense texts, framing research questions, and finding openings and opportunities to engage in ongoing critical debates and conversations.

Possible authors include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Teju Cole, Mohsin Hamid, Jamaica Kincaid, Arundhati Roy, and W. G. Sebald.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Abramson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021, Fall 2021

495 Modernism, Trauma, and Theories of Violence

This course puts modernist formal innovation in conversation with theories of violence and trauma. We will examine the complex intersection between shattering historical violence and modernist formal and aesthetic techniques, including fragmentation, impressionism, collage, empty centers, rupture, abstraction, and multiperspectivalism. We will pay particular attention to what happens when language and literary form run up against the unspeakable, the unimaginable, the blank, the empty.

Critical readings will be drawn from a range of theoretical works on violence and trauma (postcolonialism, psychoanalysis, cognitive psychology, and affect theory). These textual pairings will provide a case study for how close reading can be enriched by theoretical and historical scaffolding. We will focus on the ways that war and violence overspill boundaries–beyond the battlefield, beyond the moment of impact, beyond what is visible, beyond national borders, beyond the signing of peace treaties. We will consider violence done to individual bodies and minds, as well as the ways that the shocks of world wars reverberate historically and around the globe. How do modernist texts blur lines between front-lines/home front, victim/perpetrator, and civilian/combatant?

Possible authors include Edmund Blunden, Cathy Caruth, Sigmund Freud, Frantz Fanon, Toni Morrison, Michael Ondaatje, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, W. G. Sebald, and Virginia Woolf.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Abramson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

496 Literary and Critical Theory

This course introduces students to the basic concepts and methods of literary and critical theory, a body of work that explores and critiques modern assumptions about truth, culture, power, language, representation, subject-formation, and identity. Surveying a wide range of authors and approaches (postcolonial, gender studies and queer theory, critical race theory, psychoanalytic, etc.), students will grapple with complex theoretical texts, consider the place of theory in literary studies and in film, media, and cultural studies as well, and begin to imagine ways of putting theoretical ideas to work for themselves.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Bosman.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2022

497 Critical Thesis Workshop

This is a non-required course for English majors who are currently working on a critical or hybrid (i.e., not pure creative writing) thesis project. It is meant to offer guidance and a sense of scholarly community to students as they embark on what can feel like a formidable (and often lonely) process. In this course, we will discuss and analyze examples of the thesis form. We will analyze and practice some of the many subgenres theses contain (e.g., the introduction, the literature review, the methodological statement, and various ways of incorporating the voices of other critics, historians, or theorists). We will also read a representative range of recent criticism in the field, discussing critical methods, rhetorical tactics, and writerly voices employed in that work. And we will discuss issues peculiar to the task of planning, researching, and writing a long critical thesis. Most important, as in an advanced creative writing workshop, this course offers students the chance to present and critique work-in-progress with a group of their peers.

Please note: This course does not replace ENGL-498, the Senior Tutorial, which covers students’ independent work under the tutelage of a thesis advisor.

A major goal of this course is to foster mutual care and support among English Department thesis writers. With that in mind, the main mode of instruction for this course will be discussion–sometimes about shared readings, sometimes about other students’ writing, and sometimes about the writing process itself. Guided writing in class will play a key role in making the writing process available for discussion. Additionally, students will meet one-on-one (or in small groups) with the professor to discuss their own thesis progress. Finally, students will have the opportunity to take part in structured co-writing sessions outside of class.

Open to juniors and seniors. Preference given to English majors currently writing a critical thesis. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Grobe.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020, Fall 2021

498, 498D, 499 Senior Tutorial

Open to senior English majors who wish to pursue a self-defined project in reading and writing. Students intending to elect this course must submit to the Department a five-page description and rationale for the proposed independent study. Those who propose projects in fiction, verse, playwriting, or autobiography must submit a substantial sample of work in the appropriate mode; students wishing to undertake critical projects must include a tentative bibliography with their proposal. Please consult the English Department website for deadlines and for more information on the senior honors process.

Preregistration is not allowed. Admission with consent of the instructor. Fall semester. The Department.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

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English

Professors Emeriti O'Connell and Sofield; Senior Lecturer Emeritus Lieber; Professors Brooks, Cobham-Sander‡, Frank‡, Hastie‡, Parham*, Sanborn (Director of Studies), and K. Sánchez-Eppler†; Associate Professors Bosman, Mireles Christoff†, Grobe (Chair), Nelson†, and Rangan†; Assistant Professors Abramson, Guilford, Lawson‡, Myint†, and Worsley; Writer-in-Residence Lee*; Lecturer and Director of the Creative Writing Program Kapur; Lecturer and Director of the Intensive Writing Program Reardon; Senior Lecturer B. Sánchez-Eppler; Lecturer Sweeney; Visiting Professor Sanders; Visiting Lecturers Bernitt, Couch, Masiki, and Ocasion; Visiting Instructor Gooptu; Merrill Visiting Poet Dryansky.

Major Program. Students majoring in English are encouraged to explore the Department’s wide range of offerings in literature, film and media, performance studies, cultural studies, and creative writing.

Majoring in English requires the completion of ten courses offered or approved by the Department. The Department organizes its courses into four levels. The courses numbered in the 100s are writing-attentive and writing-intensive courses that introduce students to a variety of genres and media, entail frequent writing, and cultivate students’ skills in close reading. The courses in the 200s emphasize a particular approach to method, genre, medium, period, or discourse. They include introductory courses in creative writing as well as literary, film, or cultural study. The courses in the 300s are electives designed to foster immersion into specific topics in literary, film, cultural studies and creative writing. They help students learn skills and/or study materials that will prepare them for independent work in their 400-level seminars. They are open, however, to both majors and non-majors across the college, and generally do not carry prerequisites for admission. Courses in the 400s are junior and senior seminars emphasizing independent inquiry, critical and theoretical issues, and extensive writing. These courses teach students the intellectual skills vital to framing a research question and conducting independent research.

Majors are required to take at least one 100 course, at least two 200 courses, at least two 300 courses, and at least two 400-level seminars. One of these courses must substantially address material from the period before 1800. While senior thesis and special topics courses also have 400 numbers, these individualized courses cannot count as the 400-level seminar.

In the early spring of each year, senior majors present independent work drawn from one of their 400-level seminars or from their senior theses at the English Department Capstone Symposium to fulfill the Comprehensive Requirement. The ten-minute presentations can take many forms and they will be organized into panels. The Comprehensive Requirement is fulfilled by presenting your work at the Symposium, participating in preparation sessions, and also participating in the conversations that are generated by your classmates’ presentations.

Majors may count towards the ten required courses up to three courses in creative writing. Level and period requirements should be fulfilled with courses from Amherst College English Department offerings. Because 400-level seminars can lead in the senior year to a thesis project, the Department strongly urges majors to take at least one of their required 400-level seminars before the end of the junior year. The Department will not guarantee admission to a particular 400-level seminar in the second semester of the senior year.

Senior Thesis. The senior thesis provides an opportunity for independent study to any senior major who is adequately motivated and prepared to undertake such work. English majors apply for admission to the senior thesis courses (English 498/499) in April of their junior year. Admission to English 498/499 is contingent upon the Department’s judgment of the feasibility and value of the student’s proposal as well as of their preparation and capacity to carry it through to a fruitful conclusion. The Department assigns Thesis Advisors to students whose applications it approves.

To be considered for senior honors a student must submit to the Department a portfolio, which contains normally 50 to 70 pages of writing. The work may take the form of a critical essay, a short film or video, a collection of essays or poems or stories, a play, a mixture of forms, an exploration in education or cultural studies.

Before a student can submit a thesis, the final work must be approved by the student’s designated advisor. Once the thesis is approved, the Department appoints a committee of faculty examiners to read it. Following an interview with the student, the committee conveys its evaluation to the whole Department, which then makes the final recommendation for the level of honors in English.

Departmental Honors Program. The Department awards Latin honors to seniors who have achieved distinction in course work for the major and who have also demonstrated, in a submitted portfolio of critical or creative work, a capacity to excel in composition. Students qualify for Latin honors only if they have attained a B+ average in courses approved for the major; the degree summa cum laude usually presupposes an A average.

Learning Goals. By the time of their graduation, we expect that students who major in English will have become:

  • Adept at reading closely and writing well.
  • Skilled at critical writing about works in multiple genres, including both written texts, performances and visual narratives such as film. Some students may choose to create works of their own in verse, prose fiction or other media.
  • Attentive to the production of literary culture in a range of historical periods and social contexts.
  • Informed about the relationship between literary texts, literary criticism, and theories about cultural production.
  • Well versed in the literature associated with at least one specific area of concentration.
  • Capable of producing a well-researched long essay and/or completing a sustained creative project.

Graduate Study. Students interested in graduate work in English or related fields should discuss their plans with their advisor and other members of the Department to learn about particular programs, requirements for admission, the availability of fellowships, and prospects for a professional career. Many graduate programs in English or comparative literature require reading competence in several foreign languages; while to some extent these programs permit students to satisfy the requirement concurrently with graduate work, we would encourage those interested in graduate study to broaden their language skills while at Amherst. We would also encourage students to consider writing a thesis, for several reasons: to produce a polished writing sample they can submit with their application; to gain, and demonstrate, experience in sustained independent work; and to get a sense of the areas they might want to pursue in graduate school, some knowledge of which is essential for writing an effective admissions essay.

N.B. The English Department does not grant advanced placement on the basis of College Entrance Examination Board scores.

*On leave 2021-22.
†On leave fall semester 2021-22.
‡On leave spring semester 2021-22.

105 Engaging Literature: Close Reading

Why study literature? In many contexts, including the contexts of most other academic disciplines, one reads in order to extract the gist of a text. By studying literature, we enable ourselves to do much more than that. Studying literature makes it possible to recover a relationship to language that we all once had, in which words and their interrelationships were new, strange, and rich with possibility. It makes it possible to develop a more acute awareness of the ongoing tension between language as units of meaning (words, phrases, sentences) and language as units of sound (the beat of syllables, the harmonization of one syllable with another). It even makes it possible for us to carry this sense of everything that is uncanny about language–the medium of our relationship to others and to ourselves–into our lives more generally, to recognize that in just about everything that we say, we mean more than we mean to mean. People who study literature are people who are capable of taking away from conversations, no less than from poems, much more than the gist, the summary, the bottom line. By dwelling on texts patiently, by slowing down the process of moving from mystery to certainty, by opening ourselves to the crosscurrents of potential meanings that are present at every moment in just about every sentence, it is possible for us to become more accurate and nuanced readers of just about everything that happens in our lives.

Eighteen seats reserved for first-year students. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2020

106 Engaging Literature: Craft, Conversation, Community

Literature engages us. It moves us, it delights us, it makes us ask hard questions. How do we engage literature? How do we respond to it in conversation, in writing, in performance, and in our communities? How do we write about literature in a way that effectively engages others?

This course seeks to engage you in a process of seeing literature and your own writing process anew. We will engage with authors, in person, in public, and on the page. We will attend literary events and enter into conversations among writers: authors who are influenced and inspired by each other, literary critics who give us illuminating interpretations, and literary historians who open our eyes to contexts heretofore unseen. Students will practice writing about literature in a range of modes from the personal essay to the book review to the academic paper. Frequent writing workshops will be geared toward the process of revising in a collaborative environment. A first course in reading fictional, dramatic, lyric, and non-fiction texts, this course also challenges Amherst College students to think of themselves as writers.

Preference given to first-year students. Limited to 18 students. Ten seats reserved for first-year students. Omitted 2021-22. Professors Brooks and Mireles Christoff.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2018, Spring 2020

107 Poetry with Friends

This poetry workshop is made for buddies: the ones you build and the ones you bring. Although most poets love to go solo, the contemporary writers we will study in this course prove how writing can be better with friends.

In this course, we will look at contemporary poets who collaborate: to perform, to further their own collections, to create their passion projects. We will look at poetic movements that planted the seed for twenty-first century partnerships and examine contemporary collaborations that prove there’s poetic strength in numbers.

Requirements for this course include a desire to experiment with collaboration. Students are encouraged to register with a friend as a way to begin their writing partnership but will also be paired with a partner or group within the course to write with. Completion of this course will include the creation of two sets of collaborative work. Partners will decide if this means writing individual poems that are in conversation with each other, or writing work collectively. This is a great course for non-majors and good friends.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester: Professor Lawson and Visiting Lecturer Dan Bernitt. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Fall 2021

110 Writing About Humor

Why do we laugh at some jokes but not others? What makes something funny? This class will explore humor as a core rhetorical concept to study audience, genre, purpose, context, and exigency. We will analyze how situational and language humor work in essays, stories, and visual media. Students will build their critical reading and writing skills through short, low-stakes weekly writing and three major papers. We will consider how the intersectional identities of authors and audiences (i.e.: how class, race, gender, and disability, among others) influence joke construction and reception. As we read, we will pay close attention to the way that writers use humor as a tool for social critique and to release tension. Students can expect to build a toolkit for creating arguments with evidence, and they will frequently revise the content, organization, and language in their work. We will work together to develop a community of writers who can mutually support each other through the writing process.

Preference given to first-year Amherst College students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Lecturer Reardon.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

111 Having Arguments

Using a variety of texts–novels, essays, short stories–this course will work to develop the reading and writing of difficult prose, paying particular attention to the kinds of evidence and authority, logic and structure that produce strong arguments. The authors we study may include Peter Singer, Aravind Adiga, Willa Cather, Toni Morrison, George Orwell, Charles Johnson, James Baldwin, Alice Munro, William Carlos Williams. This is an intensive writing course. Frequent short papers will be assigned.

Preference given to first-year Amherst College students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester. Senior Lecturer Emeritus Lieber.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2021, Fall 2021

113 Writing Human Rights

This course explores human rights rhetoric through readings of a range of non-fiction briefs, academic articles, and reportage, alongside fictional works. It asks students, through critical writing, to come to terms with our responsibilities as global citizens for upholding a culture of dignity in our world. Together, we will examine the way that authors use the written word to push readers to empathize with others, reflect on the past, learn about injustices, and imagine new realities–as we do the same in our own writing. We will pay close attention to the way that writers build arguments, use evidence, organize texts, and edit their own work, with an eye on developing strategies for using these skills in class assignments, and transferring them to other classes as well. Through writing projects that analyze, challenge, and extend authors’ arguments about the universality of human rights and the pursuit of social and racial justice, we will evaluate the ways that words fuel and mitigate conflict–in both productive and destructive ways.

Preference given to first-year Amherst College students. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester. Lecturer Reardon.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

114 Narratives of Migration and Transformation

How does migration transform identity? Which techniques do writers use to express and recreate this complex experience on the page? What role can language and narrative technique play in forging a sense of self and home? How might writing be related to refuge? Reading across genres of poetry, fiction and memoir, this class explores how writers have described the experience of locating themselves while departing, arriving or living in between. The course will cover topics such as alienation, assimilation, generational memory, survival, nostalgia, hybridity, and transformation. Students can expect a wide range of writing assignments, both analytical and creative. Readings may include Bapsi Sidhwa, Amitav Ghosh, Zadie Smith, José Olivarez, Warsan Shire, Suji Kwock Kim, Fady Joudah, Edwidge Danticat, Eduardo Corral and Ocean Vuong.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Writer Kapur.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021, Spring 2022

115 Writing (about) the News

This course explores media literacy and the rhetoric of news through readings of a range of multimedia news and academic articles. It asks students, through critical writing, to come to terms with our responsibilities as engaged citizens for understanding, and acting on, the information we encounter in the news. Together, we will examine the way that journalists present the written word in print and digital spaces to inform, analyze, and present opinions–as we do the same in our own writing. We will pay close attention to the way that reporter teams explicitly and implicitly build arguments, use evidence, organize texts, and edit their own work, with an eye on developing strategies for using these skills in class assignments, and transferring them to other classes as well. Through writing projects that ask students to examine conversations on current events, particularly those relating to social and racial justice, students will develop skills to evaluate and contribute to the multimedia news landscape.

Preference given to first-year Amherst College students. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester. Lecturer Reardon.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

116 Literary Storms

In this course we will weather famous storms featured in literary, artistic, and cinematic works from the nineteenth century through the present day. Together, we will make our way through snow, sleet, hurricanes, cyclones, tropical storms, superstorms, and everyday rain showers. This topic will provide a unifying thematic thread for a class focused on the fundamentals of close reading, viewing, writing, and revision. We will examine how various genres, narrative styles, and authorial voices engage this common topic in strikingly different ways. We will also use storms to learn about literary and aesthetic concepts such as the sublime, and to think about the basic building blocks of narrative. How do storms blur lines between setting, plot, characterization, suspense, and closure? What does it mean for a setting to come to life or function as a character?

Together, we will discuss: How do stories of environmental violence and human violence collide? Who gets to tell the story of a storm? What stories emerge on either side of the ostensibly rupturing event itself, before and after the storm? How do storms expose and exacerbate disparities along racial and socioeconomic lines? Can reading local storm stories provide a way of thinking about global climate change?

Some of our storms will be based upon actual events, including Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, and Irene; this will raise complex questions about the boundaries between history and art.

Possible works include paintings by J. M. W. Turner; short stories by Kate Chopin, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Ben Marcus; novels by Zora Neale Hurston, Ben Lerner, and Jesmyn Ward; film by Behn Zeitlin, and documentary by Spike Lee.

Limited to 18 students. In the fall semester, ten seats reserved for first-year students. Fall and spring semesters. Professor Abramson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Spring 2021, Fall 2021

117 Arthurian Literature

(Offered as ENGL 117 and EUST 117) [Before 1800] Knights, monsters, quests, and true love: these are the things we associate with King Arthur and tales of his court. Why has Arthurian literature proved so enchanting to centuries of poets, novelists, and recently, filmmakers? In this introductory English course, we will read and watch Arthurian legends from Chaucer to Monty Python, examining the ways in which they have been represented in different eras. Beginning with the historical foundations of the King Arthur legend, we will examine how it blossomed and took form in later eras. Our focus will be on close literary and visual analysis of British, American, and French (in translation) versions of these legends. We will also discuss what cultural forces lie behind the popularity of Arthurian legend in certain eras: later medieval England and France; the Victorian era; and twentieth-century England and America. There will be frequent writing assignments and presentations, as well as a final creative project.

Open to first-year students and sophomores. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Nelson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2020, Spring 2022

119 From Ordinary to Extraordinary: Literature of the Everyday

This is a class all about the art of noticing. Our primary texts fixate on what Amit Chaudhuri calls “the moment of noticing”: heightened attention to the small, the ordinary, the routine. Many readings will be “day-in-the-life” novels set over a 24-hour period; others dwell on single moments, fleeting impressions, or routine rhythms of daily life. And just as our primary authors practice the art of noticing, so will we adopt a similar stance of scrutiny and attention to detail in this course.

We will also discuss questions such as: How does the ordinary become extraordinary? How does the seemingly mundane or quotidian become infused with meaning? How does art make the familiar newly strange or fascinating? What happens to narrative conventions of plot and the event when writers are more interested in capturing the textures, rhythms, and background environments of everyday life? How does one narrate history in the making, as it unfolds in everyday life? How are major historical events and political structures felt over the course of a typical day? What happens when the ordinary and extraordinary change places?

We will look at short stories, novels, photography, and memoir. Possible authors include Mulk Raj Anand, Amit Chaudhuri, Teju Cole, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Henry James, Ian McEwan, Kathleen Stewart, and Virginia Woolf.

Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Abramson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

120 Reading, Writing, and Teaching

(Offered as ENGL 120, AMST 220 and EDST 120) This course considers from many perspectives what it means to read and write and learn and teach both for ourselves and for others. As part of the work of this course, in addition to the usual class hours, students will serve as weekly tutors and classroom assistants in adult basic education centers in nearby towns. Thus this course consciously engages with the obstacles to and the power of education through course readings, through self-reflexive writing about our own varied educational experiences, and through weekly work in the community. Although this course presses participants to reflect a great deal about teaching, this course does not teach how to teach. Instead it offers an exploration of the contexts and processes of education, and of the politics and desires that suffuse learning. Course readings range across literary genres including essays, poems, autobiographies, and novels in which education and teaching figure centrally, as well as readings in ethnography, sociology, psychology, and philosophy. The writing assignments cross many genres as well.

Limited to 18 students. In the fall semester, eight seats reserved for first-year students. Fall semester: Professor Frank. Spring semester: Lecturer B. Sánchez-Eppler.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

121 Writing the College Experience

(Offered as ENGL 121 and EDST 121) What does equity and access look like in college? What should it look like? In this course, students will learn to critique power structures that have created boundaries around higher education, and they will build their critical reading and writing skills through short, low-stakes weekly writing and three major papers that will be revised many times. We will consider how students’ intersectional identities (i.e.: how class, race, gender, and disability, among others) help them navigate college or create barriers to equity and access. We’ll learn how learning is shaped by cultural and rhetorical contexts. As we read, we will pay close attention to the way that writers build arguments to levy their own critiques with evidence, as well as how they organize texts and edit their own work, with an eye on developing our own strategies for using these skills in this course and others. We will work together to develop a community of writers who can mutually support each other through their own multifaceted college experiences.

Preference given to first-year Amherst College students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Lecturer Reardon.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

125 Representing Illness

With a focus on the skills of close reading and analytical writing, we will look at the ways in which writers imagine illness, how they try to make meaning out of illness, and how they use illness to explore other aspects of experience. This is not a course on the history of illness or the social construction of disease. We will discuss not only what writers say about illness but also how they say it: with what language and in what form they speak the experience of bodily and mental suffering. Readings may include drama by Sophocles, Molière and Margaret Edson; poetry by Donne and Mark Doty; fiction by José Saramago and Mark Haddon; and essays by Susan Sontag, Raphael Campo and Temple Grandin.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Bosman.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2014, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Spring 2022

150 Amherst Poets

From Emily Dickinson to Robert Frost to Sonia Sánchez, Amherst is famous for its poets. More than twenty well-known poets have written, lived, studied and taught in the area surrounding the College. This introductory course is designed to welcome students who have not previously taken a college-level English course into the literary environment of Amherst, as well as into the literary community of poetry readers more broadly, by studying five or six Amherst poets very closely. Our main focus will be on the close-reading skills needed to engage with poetry of all kinds, and on the skills needed to write a college-level essay about literature. We will engage in frequent essay-writing workshops together, and there will be a chance to meet and engage with contemporary Amherst Poets on Zoom.

 Limited to 18 students. Fifteen seats reserved for first-year students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Worsley.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Fall 2020, Spring 2021

162 Black (on) Earth: Introduction to African American Environmental Literature

(Offered as ENGL 162 and BLST 162) African and African-descended people have a long-documented and intimate relationship to the natural world as a source of healing, nurture, and wealth. However, for a people who were stripped of their land in colonial Africa, exploited to work the land by European enslavers in the New World, and hung from trees in the American South, and who still have a precarious relationship to water in such places as Flint, Michigan, and post-Maria Puerto Rico, inhabiting the earth is complicated. How might we begin to tell this entangled history? What kinds of stories have Africans and their descendants developed to address their relationship with nature? What does the term “environmental justice” even mean to and for people of African descent today?

In this course, we will encounter a range of texts, including slave narratives, novels, poems, visual art, and performance written by and about Black subjects, to begin to understand how various authors, artists, and activists represent the rich relationship between blackness and the natural world. Readings may include works by Olaudah Equiano, W. E. B Du Bois, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Zora Neale Hurston, Derek Walcott, Jamaica Kincaid, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, T. Dungy, Britt Rusert, Kimberly N. Ruffin, among others.

Limited to 18 students. Ten seats reserved for first-year students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Cobham-Sander.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020

180 Film and Writing

(Offered as ENGL 180 and FAMS 110) A first course in reading films and writing about them. A varied selection of films for study and criticism, partly to illustrate the main elements of film language and partly to pose challenging texts for reading and writing. Frequent short papers. Two class meetings and one screening per week.

Limited to 25 students. Twelve seats reserved for first-year students. Open to first-year and sophomore students. Fall semester. Professor Guilford.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

182 Constructing Childhood: From Page to Screen

(Offered as ENGL 182, EDST 182 and FAMS 182) How has childhood been imagined across the twentieth century and into our own present? Since the Victorian era, childhood and the experience of being a child have been associated with innocence (and experience), nostalgia (and regret), and a simpler (while deeply complex) time of life. Yet across literature and media, childhood is constructed after the fact, by adults whose perceptions are shaped by their understanding of childhood as a distinct and discrete set of experiences. In this course, we will explore constructions of British and American childhoods on page, stage, and screen, exploring two foundational late Victorian/Edwardian intermedial texts (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Peter Pan), before venturing on a journey exploring cinematic depictions of childhood over the course of the twentieth century. We will examine twentieth-century films depicting children and popular genres designed to appeal to child audiences; how media texts represent children as they navigate conceptions of gender, sexuality, race, and class; and children as both consumers and producers of media in the twenty-first century. Students will explore different genres and modes of expository writing, including personal essay and close textual analysis and do an independent, guided research project. Students will gain a familiarity with key terms and methodologies in English and Film & Media Studies; an ability to think and write critically about literary and cinematic texts; an awareness of historical, social and cultural perceptions of childhood in Britain and the United States; confidence in reading primary and secondary sources; and proficiency in analytical writing, including sentence-level clarity, building arguments, using evidence, and working with and appropriately citing a variety of sources.

This course is designed for entering first-year students. Non-English/FAMS majors and Five College students are welcome. Limited to 18 students. Eighteen seats reserved for first-year students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

212 Storytelling Arts in Mesoamerica

(Offered as ENGL 212 and ARHA 212) [Before 1800] This course will explore the major pictorial narrative traditions of Mesoamerica, focusing on manuscripts of the Aztec, Maya, and Mixtec peoples, as well as other media, including texts and images from murals, ceramics, monuments, and mirrors. These visual and narrative media continue to play important roles in the preservation of Indigenous identity, solidarity, and cultural identity within nation states; the course will examine public, popular, and fine arts reviving, repurposing, and supporting resistance using this imagery.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Lecturer Couch.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020, Spring 2022

214 Re-imagining American Literature, A Survey: Pre-Conquest to 1865

[Before 1800] Until the recent past, and still in high schools and many collegiate institutions, courses that intend to survey American literature represent that oeuvre as nearly exclusively the work of white male writers. In this survey we will often encounter writings by American Indians from different nations, by women, by African Americans, as well as more commonly taught writers like Melville, Thoreau, and Emerson.

Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Emeritus O’Connell.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020

215 Re-imagining American Literature, A Survey:  1865 to the Present

Survey courses have in our time increasingly disappeared, except in most high schools. Attempts to make them sufficiently inclusive have seemed impossible. The chosen approach in this course is to concentrate on the remarkable literatures created by African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, bi-national writers, and working-class writers. We will also read “classic” writers like Willa Cather and Fitzgerald along with some of the working-class writers from the Thirties.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Emeritus O’Connell.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Spring 2021

216 Women Writers of Africa and the African Diaspora

(Offered as BLST 203 [D], ENGL 216, and SWAG 203) The term “Women Writers” suggests, and perhaps assumes, a particular category. How useful is this term in describing the writers we tend to include under the frame? And further, how useful are the designations "African" and "African Diaspora"? We will begin by critically examining these central questions, and revisit them frequently as we read specific texts and the body of works included in this course. Our readings comprise a range of literary and scholarly works by canonical and more recent female writers from Africa, the Caribbean, and continental America. Framed primarily by Postcolonial Criticism, our explorations will center on how writers treat historical and contemporary issues specifically connected to women’s experiences, as well as other issues, such as globalization, modernity, and sexuality. We will consider the continuities and points of departure between writers, periods, and regions, and explore the significance of the writers’ stylistic choices. Here our emphasis will be on how writers appropriate vernacular and conventional modes of writing.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Prof. C. Bailey.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Spring 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2022

217 Making Literary Histories I

[Before 1800] What is “English Literature,” and how does one construct its history? What counts as “England” (especially in relation to Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, and to ancient Greece and Rome)? What is the relationship between histories of literature and political, social, religious and intellectual histories? What is the role of gender in the making of literature, and the making of its histories? These are the kinds of questions we will ask as we read texts from the seventh through the seventeenth centuries, including works such as Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (in translation) and writers from Chaucer and Margery Kempe in the Middle Ages to Margaret Cavendish and John Milton in the Renaissance.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Nelson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Spring 2021

221 Writing Poetry I

A first workshop in the writing of poetry. Class members will read and discuss each others’ work and will study the elements of prosody: the line, stanza forms, meter, free verse, and more. Open to anyone interested in writing poetry and learning about the rudiments of craft. Writing exercises weekly.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester: Visiting Writer Kapur. Spring semester: Merrill Visiting Poet Amy Dryansky. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

222 Playwriting I

(Offered as THDA 270 and ENGL 222) This course explores key aspects of writing for the theater in a workshop style, from a transcultural perspective. Through writing exercises, analysis of scenes, feedback sessions, and the rewriting of materials produced, participants will experience the creative process and start developing their own voice as playwrights.

Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Visiting Artist Carneiro.

 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

223 Sound, Movement, and Text: Interactions and Collaborations

(Offered as THDA 255, ENGL 223, and MUSI 255) This studio course is designed as an interactive laboratory for dancers, composers, actors, writers/poets, vocalists, and sound artists to work together to create meaningful interactions between sound, movement, and text. Working individually and in collaborative groups, students will create original material in the various media and experiment with multiple ways to craft interesting exchanges and dialogues between word, sound, and movement or to create hybrid forms. The emphasis in the course will be to work with exercises and structures that engender deep listening, looking, and imagining. Some of the questions that inform the course include: How do music, voices, electronic, digital, and natural sounds create a sonic world for live performance and vice versa? How can movement inform the writing of text and vice-versa? How can we successfully communicate and collaborate across and between the different languages of sounds, words, and movement? We will have a series of informal studio performances, events, and installations throughout the semester with a culminating final showing/listening at the end of the semester.

Requisite: Previous experience in composition in one or more of the central media, or consent of the instructors. Limited to 16 students. Omitted 2021-2022. Professor Woodson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020

225 Non-Fiction I or Personal Story

How can we re-imagine ourselves and the world through our deeply felt personal questions? This course will focus on using personal non-fiction narratives to consider larger themes of politics, history, current events, and our ever-changing social reality. The course welcomes beginning writers who want to learn how to write more creatively without limiting censors and unnecessary judgment. The class will function as a cooperative workshop to help all write more fluently and with greater joy.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2021-22. Writer-in-Residence Lee.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2011, Fall 2019, Fall 2020

226 Fiction Writing I

A first course in writing fiction. Emphasis will be on experimentation as well as on developing skill and craft. Workshop (discussion) format.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Fall and spring semesters. Lecturer D. Sweeney.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

227 Reading and Writing Electronic Literature

This introductory course explores a variety of approaches to digital storytelling, from branching narratives, to hypertext media and video games, to more recent developments in machine-generated poetry and also embodied and location-based narrative. A hands-on class, it will link conventional understandings of narrative form and content to contemporary conversations about interface and computation, and ask students to think about materiality and textuality by experimenting with digital composition.

Omitted 2021-22. Professors Frank and Parham.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019

228 Liveness and the Livestreaming Studio

(Offered as ENGL 228 and THDA 251) In this course, we will explore theories and practices of “liveness.” What do we feel as alive in literature, drama, film, and television? How do we experience liveness across the forms of media? How does live media vs. recorded media influence our perceptions of its authenticity, and how do we express authenticity in each form? We will explore these questions as we examine works from drama, music, and dance; digital marketing, social media, and social networking; political protest, news broadcasts, and public relations.

With this theoretical and critical background in mind, we will also work on adapting between media by taking an existing creative work and transforming it into a dynamic live-streamed event. Works may be in creative writing, theatre, dance, music, or similar form, and they can be an original creation or a work by another author.

Technological Requirements: To fully participate in the final project, students will be expected to have regular access to an iPhone or Android smartphone with a working camera and a Mac or Windows computer with a working camera. If you lack either of these things, we will work with Academic Technology Services to ensure you have access to this technology during the January term.

Completion of this course will include a live in-class performance on the final day. Previous experience in any form of live performance is encouraged, but not required. Class will meet daily for 165 minutes.

Limited to 20 students. January term. Visiting Lecturer Bernitt.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in January 2022, Spring 2022

231 Three, Two, One: Reading Small Drama

How small can drama get while remaining “dramatic”? During the first half of the twentieth century, it was not unusual for a stage in America (or anywhere in the English-speaking world) to be filled with dozens of actors. Over the last sixty years, though, the crowds onstage have thinned. Today, three-, two-, and even one-person plays are as common as twenty-person plays once were. In this course, we will study the work of playwrights who have found new inspiration within these tight constraints.

As a foundational course in drama, this course will teach you the special skills involved in reading plays. As texts meant to be interpreted and staged by theater-makers, plays are radically under-determined things. So, you cannot sit back and play the role of audience. You must also do the imaginative work of all those people–actors, directors, designers, etc.–who turn a play into a performance. This course will teach you the habits of mind that make this imaginative work possible.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Grobe.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2016, Spring 2022

238 Shakespeare

[Before 1800] Readings in the comedies, histories, and tragedies, with attention to their poetic language, dramatic structure, and power in performance. Texts and topics will vary by instructor.

Limited to 50 students. Fall semester. Professor Bosman.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

240 Reading Poetry

A first course in the critical reading of selected English-language poets, which gives students exposure to significant poets, poetic styles, and literary and cultural contexts for poetry from across the tradition. Attention will be given to prosody and poetic forms, and to different ways of reading poems.

Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Professor Emeritus Sofield.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

250 Reading the Novel

An introduction to the study of the novel, through the exploration of a variety of critical terms (plot, character, point of view, tone, realism, identification, genre fiction, the book) and methodologies (structuralist, Marxist, feminist, psychoanalytic). We will draw on a selection of novels in English to illustrate and complicate those terms; possible authors include Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Wilkie Collins, Henry James, Kazuo Ishiguro, Thomas Pynchon, Toni Morrison, John Edgar Wideman, Emma Donoghue, David Foster Wallace, Monique Truong, Jennifer Egan.

Preference given to sophomores. Limited to 35 students. Fall semester. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

253 Modernists: In Their Words and In Their Worlds

This course provides an introduction to literary modernism in two parts, each part in dialogue with the other. First, in their words: we will look at how early twentieth-century writers described their own formal experiments and aesthetic agendas. This section will pair modernist manifestos and critical essays with fiction and poetry written by those same authors. Second, in their worlds: we will examine the historical, geographical, and cultural dimensions of these famous literary experiments. This section pairs modernist primary works with brief readings focused on World War I, colonization and decolonization, the Harlem Renaissance, and urban technology. When it comes to the dynamic relationship between words and worlds, our goal will be synthesis rather than separation. How does historical change relate to changes in literary form?

Possible authors include Mulk Raj Anand, Joseph Conrad, T.S. Eliot, E.M. Forster, Langston Hughes, James Joyce, Nella Larsen, Katherine Mansfield, Ezra Pound, and Virginia Woolf.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Abramson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Fall 2020

257 From Orientalism to the Asian Century: Methods in Transnational Asian Studies

What has Orientalism got to do with speculative science fiction? How does the history of Asia intersect with French and British colonialism? What does the “Asian Century” have in store for us? This course surveys the emerging field of Transnational Asian Studies through the lens of gender, empire, capitalism and migration. The course traces the historical flows and contemporary exchanges rising out of the vast and diverse Asian continent through literary texts, scholarly writing, and visual media. The course will explore categories such as “Asian/American,” “Afro-Asian,” “coolie” and “transnational” among others, while critiquing early iterations of the field for its United States-centric focus.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Visiting Lecturer Gooptu.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

270 Letter Writers and Epistolarity

The participants in this online course will read letters and write letters. This course became radically enhanced with the distancing imposed as COVID-19 exiled us from campus last spring.

The course depends both on experiences and experiments with the letter as a complex instrument of communication, as literary artefact, as carrier of affect, intention and ideas, and as a record of individual and communal growth. Letter writing will be practiced as a performance that deploys persona, tone, voice, purpose, persuasion, transparency, and decorum. Your discoveries and the development of your thoughts will be circulated as letters written among a small circle of correspondence.

Readings will include letters written by Paul, Seneca, Martin Luther King, Biddy Martin, Dorothy Osborne, John Keats, Rainer Maria Rilke, Lou Andreas-Salomé, Sigmund Freud, Boris Pasternak, Marina Tsvetayeva, Robert Oppenheimer. The reading of epistolary novels will focus our attention on fictional uses of the form (Daddy Longlegs, Dangerous Liaisons, Screwtape Letters). We will also pay attention to the current evolution of letter writing in the time of e-mail and social media, and social isolation.

Capstone projects will be organized as researched and curated presentations of selected online manuscript letters, or as a compiled and analyzed collection of personal or family letters, or as epistolary fiction.

In addition to the expected use of Zoom and emergency uses of Skype, students are expected to become familiar with: Google Drive, Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides; Dropbox; Microsoft Word, Power Point, and Excel; Audible and Kindle; parabol.co; and ProQuest Ebook Central.

January. Lecturer B. Sánchez-Eppler.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Spring 2020, January 2021, January 2022, Spring 2022

271 How Can We Talk About Race, Class, and Gender?

Each of us lives in a world in which race, class and gender–complex and elusive terms–reflect multiple realities. In the last few years they have openly shaped public discourse in the US. They also affect individuals and groups differently: invisible to many, an inescapable felt presence for many others. Denial, controversy, struggle, pride, and hesitation are but some of peoples’ responses. A world of courses could not comprehend the responses or the terms themselves, the histories or the controversies. So this course must necessarily be exploratory and, beyond the usual, open to each participant, even in sharp disagreements.

Memoirs, novels and poems, lively and revelatory social science texts make up the readings. Short weekly writings and three essays complete the work of the course.

Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Emeritus O’Connell.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

272 A Primer to Children’s Literature

Children’s books are a site of first encounter, a doorway to literacy and literature. This course will offer both a history of book production for child readers in England and the United States and an exploration of what these first books can teach us about the attractions, expectations, and responsibilities of reading.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor K. Sánchez-Eppler.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2016, Spring 2018, Spring 2021

273 When Corn Mother Meets King Corn: Cultural Studies of the Americas

(Offered as AMST 280 and ENGL 273) In Penobscot author Joseph Nicolar's 1893 narrative, the Corn Mother proclaims, "I am young in age and I am tender, yet my strength is great and I shall be felt all over the world, because I owe my existence to the beautiful plant of the earth." In contrast, according to one Iowa farmer, from the 2007 documentary "King Corn," "We aren't growing quality. We're growing crap." This course aims to unpack depictions like these in order to probe the ways that corn has changed in its significance within the Americas. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, students will be introduced to critical theories and methodologies from American Studies as they study corn's shifting role, across distinct times and places, as a nourishing provider, cultural transformer, commodity, icon, and symbol.

Beginning with the earliest travels of corn and her stories in the Americas, students will learn about the rich histories, traditions, narratives, and uses of "maize" from indigenous communities and nations, as well as its subsequent proliferation and adaptation throughout the world. In addition to literary and historical sources students will engage with a wide variety of texts (from material culture to popular entertainment, public policy and genetics) in order to deepen their understanding of cultural, political, environmental, and economic changes that have characterized life in the Americas.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professors Brooks and Vigil.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Spring 2019

277 Literature and Culture of the Philippines

This course is an introduction to the art, culture, and history of the Philippines through the narrative spaces of literature. While small in size, the 7,107 islands that make up the Philippines have played an important role in geopolitics, and the scars of a deeply conflicted history of occupation by the Spanish, Americans, and Japanese are evident in the literature. Reading a mixture of canonical and emerging authors will help us understand the complex legacies of colonialism in the islands and in the diaspora.

As a discipline, Asian American Studies has deep roots in social justice activism, and many of the texts we will read are responding to colonial and national structures of power. We will pay close attention to the ways in which art identifies, protests, resists, and survives structures of inequality within and between societies. By nature this is an interdisciplinary project, drawing from history, literature, fine art, and sociology to understand how the literature of the Philippines has changed over time. Our questions will consider the relationships between nation and space, diverse embodiments of national identity and ethnicity, and the cultural and historical contexts that inform these issues.

While the literature of the Philippines is written in many different languages, this course will be concerned with translated and English texts.

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Visiting Lecturer Ocasion.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

278 Digital Africas

(Offered as ENGL 278 and BLST 212 [A]) This course will examine how African writers incorporate digital technologies into their work when they publish traditional print texts, experiment with digital formats, or use the internet to redefine their relationship to local and international audiences. We will reflect on how words and values shift in response to new forms of mediation; on the limits these forms place on the bodies they represent, and on the protections they occasionally offer. Students will read fictional works in print, serialized narratives on blogs, as well as other literary products that circulate via social media. Students also will be introduced to a selection of digital humanities tools that will assist them in accessing, analyzing and responding to these works. Course materials include print, digital and hybrid publications by Oyono, Farah, Adichie, Cole, Maphoto, and Wainaina, among others.

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Cobham-Sander.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2021

279 Global Women's Literature

(Offered as SWAG 279, BLST 302, and ENGL 279) What do we mean by “women’s fiction”? How do we understand women’s genres in different national contexts? This course examines topics in feminist thought such as marriage, sexuality, desire and the home in novels written by women writers from South Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. We will draw on postcolonial literary theory, essays on transnational feminism and historical studies to situate our analyses of these novels. Texts include South African writer Nadine Gordimer’s July's People, Pakistani novelist Bapsi Sidhwa's Cracking India, and Caribbean author Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Shandilya.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Spring 2019, Spring 2020

280 Coming to Terms: Cinema

(Offered as ENGL 280 and FAMS 210) An introduction to cinema studies through consideration of key critical terms, together with a selection of various films (classic and contemporary, foreign and American, popular and avant-garde) for illustration and discussion. The terms for discussion may include, among others: modernity, montage, realism, visual pleasure, ethnography, choreography, streaming, and consumption. Two class meetings and one screening per week.

Limited to 35 students. Spring semester. Professor Guilford.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Spring 2022

282 Knowing Television

(Offered as ENGL 282 and FAMS 215) For better or worse, U.S. broadcast television is a cultural form that is not commonly associated with knowledge. This course will take what might seem a radical counter-position to such assumptions–looking at the ways television teaches us what it is and even trains us in potential critical practices for investigating it. By considering its formal structure, its textual definitions, and the means through which we see it, we will map out how it is that we come to know television.

Prior coursework in Film and Media Studies is recommended, but not required. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 45 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hastie.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2010, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Fall 2016, Fall 2019

283 Television Narratives

(Offered as ENGL 283 and FAMS 234) What stories does television tell? And how does it tell them? This course will approach television’s narratives through a focus on both form and content. We will take into account issues of production, distribution, and exhibition, with attention both to historical developments and contemporary transformations to the medium. In this way, we will explore how shifts in programming, platforms, and viewing habits alter both televisual narration and consumption. By considering television’s specific form–whether commercial networks, cable TV, or subscription platforms like Netflix and Hulu–we will query how this specific media format enables or limits the ways it tells stories and what stories it tells. Each iteration of this course will focus on particular forms of narrative programming, through an emphasis on genre, format, historical eras, or cultural facets. Readings will include key critical works in Television Studies, essays on particular television series, and other works that situate television texts in a broader cultural framework and history. The goal of the course is to think through narrative form, representational systems, authorship, exhibition, and reception habits in order to define not just what television narrative is but also what it can be.

In spring 2021, “Television Narratives” focused on policing race, as represented in US television series, with some forays also in documentary programming and music videos from the late 1980s, early 1990s, and our contemporary period. We began with episodic police and detective series of the late 1960s and 1970s, such as The Mod Squad, Tenafly, and Shaft, when the role of the black detective merged social consciousness and contemporary style, sometimes treading the line between criminality and the law. We then turned to the hybrid episodic-serial format of Hill Street Blues, focusing on the representation of both African-American policing and criminality represented within the series. Our next case study, spanning the 1990s and early 2000s, considered the emergence of the police procedural as a dominant televisual form, with an emphasis on the long-running Law and Order franchise. Our final case study composed the latter half of the course, as we looked at mini series and limited season serials, including the docudrama When They See Us and the one-season series Seven Seconds. During this final unit, we also integrated queries into YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram to consider how the narratives of such series are extended through intertextual connections with clips, interviews, and productions by both fans and artists.

Two sections of this course were offered, each section limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hastie.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021

284 Coming to Terms: Media

(Offered as ENGL 284 and FAMS 216) What do we mean when we talk about “the media”? Coming to Terms: Media will parse this question, approaching the media not as a shadowy monolith but as a complex and changing environment comprised of varied technologies, formats, practices, devices, and platforms (e.g.: photography, gramophone records, online dating, smartphones, Netflix). The course will introduce key terms and critical approaches for the study of modern media in their specificity in an era of digital mediation. We will ask questions such as: What are the formal and technical features of different media? How do they construct us as spectators or users, and shape our perception of the world we inhabit? How do our media practices produce experiences of space, time, and community? And crucially, what are the ideological impacts of these perceptions, constructions, and practices when it comes to race, sex, identity, and the circulation of power and capital?

Each week students will encounter important works of twentieth- and twenty-first-century media and cultural theory and will encounter concrete examples to flesh out the abstract concepts in the readings and engage in ample class participation. Assignments will encourage students to enter into a conversation with these texts as a way of exploring and constructing arguments about contemporary media. The course will provide a strong foundation for advanced work in film and media studies, and related disciplines.

This course has no prerequisites, but it is best suited to students who have completed a 100-level course dealing with the analysis of literature or film. Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Rangan.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Spring 2020, Spring 2022

287 Introduction to Film Studies: The History of American Cinema, 1895-1960

(Offered as ENGL 287 and FAMS 212) This course is designed to introduce students to key issues in film studies, focusing on the history of American cinema from 1895 to 1960. We will pay particular attention to the “golden age” of Hollywood, with forays into other national cinemas by way of comparison and critique. Screenings will range from actualities and trick films, to the early narrative features of D. W. Griffith, to the development of genres including film noir (Double Indemnity), the woman’s film of the 1940s (Now, Voyager), the western (Stagecoach) and the suspense film (Rear Window). Reading and writing assignments and in-class discussions will address how to interpret film on the formal/stylistic level (sequence analysis, close reading, visual language) as well as in the context of major trends and figures in film history. A weekly viewing journal will be expected, as a record of students’ critical responses to the films. In addition, three formal essays are required: a 3-5 page sequence analysis; a 6-8 page critical explication of a piece of film criticism (a scholarly article or book chapter) not already assigned for the course; and a final research paper (8-10 pages), to be revised in conjunction with a peer review workshop. By the end of the semester, students can expect to gain the following: a familiarity with key terms in film language and film analysis; an ability to think and write critically about film, its aesthetics, historical development, technology, and cultural context; an overview of some key films in American cinema history from the silent era to 1960; an appreciation of different film genres, their structure, iconic language, and ideological/cultural meanings; and confidence in reading critical/theoretical essays in film criticism and history.

Limited to 35 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

289 Moving Pictures: The History of Silent Cinema

(Offered as ENGL 289 and FAMS 227) This course focuses on global cinema during the silent era (1895-1927). We will explore the wide range of films produced in cinema’s first three decades, including early actualities, animation, trick films, serials, melodrama, and experimental film. Readings in film history will assist us in investigating the rise of classical narrative, the studio system, star and fan culture, and the transition to sound. In addition to studying the work of Charlie Chaplin, Sergei Eisenstein, D. W. Griffith, Georges Méliès, and Dziga Vertov, the course will highlight filmmaking by women and people of color including Alice Guy-Blaché, Oscar Micheaux, and Lois Weber, among others. A weekly viewing journal will be expected, as a record of students’ critical responses to the films. In addition, three formal essays are required: a 3-5 page sequence analysis; a 5-6 page critical explication of a piece of film criticism (a scholarly article or book chapter) not already assigned for the course; and a final research paper (8-10 pages), to be revised in conjunction with a peer review workshop.

This course will run primarily online, with periodic small-group meetings for students who are in residence on campus and parallel small-group meetings for remote students. The additional evening time slot will provide opportunities for students to screen films and engage in structured small-group discussion synchronously, whether remotely or in person. There may be additional opportunities for in-person meetings (including office hours) as the semester progresses.

Recommended requisite: ENGL 180/FAMS 110, Film and Writing, or an equivalent 100-level course. Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2011, Spring 2021

295 Literature and Psychoanalysis

Why does it seem natural to read ourselves and other people in the same way that we read books? This course will introduce students to psychoanalytic thought and psychoanalytic literary interpretation. Freud famously reads Jensen’s short story Gradiva as a case history, but we will seek out ways of reading literature and psychoanalysis together that go beyond diagnosing characters or authors. How is psychoanalytic theory itself literary? How can it help to open up, rather than reduce, our reading experience? And how does literature in turn help to enrich, deepen, challenge and enliven psychoanalytic theories of subject-formation, language, and interpersonal relations? Putting psychoanalytic and fictional texts in conversation, topics of particular interest may include: dreams, desire, sexuality, mourning, trauma, the unconscious, the uncanny, anxiety, embodiment, racialization, paranoia and the reparative impulse. Psychoanalytic readings will be drawn from Freud, Klein, Lacan, Winnicott, Bollas, Khan, Phillips, Riviere, Fanon, Milner, Sedgwick, Felman, and others. Literary texts change from year to year.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Mireles Christoff.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Spring 2020, Spring 2022

296, 395 Literature and the Nonhuman World

Like every other aspect of human culture, literature interacts with biology–with, in Elizabeth Grosz’s words, “a system of (physical, chemical, organic) differences that engenders historical, social, cultural, and sexual differences.” The aim of this course is to make that fact as intellectually fruitful as possible. What happens to our understanding of literature if we think of it as an expression of life? What happens, that is, if we think of literature as one of the countless things that emerges from a non-personal, non-teleological process of evolution? And what happens if we think of individual works of literature as potential ways of getting closer, conceptually and sensually, to life, to the difference-making process within which we all find ourselves? Readings will include Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, James Welch’s Winter in the Blood, J. M. Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello, and the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Wallace Stevens, and Elizabeth Bishop. A background in the natural sciences is welcome but not necessary.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2020

301 The Qur'ān and Its Controversies

(Offered as RELI 385, ASLC 385 and ENGL 301) 

An exploration of several salient questions concerning the Qur’ān, the Islamic Revealed Book. How have Muslims explained the Qur’ān’s own proclamation of its supernatural origin and its miraculous quality?  How does the Qur’ān engage with and respond to the Hebrew Bible and Christian scriptures? Who has the authority to interpret the Qur’ān and why? These are just a few of the tantalizing questions that will occupy us over the course of the semester. We will also discuss the ways that the Qur’ān has been read as a work of law, theology, and mysticism, and how it has shaped theories of the state. Finally, we will isolate the Qur’ān from the Islamic tradition and explore the many ways that it can be read as a work of literature. 

All readings are in English. No prerequisites. 

Fall semester. Associate Professor Jaffer.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2021

303 Books and Their Afterlives: Writing and/as Technology

Books have a rich history in multiple cultures, and the experience of reading them is often bound up with their material form. In other words, the way we read books has arguably always been tied to how they look, and smell, and feel. So what happens to books in the digital age? What do books feel like when they are on the Internet? From the first printed text to the digital age and beyond, this course will consider the changing shapes, goals, and aims of books. Beginning with the earliest texts produced with moveable type and ending with experimental electronic literature, we will consider the intertwined histories of reading, books, and the technologies used to make them. This course will include sessions held in Frost Library’s Special Collections and one required field trip to Big Wheel Press in Easthampton, Massachusetts.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Professor Henrichs.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Spring 2020

304 Narratives of Suffering

It’s possible to imagine people who have not yet suffered, who have not yet had a peculiarly intense and sustained experience of physical or psychic pain. Those imaginary people are, however, vulnerable to future suffering. Even more importantly, they live in a world in which many others suffer, so many that a refusal to attend to suffering amounts to a refusal of a meaningfully relational existence. Thinking and feeling in response to suffering is, accordingly, an inescapable aspect of what Henri Bergson describes as “a really living life.” But how do we respond to suffering, whether in others or in ourselves? How do we take it in without appropriating it? How do we express it without turning it into a spectacle? These questions and others like them are difficult, but the aim of this course is to generate an intellectual and emotional atmosphere in which we can be transformed by the process of taking them up. Readings include The Book of Job, King Lear, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Art Spiegelman’s Maus, and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2014, Fall 2016, Spring 2019, Fall 2021

306 Modern British and American Poetry, 1900-1950

Readings and discussions centering on the work of Thomas Hardy, W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, and Wallace Stevens. Some attention also to A.E. Housman, Edward Thomas, Ezra Pound, and William Carlos Williams.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Emeritus Pritchard.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2016, Fall 2018

307 Making Genre in the Eighteenth Century

[Before 1800] Imagine a world where the novel was truly a novel form, and where newspapers were a new idea, and where print had only recently been commercialized. The eighteenth century was a time of great flux in Britain and the US, not only in terms of political change and scientific discovery, but also in terms of the literary world. Poets were beginning to panic that their genre was no longer the dominant mode. Daily journals were changing how people perceived the way time passed. Testimonies from abroad were changing people’s awareness of the world at large. Women were reading in secret, since the men around them often tried to restrict which genres they had access to. Writers who wrote for profit were called “hacks.” Even the very idea of the professional author was under question. In this course, we will consider many different genres of writing, including novels, memoirs, newspapers, lectures, journal articles, travel narratives, plays, and poems, during a period when massive innovations were taking place. Although the majority of the texts we will discuss will be those published in the eighteenth century, we will begin the course with some seventeenth-century texts (such as John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Francis Bacon’s essays), in order to more fully understand the creative vision of eighteenth-century writers like Daniel Defoe, Joseph Addison, Jonathan Edwards, Anne Finch, Laurence Sterne, Phillis Wheatley, Jane Austen, and Olaudah Equiano. There will be an emphasis on engaging with these texts as they were originally printed, with a chance to engage with archival materials. The course will end with a consideration of how notions of the difference between authors of different genres still persist in the present day.

Recommended requisite: Previous English class preferred. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 35 students. Spring semester. Professor Worsley.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

309 The Literary Histories of Technology

[Before 1800] What does a reader in 1620 have in common with a reader in 2020? They are both faced with an overwhelming explosion of textual information made possible by technology. In both 1620 and 2020 readers are confronted with massive quantities of information that threaten to overwhelm. The causes differ: in 1620s London, advances in printing and paper-making technologies made textual materials cheaply and widely available on an unprecedented scale. In 2020, we have the Internet.

This course proposes that the seventeenth- and twenty-first centuries share similar methods of controlling their new information environment; both use creative and figurative language to talk about it. Readers in 1620 used recently-Anglicized terms like metaphor or synecdoche, whereas readers in 2020 talk about uploading everything to the cloud. In this course, we will explore the humanist rhetorical handbooks of the English literary Renaissance as a means to two ends: one, to better understand the literary production of canonical authors like Shakespeare; and two, to engage with the rhetoric of digital creativity in the twenty-first century. We juxtapose readings from Renaissance rhetorical handbooks with poetry and essays from that period and with digital humanities scholarship. The final project of the course will ask students to perform individual research as part of a collaborative, multimodal guide to the information structures of the Internet.

Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Professor Henrichs.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019

310 Interpretation in Law & Literature

(Offered as LJST 341 [Analytic Seminar] and ENGL 310) Interpretation lies at the center of legal and literary activity. Both law and literature are in the business of making sense of texts—statutes, constitutions, poems or stories. Both disciplines confront similar questions regarding the nature of interpretive practice: Should interpretation always be directed to recovering the intent of the author? If we abandon intentionalism as a theory of textual meaning, how do we judge the "excellence" of our interpretations? How can the critic or judge continue to claim to read in an "authoritative" manner in the face of interpretive plurality? In the last few years, a remarkable dialogue has burgeoned between law and literature as both disciplines have grappled with life in a world in which "there are no facts, only interpretations." This seminar will examine contemporary theories of interpretation as they inform both legal and literary understandings. Readings will include works of literature (Hemingway, Kafka, Woolf) and court cases, as well as contributions by theorists of interpretation such as Spinoza, Dilthey, Freud, Geertz, Kermode, Dworkin, and Sontag.

Limited to 15 students. Open to juniors and seniors.Omitted 2021-22. Professor Douglas.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Spring 2012, Spring 2015, Spring 2019, Fall 2020

315 Nabokov's Art and Terrors

(Offered as RUSS 225 and ENGL 315) This course undertakes a sustained examination of the works of Vladimir Nabokov (1899–1977). Drawing on the literary masterpieces of Nabokov’s Russian and English periods, we seek to gain a critical appreciation of his literary art and the cultural and aesthetic contexts from which they emerged. Throughout the course, we will consider his abiding themes such as the complex relationship between art and life, and between the poet, the state, and society; the narration of the experience of time; metafiction, its possibilities and constraints; bad art; the experience of exile; and the privileged position of art and aesthetics. The latter are variously inflected as refuge, asylum, or a space of revolt, as well as what enables the artist to counter, but also to inflict, cruelty. The course will also situate Nabokov’s work with the currents of literary modernism; to that end, readings are also drawn from such figures as Jorge Luis Borges, Franz Kafka, Marcel Proust, and Virginia Woolf. Our access into these themes and the author’s narrative art will be through attentive reading, itself a preeminent theme of Nabokov’s work. No familiarity with Russian history or culture expected. All readings in English. 

This course will meet for three hours MWF as well as require asynchronous film screenings for at leat 2 hours per week. 

January term. Prof. Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Spring 2011, Fall 2013, Spring 2016, Fall 2018, Fall 2020, January 2022, Spring 2022

316 Immersive Accompaniment: Reading the Bildungsroman

(Offered as ENGL 316 and SWAG 316) “From whence comes my help?” “From where does your strength come?” The psalmist and Adrienne Rich ask these questions, which we will face while we read coming-of-age narratives that fit in a genre known by its German name, the Bildungsroman. These novels go beyond the pilgrimage out of adolescence, and into explicit representation of intellectual, aesthetic, and spiritual growth experienced in unison with sexual development, awakenings, thrills, mishaps, and marriage. We will pay attention to how we immerse ourselves into the condition of those who grow on the page; not to “identify” with the characters, but to accompany them. From our immersive accompaniment we will re-emerge–intentionally–to write about how we progress, digress, regress, and grow some more. As we read we will explore many terms and theoretical concerns: Erik Erickson on life stages; Donald Winnicott on holding environment and object relation; Jacques Lacan on mirrors and interminability of desire; Silvan Tomkins on affects and nuclear scripts; Shoshana Feldman on re-reading, un-learning, en-gendering, and–again–desire.

Readings will likely include: Plato, Phaedrus; Susan Choi, Trust Exercise; Lazarillo de Tormes; Teresa de Avila, Interior Castle; John Woolman, The Journal; Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse; Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot; Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous; Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre; James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook; Richard Powers, The Overstory.

Omitted 2021-22. Lecturer B. Sánchez-Eppler.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021

318 Childhood in African and Caribbean Literature

(Offered as ENGL 318, BLST 362 [A/CLA], and LLAS 362) The course will concentrate on Caribbean authors. It explores the process of self-definition in literary works from Africa and the Caribbean that are built around child protagonists. We will examine the authors’ various methods of ordering experience through the choice of literary form and narrative technique, as well as the child/author’s perception of his or her society. French texts will be read in translation.

Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Cobham-Sander.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2015, Spring 2020

319 The Postcolonial Novel: Gender, Race and Empire

(Offered as SWAG 331 and ENGL 319) What is the novel? How do we know when a work of literature qualifies as a novel? In this course we will study the postcolonial novel which explodes the certainties of the European novel. Written in the aftermath of empire, these novels question race, class, gender and empire in their subject matter and narrative form. We will consider fiction from South Asia, the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa. Novels include Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh's The Calcutta Chromosome, Caribbean writer Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John and North African author Tayeb Salih's Season of Migration to the North.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Shandilya.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016, Fall 2018, Spring 2020

320 Literature as Translation

(Offered as EUST 303, ENGL 320 and RUSS 310) Acts of translation underwrite many kinds of cultural production, often invisibly. Writers of the Harlem Renaissance, for instance, engaged with black internationalism through bilingualism and translation, as Brent Edwards has reminded us. In this course we will study literary translation as a creative practice involved in the making of subjects and cultures. We will read key statements about translation by theorists and translators, such as Walter Benjamin, Roman Jakobson, Lawrence Venuti, Peter Cole and Gayatri Spivak. We also will directly engage in translation work: each student will regularly present translations in a workshop format to produce a portfolio as a final project. The class will be “polyglot,” meaning that students are welcome to translate from any language of which they have knowledge; when they share translations, they will be asked also to provide interlinear, or “literal,” translations for those who may not understand the language they are working in.

Requisite: Two years of college-level study of the chosen language. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professors Bosman and Ciepiela. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2021

322 Playwriting Studio

(Offered as THDA 370 and ENGL 322) A workshop for writers who want to complete a full-length play or series of shorter plays. Emphasis will be on bringing a script to a level at which it is ready for the stage. The majority of class time will be devoted to reading and commenting on developing works-in-progress.  In addition, we will also hone playwriting skills through class exercises, and study exemplary plays by established writers as a means of exploring a range of dramatic vocabularies.

Requisite: THDA 270, 272, or the equivalent. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Visiting Artist Carneiro.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

323 On The Edge: Writing for Performance

(Offered as THDA 272 and ENGL 323) This course is an exploration of writing for performance using interdisciplinary and experimental approaches. By exposing students to contemporary manifestations of performance across cultures – including those by Rodrigo Garcia, Rimini Protokoll, Romeo Castelluci, Robert Lepage, Carolina Vivas, and Gebing Tian – this course will lead to a new understanding of the art and practice of writing for the theater. In dialogue with other artforms such as literature, music, dance, and cinema, as well as performance theory, we will creatively explore dynamics involving words, bodies, spaces, objects, and media. Through imagining, devising, writing, and performing exercises, participants will develop their own original pieces that will be showcased as works-in-progress at the end of the semester. 

Limited to 18 students. Spring Semester. Visiting Artist Carneiro.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

324 Writing Poetry II—The Lyric Essay

Poetry is often a study of density and lineation but, as the expectations of genre continue to bend, more and more poets are exploring the lyric nature of the personal essay. In this course, we will assess the expansion of poetic form to include “the lyric essay,” reading essays written by poets and lyric memoirs written by essayists. The course will be primarily generative, with students selecting a specific topic to explore throughout the semester as they build their own, long-form, poetic project.

Requisite: ENGL 221 Writing Poetry I. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Lawson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Spring 2019, Fall 2019

324 Writing Poetry II–Poetry in Translation

"It is normally supposed that something always gets lost in translation; I cling, obstinately, to the notion that something can also be gained."  Salman Rushdie

What can we learn about the craft of poetry through the practice of translation? How can engaging with poetry in another language (even in translation) transform our own thinking and writing? This class will explore these questions by reading and translating poetry from around the world and across the centuries. Readings from Homer, Sappho, Catullus, Montale, Ghalib, Mir and a variety of contemporary Arab poets will be augmented with a mix of essays on the practical and theoretical aspects of translation. Students will experiment with a variety of translation-inspired writing exercises and design a final translation project of their choice. There is no language requirement.

 Limited to 12 students. Spring semester. Visiting Writer Kapur.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

325 Her Story Is: Feminist Approaches to Theater and Performance

(Offered as THDA 275, ENGL 325 and SWAG 275) Western text-based theatre has historically hushed the voices of women and those from marginalized communities. This course will focus on examples of such voices, paying special attention to artists, writers, and thinkers who challenge and deconstruct aesthetics that privilege the male gaze. In dialogue with feminist theories of gender and identity, we will read plays and study works by women and gender non-conforming artists, such as Hildegard von Bingen, Juana Ines de la Cruz, Susan Glaspell, Adrienne Kennedy, Marina Abramovich, and Taylor Mac. Finally, we will also inquire into new forms of gender-inspired “artivism,” such as The Kilroy’s, the Guerilla girls, Pussy Riot, and the #MeToo movement in theatres around the world. During this course, students are expected to pursue an individual writing or performance project that will further explore the concepts discussed. For this purpose, we will study the Theater of the Oppressed methodology as applied by contemporary Latinx feminist theater-makers.

Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-2022. Visiting Artist Carneiro. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

326 Fiction Writing II—Moving Beyond Plot

How do stories move? What are the uses and limitations of the term “plot” in describing movement or development in narrative? What culturally-specific assumptions and expectations about storytelling are bound up with conventional notions of plot, and how can we, as writers and readers, unravel them?

In this advanced fiction writing course, students will explore these questions and more through writing, reading, sharing, and thoughtfully critiquing fiction that challenges, resists, or forgoes linear or sequential narrative. Writers of all aesthetic styles, including plot-driven writers, are welcome. The aim of this course is to build a nurturing and inclusive classroom community where all students can cultivate confidence in their work and writing process.

Requisite: ENGL 226 Fiction Writing I. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Visiting Writer Myint.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2016, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2022

330 Race and Otherness in the Middle Ages

(Offered as ENGL 330 and EUST 330) [Before 1800] By many accounts, a concept of “race” does not emerge in the West until the colonizing of the New World in the Renaissance. Yet medieval people had many ways of identifying, exoticizing, excluding, and discriminating against “others.” This was often framed in terms of religion (Christianity vs. Islam), but it also manifests in terms of physiognomic description and ideas of monstrosity in romance and quest narratives. In this course, we will explore how the “othering” of certain medieval peoples creates a racialized language and discourse at once specific to the Middle Ages and relevant to our current understanding of race. We will read from medieval travel narratives (The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, Prester John, The Medieval Romance of Alexander) as well as literature by Chaucer and others, alongside critical race theory and historical scholarship to give context to our discussions. We will also explore how the Middle Ages have been racialized in contemporary political and popular discourse.

Format: If at least 5 in-person students register for this course, it will run in person, with hybrid options for remote students. Course meetings will include a combination of synchronous and asynchronous activities.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Nelson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Spring 2021

332 Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales

[Before 1800] Geoffrey Chaucer’s medieval masterwork, The Canterbury Tales, represents pilgrims from all walks of life, from peasants to artisans to nobility, telling tales that are comical, tragic, religious, and fantastical. In this course, we read almost the entirety of the Tales in its original language. The course aims to give the student rapid mastery of Chaucer’s English and an active appreciation of his poetry. Our focus will be on Chaucer’s poetry and the ethical and political questions this complex and delightful literary work raises, and how we can understand these questions within a modern context. No prior knowledge of Middle English is expected, although a knowledge of grammar in English or another Western language will be helpful.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Nelson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2019

341 Great English Writers

[Before 1800] A study of six classic writers from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: Ben Jonson, Milton, Dryden, Pope, Swift, and Samuel Johnson.  Among the readings are: Jonson, poems and Volpone; Milton, Comus, “Lycidas” and Paradise Lost; Dryden, poems and critical prose; Pope, “The Rape of the Lock,” Essay on Man, The Dunciad; Swift, Tale of a Tub, Gulliver’s Travels, poems; Johnson, poems, Rasselas, Prefaces to Shakespeare and to the Dictionary, passages from Boswell’s Life of Johnson.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Emeritus Pritchard.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Fall 2017, Spring 2020

348 Modern British Literature, 1900-1950

Readings in twentieth-century writers such as Henry James, Bernard Shaw, Joseph Conrad, D.H. Lawrence, Wyndham Lewis, Ford Madox Ford, Virginia Woolf, Evelyn Waugh, W.H. Auden, Robert Graves, George Orwell, Ivy Compton-Burnett.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Emeritus Pritchard.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2011, Spring 2015, Spring 2018

352 Reading Land, Writing Waters

(Offered as ENGL 352 and AMST 355) In this course, we will leave the classroom and get out on the land. The class begins in winter, a time when many people huddle indoors. We will instead go outside and read the winterland, beginning with a tracking workshop. Readings will include Robin Kimmerer’s influential essay, “The Language of Animacy,” which uses the lens of Indigenous languages to reconsider the boundaries of personhood. We will discuss how language shapes the ways in which we categorize other beings, such as animals and trees, as well as other humans. Our close reading of land and texts will enable us to see how our “reading practices” are shaped by language. Spring will take us to local waterways, including Amherst College’s Wildlife Sanctuary and the Quabbin Reservoir, where we will read William Cronon’s classic essay, “The Trouble with Wilderness” in relation to these built environments. Lauret Savoy’s Trace will lead us to consider our embodied experiences and histories in relation to the places where we live. Throughout, we will grapple with critical questions. How are concepts like “nature” and “culture” intertwined with constructions of race and gender? How has the conservation of “wilderness” been entangled with colonial dispossession and removal? Even as we spend much of our class time on the ground, we will cultivate the craft of writing as a deliberative, interactive process, with frequent informal writing, collaborative workshops and creative nonfiction.

The class will meet only twice a week but the two days and the amount of meeting time will depend on the weather and location, including drive time. Students will not spend more than eight hours/week in class.

Limited to 15 students. Spring semester Professor Brooks.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

354 Antebellum US Literature

In this course, we will be studying the relationship between the national acceleration toward war and the imaginative activities of US writers between 1830 and 1865. Through our readings of Emerson, Douglass, Melville, Stowe, Whitman, Jacobs, and others, we will learn about what happened over the course of those 35 years and, at the same time, learn from the examples of those extraordinary writers. As the nation was doubling in size and getting closer to splitting in half, those writers kept trying to find, in pressurized, transfiguring language, a way of getting from where they were to somewhere better. In the increasingly warlike atmosphere of our times, there may be an even greater value to what they achieved.

Spring semester. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

355, 444 Emily Dickinson

(Offered as ENGL 444 and AMST 364) “Experience is the Angled Road / Preferred against the Mind / By–Paradox–the Mind itself–” Emily Dickinson explained in one poem and in this course we will make use of the resources of the town of Amherst to play experience and mind off each other in our efforts to come to terms with her elusive poetry. The course will visit the Dickinson Homestead and the Evergreens (her brother Austen’s house, and a veritable time capsule), make use of Dickinson manuscripts in the Amherst College archives and special collections, local history materials at the Jones Library and the Amherst Historical Society, and set her work in the context of other nineteenth-century writers such as Helen Hunt Jackson, Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, and Harriet Jacobs. But as we explore how Dickinson’s poetry responds to her world, we will also ask how it can speak to our present. One major project of the course will be to develop exhibits and activities for the Emily Dickinson Museum that will help visitors engage with her poems.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor K. Sánchez-Eppler.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2018, January 2021

357 Race and Relationality

(Offered as ENGL 357 and BLST 365 [US]) When we say “race relations,” we are using a phrase drawn from early twentieth-century American sociology, a phrase that conjures up a scenario in which already-existing racial groups are separated by prejudice and misunderstanding. As many sociologists and historians have argued, we need a new paradigm, one that implies neither that race is a primordial reality nor that racism is merely an information problem. In this course, we will be using histories of the race-concept and theories emerging from the “relational turn” in psychoanalysis to explore the interplay of race and relationality in American literature written between the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law (1850) and Brown v. Board of Education (1954). The aim of this necessarily experimental course is to see what happens if we combine a historically informed understanding of the race-concept with a psychoanalytically informed understanding of relationality and bring both of those understandings to bear on works like Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, William Wells Brown’s Clotel, Herman Melville’s “Benito Cereno,” Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson, Nella Larsen’s Passing, and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. All of the varieties of American racial identification will be part of our discussions but the focus will be on the literary evocations of white-black conjunctions.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Fall 2019

359 Living with Inequality

(Offered as ENGL 359 and EDUC 359) Almost 60% of Americans now experience economic struggles. When they can they struggle to balance food, housing, medical care, clothing, and other needs. There are, at the same time, some 600 billionaires whose combined wealth exceeds that of all other Americans. Yet in 1970, a mere fifty years ago, the United States had the most equitable economic order in the world, and probably in history.

Our course moves around the country and among individuals and groups trying to survive scarcities of many kinds. This is not a literature course but one that does often engage language, how people speak their experience. It will be a journey in exploration.

Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Emeritus O’Connell.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

366 Asian-American Writing Across/Between Genres

In Jenny Boully’s essay, “On the EEO Genre Sheet,” she writes, “I am sometimes called a poet, sometimes an essayist, sometimes a lyric essayist, sometimes a prose poet. My second book was published under the guise of fiction/poetry/essay. I find these categorizations odd: I’ve never felt anything but whole.” In this course we will read works by contemporary Asian-American authors that defy and/or exceed genre expectations and examine these texts’ relationship to wholeness and hybridity. How can we read experimental writing as a politically subversive act? How can we read as a politically subversive act? This is not an introductory course on “Asian-American literature,” but a course that will interrogate the term “Asian-American,” both as a marker of identity and of literary genre. Readings may include works by Mary-Kim Arnold, Jenny Boully, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Lily Hoang, Vi Khi Nao, Diana Khoi Nguyen, and Ocean Vuong.

This is a discussion-based course that will require your weekly synchronous attendance, as well as asynchronous group and individual work. Also, though this is an online course, I am open to the possibility of creating in-person opportunities for students on campus, especially as the semester progresses.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Writer Myint.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Fall 2010, Spring 2021

370 Witch Hunt! Magic and Belief in Renaissance Literature

[Before 1800] What was magic in the early modern world? Why did it cause a crisis in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries? How did that crisis shape the literature of its time? We will follow competing ideas about magic as they ran like wildfire through the imagination of artists, playwrights, and preachers from medieval Germany through Renaissance England to Puritan Massachusetts. We will ask how magic in its apparently beneficial forms, such as alchemy and astrology, might relate to the supposedly malevolent practices of witchcraft, which yielded notorious trials and brutal executions on both sides of the Atlantic. Why did cultures balanced between religion and science become obsessed with magic? How did the fear and wonder that it evoked find its way into art? And what can literary figures of witches and sorcerers still tell us about our modern fantasies of self-empowerment and the counter-threat of demonic possession?

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Bosman.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Spring 2020

371 The African-American Playwright: A Select History of Representation and Citizenship

(Offered as THDA 223, BLST 113, and ENGL 371) What is meant by “the African-American experience” within the context of the U.S. American theater? What do the crafting and thematic concerns of plays penned by significant African-descendent writers in the United States tell us about the history of African-American theatrical performance and the larger issues of Black personhood, community, culture, and citizenship it reflects? This course is a thematic and critical survey of pivotal African-American plays from the mid-nineteenth century to the late twentieth century. Through practical dramaturgy and textual analysis we will study these playwrights’ deployment of their creative voice within social conditions that have evolved over the aforementioned period, from state-sanctioned exclusion to conditioned acceptance within U.S. American socio-cultural discourses. We will also examine how the civic work of these plays (and their writers) meet, intersect and coexist with that of other identity-based advocacy movements. Themes explored include slavery, segregation, nationality, class, religion, gender, sexual identity, among others. Playwrights studied may include Ira Aldridge, Angelina Grimke, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Charles Fuller, Lorraine Hansberry, James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka, Adrienne Kennedy, George C. Wolfe, August Wilson, Ntzoke Shange, and others.

Visiting Assistant Professor Jude Sandy. Fall semester.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

372 Reading the Romance

(Offered as ENGL 372 and SWAG 365) Do people the world over love in the same way, or does romance mean different things in different cultures? What happens when love violates social norms? Is the “romance” genre an escape from real-world conflicts or a resolution of them? This course analyzes romantic narratives from across the world through the lens of feminist theories of sexuality, marriage, and romance. We will read heterosexual romances such as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire, alongside queer fiction such as Sarah Waters’ Fingersmiths and Radclyffe Hall’s Well of Loneliness. We will also pay attention to the Western romantic-comedy film, the telenovela and the Bollywood spectacular.

Limited to 18 students. Not open to first-year students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Shandilya.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Spring 2021

374 Gothic/Horror: Literature, Film, Television

(Offered as ENGL 374 and FAMS 374) Gothic fictions are known for their ability to send shivers down the spine, evoking sensations of discomfort, fear, and horror. This interdisciplinary course will explore the genre of the Gothic from its roots in the late eighteenth century through the present, moving among literature, film, television, and digital media forms. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein will be a key text; we will explore intermedial texts like Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Bram Stoker’s Dracula; and the course will end with twenty-first century incarnations of the Gothic (Get Out, Penny Dreadful). Throughout, we will discuss the tangled relationship between sexuality, race, and power that characterizes the genre. Students will  develop a creative project, whether a piece of short fiction or a visual/digital exploration of Gothic themes, keep a weekly reading/viewing journal of their responses to the assigned texts, and facilitate discussion on a given text. In addition, students will write a 3- to 5-page close textual analysis, with a mandatory peer review workshop and revision, and a final research paper (10-12 pages) or creative project. Students will gain a familiarity with key literary and film/media studies terms and approaches; an understanding of major works in the Gothic and horror genres; an ability to think and write critically about Gothic literature and related media, in terms of aesthetics, historical development, and cultural context; confidence in reading critical/theoretical essays in literary studies, cultural studies, and film and media studies; and proficiency in various aspects of project-based work, including identifying a research topic, building arguments, using evidence, and working with and appropriately citing a variety of sources.

Requisite: A 200-level foundations course in English or Film & Media Studies, or equivalent. Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

375 Victorian Sensations, or, When Old Media Were New

(Offered as ENGL 375 and FAMS 317) Ghosts, vampires, madwomen, and typists: what do these figures have in common? In this course, we will investigate the characters and events that made the Victorian period the age of sensation, from the rise of popular fiction and the illustrated newspaper to the introduction of new methods for viewing and experiencing the world on a global scale. The course will focus on nineteenth-century Britain, exploring the ways in which Victorian fiction, poetry, and print and visual media give voice to the period’s obsession with sensory experience. We will read Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White, a tale of deception, mistaken identity and madness, alongside works by Robert Browning, Christina Rossetti, Sheridan Le Fanu, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Bram Stoker, among others. Historians of “old” media–including telegraphy, photography, and early cinema–will assist us in exploring new technologies for communication in the nineteenth century, while media archaeologists and theorists of ephemerality, memory, and the archive will deepen our understanding of the relationship between past and present media cultures. Three formal essays will be required: a literary close reading (3-4 pages); a critical explication of a scholarly article (4-5 pages); and a final research project (a 10-12 page paper or a digital humanities project of similar length and scope).

Requisite: A 200-level foundations course in English. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020

376 Disability Media

(Offered as ENGL 376 and FAMS 355) Moving image and audiovisual media frequently assume a fully able subject despite the infinite variety of our embodied capacities and debilitations. This course will explore how this assumption has shaped the design, narrative forms, audiovisual poetics, exhibition contexts, and modes of spectatorship and engagement of a range of media forms, from cinema to digital interfaces. We will examine how critical, experimental, and therapeutic approaches to media, the uses of media by people with disabilities, and media made in collaboration with disabled makers and protagonists enable us to fundamentally rethink what media can be and do. Readings will draw from disability studies and film and media studies as well as philosophy, science and technology studies, performance studies, sound studies, and other areas. Topics may include: disability tropes and rehabilitation narratives in film and TV; prostheses and “assistive” technologies; subtitles, captions, and the politics of accessibility; inclusive product and interface design; staring as spectatorial mode; sound art and polymodal listening. 

Prior coursework in ENGL or FAMS is recommended but not required. Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rangan.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019

377 The Documentary Impulse

(Offered as ENGL 377 and FAMS 383) Documentary is one of the fastest-growing areas of media production today, enjoying unprecedented commercial success in theaters, on television, and online streaming services. What drives the urgent desire to represent reality? Where did this impulse originate, and how do documentarians continue to channel it today? This course focuses on the innovative forms and ethical dilemmas that have resulted from the pursuit of reality. We look at different approaches to documentary (ethnographic, personal, observational, interactive, essayistic, activist) and emerging forms such as fake news, true crime podcasts, mockumentaries, web-docs, and documentary art. Our discussions consider the shifting boundaries of the documentary genre, the unique ethical and political considerations involved in making documentaries, and the impact of technological and socio-cultural changes on historical trends in documentary.

Open to students with no prior film classes. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rangan.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Spring 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019

378 After COPS: Police, Media, and Prison Abolition

(Offered as ENGL 378 and FAMS 382)

Calls to defund the police may have helped to cancel the notorious reality program COPS, but crime scenes, courtrooms, cops, lawyers, victims, and vigilantes dominate our media and our imaginations. This course asks what needs to be abolished—not just canceled—in our media environment in order for us to imagine a world without prisons. Abolition is, at its core, a transformative project that aims to change the very social relations, conditions, and logics that produce the harms for which police and prisons seem to serve as solutions. A project that once took on the seemingly impossible challenge of ending slavery, abolition has become a movement of interlinked struggles against systemic oppression. We will examine a range of media, historical and contemporary, cinematic and televisual, fictional and documentary, global and local, through the lens of abolition, deconstructing carceral scenarios and affects, and discovering and imagining transformative approaches to narrative, healing, and justice. Students enrolling in this course should be prepared to take on a range of activities including and beyond weekly readings, film/media viewing, and analytical writing, such as independent and collaborative research, site-based field work (if public health guidelines permit), and optional creative media assignments.

Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors, and to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Spring semester. Professor Rangan.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

379 Play and Performance Across “The Black Atlantic”

(Offered as THDA 224, BLST 124, and ENGL 379) What is the “African” in “African-American?” From the point of view of U.S. American theater, what is the relationship between African-American theatrical practices and those of a global African diaspora? Grounded in Paul Gilroy’s and other theorists’ positing of “The Black Atlantic,” this course will examine how notions of shared and distinct cultural heritages collide and co-mingle across the theatrical performance worlds of African and other African-descendant peoples. Our point of reference will be canonical and contemporary plays and dance-theater works by African-American artists like Adrienne Kennedy, August Wilson, Katherine Dunham, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Ronald K. Brown, Marcus Gardley, Jackie Sibblies-Drury, Danai Gurira, and others. We will examine how the conflicts, solidarities and assertions of identity and heritage in these artists’ works relate to that of such African-continental, -Caribbean, -European and trans-national figures as Pearl Primus, Wole Soyinka, Germaine Acogny, Ama Ata Aidoo, Femi Osofisan, Derek Walcott, Aimé Césaire, Trevor Rhone, Natasha Gordon and others. This comparative study will be situated against the seminal backdrop of diaspora cultures of ceremonial performance practices still evident throughout the Black world. 

Visiting Assistant Professor Jude Sandy. Spring semester. 2021-2022.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

381 Cinema and Everyday Life

(Offered as ENGL 381 and FAMS 351) Film theorist Siegfried Kracauer declared that some of the first films showed “life at its least controllable and most unconscious moments, a jumble of transient, forever dissolving patterns accessible only to the camera.” This course will explore the ways contemporary narrative films aesthetically represent everyday life–capturing both its transience and our everyday ruminations. We will further consider the ways we incorporate film into our everyday lives through various modes of viewings (the arthouse, the multiplex, the DVD, the mp3), our means of perception, and in the kinds of souvenirs we keep. We will look at films by Chantal Akerman, Robert Altman, Marleen Gorris, Hirokazu Koreeda, Marzieh Makhmalbaf, Terrence Malick, Lynne Ramsay, Tsai Ming-liang, Agnès Varda, Wong Kar-wai, and Andy Warhol. Readings will include work by Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin, Marlene Dietrich, Sigmund Freud, and various works in film and media studies. Three hours of lectures and three hours of film screening per week.

Not open to first-year students. Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hastie.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Fall 2015, Spring 2020

383 Intimate Film Cultures

(Offered as ENGL 383 and FAMS 360] What’s intimate about cinema? And what, if anything, is cinematic about intimacy? Since its invention, cinema has been closely associated with intimate experience, though understandings of this association have shifted over time. For classical film theorists, cinema’s intimate devices (the close-up, the kiss, etc.) were often invested with revolutionary potential, though more recent cultural theorists have issued strong rejoinders to such claims. Isn’t intimacy crucial to the workings of modern power? Doesn’t cinema structure intimate relations in accordance with normative ideologies? Examining a range of intimate film cultures–from early cinema to surrealism, classical Hollywood, Black British film, and queer world cinema–this course will explore the intimate dimensions of filmic representation and reception, and the reasons cinema’s intimacy has been both celebrated and denounced. Assignments include in-class presentations, critical essays, and weekly entries in personal film journals.

Requisite: One 200-level ENGL or FAMS course, or consent of the instructor. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Guilford.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Spring 2022

391 Literature of Everyday Life

This is a class all about the art of noticing. Our primary texts fixate on what Amit Chaudhuri calls “the moment of noticing”: heightened attention to the (seemingly) small, the ordinary, the routine. Many readings will be “day-in-the-life” novels set over a 24-hour period; others dwell on single moments, fleeting impressions, or routine rhythms of daily life.

We will discuss questions such as: What formal and stylistic strategies do writers employ to capture everyday life? What happens to narrative conventions of plot and the event when writers are more interested in the textures, rhythms, and background environments of everyday life? How does the ordinary become extraordinary? How does one narrate history in the making, as it unfolds in everyday life? How are major historical events and political structures felt over the course of a typical day? Is it a privilege to think about the everyday as either boring or beautiful? Does it even make sense to talk about “everyday literature” when experiences of daily life are so diverse and varied?

This class will pair novels and short stories with select critical readings from affect theory, urban studies, modernist studies, cultural studies, and ecocriticism. Possible authors include James Baldwin, Amit Chaudhuri, Anton Chekhov, Christopher Isherwood, James Joyce, Kathleen Stewart, Madeleine Thien, and Virginia Woolf.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Abramson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020, Spring 2022

392 The Performance of Politics

When someone says that a politician is being “theatrical” or that a protestor is following a “script,” it is rarely meant as a compliment‒but why? The implication is that true politics is never theatrical, never scripted, never performed, never entangled with spectacle. Put so baldly, this claim is pretty hard to believe. If, instead, we take for granted that all politics is performed, we are left with several unanswered questions. What would an eye trained on performance (theater, dance, film, comedy, spoken word, etc.) see in our politics that someone else would not? Are there distinct performance traditions in politics, as there are in the performing arts? How do activists and office-holders enter these traditions, learn their ways, and apply them in everyday settings? How are citizens expected (or trained) to engage with this performance of politics‒either as spectators or co-performers? What are the key genres of political performance, and what should every citizen know about them? This class will teach you to see these as researchable questions‒and as part of an ongoing scholarly conversation in fields ranging from performance studies, art history, and media studies to sociology, anthropology, political theory, and history. Through reading and discussion, students will learn to think in interdisciplinary terms about politics, making connections across fields and methodologies. They will also study representations of political action and debate in film, television, and theater in order to uncover whatever lessons performing artists can teach us about contemporary political life.

January term. Professor Grobe.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in January 2021, January 2022, Spring 2022

416 In the Archives of Childhood: Adventures in Book History

(Offered as ENGL 416 and AMST 367) Children’s books have always been part toy. The odd duality of all books–simultaneously object and text, commodity and meaning–is particularly evident in books made for children. Think how much more varied in the shape and size of volumes, the font and layout of print, the style and quantity of illustration are books intended for children compared to books for adults. Sites of innovation and experimentation in book production, children’s literature provides an excellent ground for studying book history. So too, book history provides a good gauge of shifts in cultural attitudes towards childhood. This course is interested in tracing both the history of childhood and the history of books, and what each can tell us about the other.

The course will provide an extraordinary opportunity for original archival research in the world’s finest collection of early American children’s literature. Half of the course meetings will be held at the American Antiquarian Society, in Worcester, Massachusetts, granting students access to one of America’s premier research libraries and enabling students to work directly with the rare materials housed there and with the society’s knowledgeable curators and librarians. This research will culminate in a substantial independent project.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. This course meets for 180 minutes. On days when the class meets at the American Antiquarian Society students should expect to leave Amherst at 1 p.m. and return by 6:30 p.m. Omitted 2021-22. Professor K. Sánchez-Eppler.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2019

432 Shakespeare: Media, Technology, and Performance

[Before 1800] In 1623, what we now call Shakespeare’s First Folio was printed. As a printed book, it represented an object made with some of that culture’s very latest media technology, namely the printing press. Shakespeare’s plays depict technologies: characters use compasses and astronomical charts, for example. His plays were also staged using technology: set design included pyrotechnics, costuming, and the other necessities of putting on a good show. This course will ask, how did Shakespeare’s plays both represent technology in fiction and require it in performance? In order to investigate Early Modern technologies of performance, we will read selections from Shakespearean plays and poems, as well as Renaissance treatises on science and technology.

Of course, technology plays a large role in modern productions. Whether through discussing the advent of electric lights in playhouses, to film adaptations and high-budget productions from the Royal Shakespeare Company, to digital editions of the plays, to experimental augmented reality interfaces, we will critically engage with the technologies of Shakespearean performance in the past, present, and even future. As a final project, students will complete a multimedia project on a chosen play, combining historical research with digital, creative, and experimental practices.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Professor Henrichs.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

435 The Play of Ideas

(Offered as ENGL 435 and THDA 335) We don’t just think, speak, or write our ideas; we perform them, too. Think TED Talks. Think political movements. Think 400-level seminars in English. In this course, you will read plays that are fueled by an argument and arguments that look an awful lot like plays. Readings will range from ancient philosophical dialogues to modern “plays of ideas”–from essays on pedagogy to works of social theory. As the semester wears on, you will begin to research your own angle on our central theme: Ideas performed. Your final project will be a mock prospectus, in which you imagine this “angle” turning into a thesis project–creative, critical, or a mixture of the two.

Previous experience with drama or performance theory might help, but is hardly required for enrollment. As a matter of fact, this course works best when students from a wide range of majors enroll. The reading load isn’t heavy, but expectations are high that you will turn up to class prepared to engage in an active discussion. I mean, would you show up to a performance not knowing your lines, or fail to speak when you heard your cue? I didn’t think so. See you there.

As a small, advanced seminar, this course will proceed mainly through synchronous small-group discussions of shared texts, videos, and images. Students will also take part in synchronous workshops (during regular course meeting times) on research skills, oral presentations, and the craft of proposing a thesis. Those not proposing a thesis–or who are already writing one–will have the choice to work instead on collaborative final projects in lieu of submitting a mock prospectus.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Grobe.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2013, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2021

441 Medieval and Renaissance Lyric

(Offered as ENGL 441 and EUST 374) [Before 1800] In this course, we read a selection of English and other European lyrics (in translation) from the twelfth through the seventeenth centuries. An exciting, fertile era in poetic innovation, these centuries see the dawn of the first romantic love poetry in these languages, the invention of new forms like the sonnet, and the invention of the lyric “anthology.” Reading the lyrics of the French troubadour poets, Chaucer, Petrarch, Wyatt, Donne, Shakespeare, and the many brilliant anonymous poets of medieval England, we will examine both the text and contexts of these short poems. Close readings will be put in dialogue with cultural contexts (such as the volatile court of Henry VIII, in which Thomas Wyatt wrote), and the material contexts of the lyrics (the medieval and early modern manuscripts and books in which they first appeared). We will further think about how the term “lyric” emerges as a privileged poetic category, by reading contemporary “defenses” of poetry and thinking about why the word “lyric” only appears in the sixteenth century. Does the “lyric” poem change once it is defined? How do later works speak to the earlier tradition?

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Nelson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2014, Fall 2016, Spring 2020, Spring 2022

445 British Romantic Poetry: Nature and the Imagination

Can reading poetry change our understanding of our environment? How might the way we perceive nature be conditioned by the ways in which writers have imagined it? In turn, how might the way we perceive our own imaginations be conditioned by ideas about the natural world? Although “nature” might seem like a universal and unchanging concept, British Romantic writers did much to invent our modern ideas about it. Notions of perception, cognition, and the imagination changed alongside our ideas about nature. We will debate what impact this history has had on current environmental discourse, contemporary ethics, and the Green movement. Some critics have argued, for instance, that the Romantics’ reverence for nature is more destructive than it might at first seem. Might it be more environmentally responsible to get rid of the Romantic concept of “nature” altogether? This course gives students a thorough grounding in Romantic Poetry, the philosophy of aesthetics, and literary theory, while also giving them a chance to follow their own research interests in a final project.

The majority of this course will revolve around discussion in various formats, though there will be opportunities for visits to museums and archives in smaller groups. Since research and individual projects will be a central feature of this class, students will receive individual attention and feedback on their work. Students will also have a chance to engage with scholars working in this area.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Worsley.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020, Spring 2022

448 The Body in Peril–An Exploration of Tragedy through Poetic Form

Writing is the landscape through which poets explore the human body. The fluidity of a text often mirrors our relationship to memory–the recollection of the sensory discovering harmony with the fluidity of a poem’s language and syntax. But what happens when a disruption in one’s fundamental experience of being alters the ways in which we experience the world?

In spaces of distress, poetry often makes courageous leaps in formal reinvention. As opposed to dwelling heavily on the subject of physical disruption, this course will examine ways contemporary writers have discovered, or reimagined, prosody as a way to explore the human experience through vulnerability and authenticity. The course will include close-readings of four to six collections of poetry, some creative writing, and discussions on mindfulness practices–all culminating in a critical/personal essay exploring a selected poem of your choice.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Lawson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019

449 Avant-Garde Poetry

Avant-garde poetry resists definition. In this course, we will explore poetry that defies convention, be it formal (exploding the poetic verse line), material (appearing outside of the conventional venues of the published, mass-produced book), or linguistic (using everyday language rather than poetic diction). We will read widely from a range of twentieth- and twenty-first century poets as well as important nineteenth-century forebears. The course will center on the movements and schools of avant-garde poetry in the Anglo-American tradition, such as modernism (T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein); the Harlem Renaissance (Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson); the Beat Poets (Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder); the New York School (Frank O’Hara, Ted Berrigan); the Black Arts poets (Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni); the Language Poets (Susan Howe, Charles Bernstein); and contemporary poets (Nathaniel Mackey, Alice Notley). We will also look at artists’ books, broadsides, and other poetry that makes interesting use of the conventional materials and layout of poetry and poetic books. We will ask, how do these poets and movements challenge the aesthetic and poetic conventions of their time(s)? How do they expand or challenge the boundaries of poetic forms and subjects? What opportunities and constraints do avant-garde approaches offer to poets of color and/or women poets?

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Nelson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2020

453 The Value of Literature

Why, Rita Felski asks, are people “willing to drive five hundred miles to hear a band playing a certain song, or spend years in graduate school puzzling over a single novel?” Concepts like “cultural capital,” “the hegemonic media industry,” or “interpretive communities” do not fully explain “why it is this particular tune that plays over and over in our heads, why it is Virginia Woolf alone who becomes an object of obsession.” Something else has to be involved, a “rogue something,” in the words of Toni Morrison’s narrator in Jazz, that you “have to figure in before you can figure it out.” In this seminar, students will first explore the phenomenon of aesthetic valuation, then turn to a consideration of when, why, and for whom literary experiences are valuable, and finally embark on independent research projects in which each of them studies a single author in depth and experiments with ways of articulating (in a class presentation and in a final essay) the kinds of value that that author may be said to have.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2017, Fall 2019

458 Indigenous American Epics

(Offered as ENGL 458 and AMST 358) [Before 1800] This course will delve deeply into Indigenous literatures of “Turtle Island,” or North America. The Kiché Maya Popol Wuj (Council Book), the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Great Law of Peace, the Wabanaki creation cycle, and Salish Coyote Stories are rooted in longstanding, complex oral narratives of emergence and transformation, which were recorded by Indigenous authors and scribes. These texts will enable us to consider how the temporal and spatial boundaries of America are both defined and extended by colonization, and disrupted by Indigenous texts and decolonial theory. We will close read these major epics as works of classical literature, narratives of tribal history, and living political constitutions, which embed ecological and cultural adaptation.

Reading each long text (in English translation) over several weeks, we will study the tribally and regionally-specific contexts of each epic narrative as well as the “intellectual trade routes” that link them together. We will also consider the place of these epics within American literature and history and their contributions to historical and contemporary decolonization. We will discuss the ways in which the narratives challenge conceptual boundaries, considering categories such as land/place, gender, sexuality, and other-than-human beings.

Open to juniors and seniors, and to sophomores with consent of the instructor. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Brooks.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2021

470 Decolonial Love

In this upper-level course, we will read literary and theoretical texts that, although loosely grouped in terms of period, geography, and style, are all driven by the same set of questions: Is decolonial love possible? What does it look and feel like? We will read scholars and writers who describe the ways that imperialism, capitalism, racism, and heteropatriarchy structure conventional ways of loving, caring, and forming social bonds, as well as conventional ways of telling stories and writing novels. And we will follow these writers as they imagine alternatives to these conventional structures, asking how we might alter the aspects of ourselves and our worlds that seem as fundamental and as intractable as our aesthetics, our desires, our very pleasures. As a class, we will build transportable definitions of colonialism, anticolonialism, and decoloniality from the texts we study and the contexts in which they were written and that they reflect. We will investigate the power of these analytic categories to interrogate aspects of personal as well as geopolitical experience, particularly aspects of experience that we have sometimes mistakenly believed to be without historical or sociological determinants. Possible texts include: Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks; Moraga and Anzaldúa, eds., This Bridge Called My Back; Stevenson, Life Beside Itself; Muñoz, Cruising Utopia; Lorde, “The Uses of the Erotic”; Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun; Cisneros, The House on Mango Street; Mahajan, The Association of Small Bombs; Cole, Open City; Sollett, Raising Victor Vargas; Lee, BlacKkKlansman; Simpson, Islands of Decolonial Love.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Mireles Christoff.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2022

471 Time, Memory, and Ghosts in Post-Dictatorial Narratives

Giorgio Agamben writes in Remnants of Auschwitz that “trauma is thus an event that has no beginning, no ending, no before, no during, and no after.” In this seminar, we will study texts from different genres–poetry, fiction, and memoir–that attempt to narrativize the timeless, ubiquitous, and haunted event that is a military dictatorship. How do these texts undertake the task of remembering or reimagining the past? How do they fill the gap between memory and history, between testimony and literature, and between past and present? What does or can literature do with a legacy of violence and oppression? Readings may include works by Argentinian-Mexican visual artist and novelist Verónica Gerber Bicecci, the Chilean poet Raúl Zurita, the Padaung (Burmese) memoirist Pascal Khoo Thwe, and the Ghanaian-born novelist Ayesha Harruna Attah.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Writer Myint.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Spring 2022

473 Hybrid Forms

The non-traditional texts of writers like Claudia Rankine, Maggie Nelson, Viet Thanh Nguyen and Alison Bechdel have garnered great success that has introduced new audiences to the world of hybrid forms. Through close reading and a study of works at the apex of literary deconstruction, we will erase the lines drawn between poetry and prose, image and memoir, percentage graph and fiction and will embark on an expedition through contemporary hybrid texts, asking what dictates how we define genre.

Completion of this course will include a collaborative oral presentation guiding the reading of one of the semester’s assigned texts and a final critical research project presented in a hybrid form that breaks the boundaries of expected academia. Use of hybridity in the construction of all class assignments (short essays, personal responses, reflections, etc.) will be strongly encouraged.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Lawson and Visiting Lecturer Bernitt.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Fall 2021

475 Fashion / Media / Modernity

(Offered as ENGL 475 and FAMS 431) Fashion has long been associated with frivolity, ephemerality, and triviality. Yet trends in clothing and design are irrevocably linked to politics, technology, society, and cultural change–from hats to hemlines to heels, fashion can reveal the transformations of an era. How has fashion evolved in the modern age, and what is its relationship to literature, film, and other media forms? What can fashion teach us about our past, present, and future? This advanced seminar will delve into the interdisciplinary field of fashion studies to examine the vicissitudes of fashion from the nineteenth century onward, focusing on Britain, Europe, and the United States, with an eye toward the role of imperialism, Orientalism, and cultural appropriation in shaping fashion’s tangled histories. Students will study literary texts; film and television; print, visual, and digital media; and material culture. Potential case studies include the dandy, the New Woman, and the flapper; wartime fashions; subcultural style; the wedding gown; the sneaker; among other topics. Students will do independent research, culminating in a written research project and/or curated digital exhibit; keep a weekly reading/viewing journal recording their critical responses to the assigned texts; and facilitate discussion on a given topic. Students can expect to gain: a familiarity with key terms and approaches in fashion studies, media studies, and cultural studies; an ability to think and write critically about fashion and fashion media, in terms of aesthetics, historical development, and cultural context; confidence in reading critical/theoretical essays; and proficiency in various aspects of project-based work, including identifying a research topic, building arguments, using evidence, and working with and appropriately citing a variety of sources.

Requisite: At least one 200-level foundations course in English, Film & Media Studies, Art & the History of Art, History, Theater and Dance, and/or Sexuality, Women’s & Gender Studies. Upper-level coursework in one or more of these fields is strongly recommended. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

480 The Film Essay

(Offered as ENGL 480 and FAMS 411) The “essay” derives its meaning from the original French essayer: to try or attempt. In its attempts to work through and experiment with new ideas, the essay form becomes a manifestation of observation, experience, and transformation. Originally developed through the written form, the essay has also taken shape in visual work–photographic, installation, and, of course, cinematic. The “essay film” is exploratory, digressive, subjective; the “video essay” is similarly personal and simultaneously transformative. The “film essay” has the capacity to be all of these things, though in the past few decades this form has become arguably schematic. Working against the conventions of the “academic” or college essay and inspired by visual experimentation, this course will explore film through a variety of manifestations of the written essay. After all, since film comes in multiple forms and offers multiple experiences, it demands multiple possibilities of rhetorical exploration.

The models for writing in this course will come from both visual and written works. Course readings will be collected from a range of historical periods and will run a gamut of approaches to film: theoretical and experiential, critical and poetic, autobiographical and historical. Class screenings will similarly come from a variety of historical eras, genres, and national spaces. Because writing assignments will often explore the cultural experience of the movies, we will visit a variety of screening venues, including a film festival, “archival” and repertory houses, art cinemas, and commercial theaters. Though it will include some lectures to contextualize readings, this course will primarily be discussion-oriented, with attentive writing workshops. Thus experimenting with method and form, students will produce weekly writings, two extended essays, and a collaboratively-produced project.

Requisite: a 200-level foundations course in ENGL or FAMS. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Hastie.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Spring 2020, Fall 2021

481 Conversations with Experimental Filmmakers

(Offered as ENGL 481, ARHA 481, and FAMS 481) Experimental film is a vital area of contemporary media culture where artists engage the moving image from a wide range of creative approaches, exploring film as an aesthetic, poetic, or political medium, rather than a commercial enterprise. By departing from the conventions of mainstream film, experimental filmmakers present their audience with a stimulating challenge, asking viewers to develop new critical frameworks through which to assess films that often resist classification and traditional interpretive approaches.

In this seminar, students will take up this challenge by exploring different ways of entering into conversation with the work of experimental filmmakers. Through weekly screenings, in-class visits by contemporary filmmakers, and group discussions of course readings (such as artists’ writings, interviews, and related theoretical material), we will develop critical and creative vocabularies that help us to analyze and respond to an array of experimental films and videos. Along with completing writing assignments and in-class presentations, students will plan and execute a final project that can assume a number of critical or creative forms, such as an interview with a filmmaker, a short video, or an analytical essay.

Requisite: At least one foundational course in FAMS, ARHA, or ENGL. Open to juniors and seniors, and to sophomores with consent of the instructor. Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Guilford.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016, Fall 2019

484 “It was the ’70s”: US Film, History, and the Cultural Imagination

(Offered as ENGL 484 and FAMS 424) Sometimes referred to as the “silver era” of US film production, the 1970s were a period of aesthetic, technological, and cultural transformation. New “auteurs” emerged as both mavericks and commercial success stories. Independence reigned supreme for some, while others helped to usher in the contemporary blockbuster. At the same time, scholarly study of film was steadily increasing, experimenting with new disciplinary methods, waging debates, and often distancing itself from popular critical writings. All told, such narratives of the era have meant that the 1970s looms large in our cultural imagination of film production. This course will trace film history to consider how narratives of the era have been written and how, in recent years, they have been written anew.

The first half of the course will explore several canonical works, while the second half of the course will consider films that have been recently excavated and/or remade. By intermixing popular critical writings (including reviews, interviews, and essays), academic writings of the era, and recent historical studies, we will consider historical and historiographical methods of film studies scholarship. Moreover, in our discussion of newly excavated or historically underrepresented cases–including works directed by women, examples of Blaxploitation cinema, and independent drama–we will explore how canons are both designed and remade, functioning as emblems of the time of their own critical production. Students will work with primary archival materials along with contemporaneous critical or theoretical models in order to develop their own historical narratives of 1970s film.

Requisite: Prior FAMS coursework or, alternatively, prior 200-level courses in ENGL. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hastie.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020

485 The City in Literature and Early Film

(Offered as ENGL 485 and FAMS 438) This course examines the role of the city in shaping modern experience. We will study literary works by Charles Baudelaire, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, and Virginia Woolf alongside a number of early films, reading these texts against historical and critical discussions of everyday life in the urban environment. Among other themes, we will take up the debate over “flanerie” as a spatial and social practice, investigating the class and gender dynamics of urban and cinematic spectatorship. Our conversations will be shaped by an awareness of the city as a geographically locatable space to be mapped and traversed, but also as a site for imaginary projections of individual and collective experience. In addition to a short creative assignment, two formal essays are required: a midterm paper (5-7 pages) involving close textual analysis of a primary source; and a final research paper (12-15 pages), with a draft to be revised in conjunction with a peer review workshop.

This course will run primarily online, with periodic small-group meetings for students who are in residence on campus and parallel small-group meetings for remote students. The additional evening time slot will provide opportunities for students to screen films and engage in structured small-group discussion synchronously, whether remotely or in person. There may be additional opportunities for in-person meetings (including office hours) as the semester progresses.

Requisite: A 200-level foundations course in English or equivalent. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021

487 Postwar American Cinema, 1945-1960

(Offered as ENGL 487 and FAMS 425) In the years following World War II, a series of rapid and far-reaching transformations–economic, technological, social, political–dramatically reconfigured American life. Throughout this period of change, cinema served as both mirror and catalyst, reflecting national crises and upheavals while also contributing to the transformation of American culture. This seminar explores both sides of this dynamic, examining how postwar American filmmakers devised innovative strategies for representing the dilemmas of their time, and how artists, studios, and lawmakers sought to intervene in such dilemmas via the moving image. We will view and discuss key examples of popular Hollywood genres from this period–film noir, science fiction, the western, etc.–as well as independent, documentary, and avant-garde films created by countercultural, feminist, queer, and Black artists. Weekly readings will engage such subjects as: nuclear anxiety; suburban domesticity and surveillance; Beat culture and spontaneity; totalitarianism; racial prejudice and civil rights; urban renewal and queer desire; gender and consumer culture; blacklisting, and others. Students will explore such issues through in-class presentations, critical essays, and individual research projects.

Requisite: At least one foundational course in ENGL or FAMS. Open to juniors and seniors and to sophomores with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Guilford.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

490 Special Topics

Independent reading courses.

Fall and spring semester. The Department.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

491 The Creole Imagination

(Offered as ENGL 491, BLST 461 [CLA], and LLAS 461) What would it mean to write in the language in which we dream? A language that we can hear, but cannot (yet) see? Is it possible to conceive a language outside the socio-symbolic order? And can one language subvert the codes and values of another? Questions like these have animated the creolité/nation language debate among Caribbean intellectuals since the mid-1970s, producing some of the most significant francophone and anglophone writing of the twentieth century. This course reads across philosophy, cultural theory, politics, and literature in order to consider the claims such works make for the Creole imagination. We will engage the theoretical and creative work of Édouard Glissant, Maryse Condé, Wilson Harris, Derek Walcott, Kamau Brathwaite, Patrick Chamoiseau, Jamaica Kincaid, and Edwidge Danticat. We also will consider how these writers transform some of the fundamental ideas of psychoanalysis, poststructuralism, and critical historiography. At stake in our readings will be the various aesthetic and political aspects of postcolonial struggle–how to think outside the colonial architecture of language; how to contest and subvert what remains from history’s violence; and how to evaluate the claims to authenticity of creolized New World cultural forms.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Cobham-Sander.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2015, Spring 2018, Spring 2020

492 Creative Thesis Workshop

This is a non-required course for English majors who are currently working on a creative writing or hybrid thesis project. It is meant to offer guidance and a sense of community to these writers as they embark on what can feel like a formidable process. In this course, we will discuss and analyze examples of senior theses in various forms, and discuss issues peculiar to the task of planning, researching, and writing a project of this scope. We will read together to help writers identify models and understand the literary tradition(s) they are working in. We will also talk about the kinds of research that each project invites and requires, and about how to conduct and use that research.

Guided writing in class will play a key role in working through issues of technique, structure, and inspiration. Most important, this course offers students the chance to present and critique work-in-progress with a group of their peers.

Please note: This course does not replace ENGL-498, the Senior Tutorial, which covers students’ independent work under the tutelage of a thesis advisor.

Open to senior majors currently writing a creative or hybrid thesis. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Frank.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

494 Globe and Planet in Contemporary Literature

What does it mean to talk about literature as “global”? How do writers engage the idea of the globe politically, aesthetically, and environmentally?

This is a class about problems of scale and scope. We will consider how contemporary writers represent phenomena that cross national borders: particular attention will be paid to climate change, migration and immigration, the idea of the “global city,” war and terrorism, and the living legacies of colonialism, slavery, and diaspora. What are the formal and ethical challenges of thinking on a global scale? When thinking globally, how can we preserve awareness of local and historical differences? What are literary theorists saying about these questions today? Our readings will pair late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century fiction with critical and theoretical work drawn from ecocriticism and the environmental humanities, postcolonial studies, cultural studies, and so-called new global modernisms. This class will also emphasize the process and skills involved in upper-level literary analysis and research: we will experiment with a range of strategies for note-taking, making sense of dense texts, framing research questions, and finding openings and opportunities to engage in ongoing critical debates and conversations.

Possible authors include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Teju Cole, Mohsin Hamid, Jamaica Kincaid, Arundhati Roy, and W. G. Sebald.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Abramson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021, Fall 2021

495 Modernism, Trauma, and Theories of Violence

This course puts modernist formal innovation in conversation with theories of violence and trauma. We will examine the complex intersection between shattering historical violence and modernist formal and aesthetic techniques, including fragmentation, impressionism, collage, empty centers, rupture, abstraction, and multiperspectivalism. We will pay particular attention to what happens when language and literary form run up against the unspeakable, the unimaginable, the blank, the empty.

Critical readings will be drawn from a range of theoretical works on violence and trauma (postcolonialism, psychoanalysis, cognitive psychology, and affect theory). These textual pairings will provide a case study for how close reading can be enriched by theoretical and historical scaffolding. We will focus on the ways that war and violence overspill boundaries–beyond the battlefield, beyond the moment of impact, beyond what is visible, beyond national borders, beyond the signing of peace treaties. We will consider violence done to individual bodies and minds, as well as the ways that the shocks of world wars reverberate historically and around the globe. How do modernist texts blur lines between front-lines/home front, victim/perpetrator, and civilian/combatant?

Possible authors include Edmund Blunden, Cathy Caruth, Sigmund Freud, Frantz Fanon, Toni Morrison, Michael Ondaatje, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, W. G. Sebald, and Virginia Woolf.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Abramson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

496 Literary and Critical Theory

This course introduces students to the basic concepts and methods of literary and critical theory, a body of work that explores and critiques modern assumptions about truth, culture, power, language, representation, subject-formation, and identity. Surveying a wide range of authors and approaches (postcolonial, gender studies and queer theory, critical race theory, psychoanalytic, etc.), students will grapple with complex theoretical texts, consider the place of theory in literary studies and in film, media, and cultural studies as well, and begin to imagine ways of putting theoretical ideas to work for themselves.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Bosman.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2022

497 Critical Thesis Workshop

This is a non-required course for English majors who are currently working on a critical or hybrid (i.e., not pure creative writing) thesis project. It is meant to offer guidance and a sense of scholarly community to students as they embark on what can feel like a formidable (and often lonely) process. In this course, we will discuss and analyze examples of the thesis form. We will analyze and practice some of the many subgenres theses contain (e.g., the introduction, the literature review, the methodological statement, and various ways of incorporating the voices of other critics, historians, or theorists). We will also read a representative range of recent criticism in the field, discussing critical methods, rhetorical tactics, and writerly voices employed in that work. And we will discuss issues peculiar to the task of planning, researching, and writing a long critical thesis. Most important, as in an advanced creative writing workshop, this course offers students the chance to present and critique work-in-progress with a group of their peers.

Please note: This course does not replace ENGL-498, the Senior Tutorial, which covers students’ independent work under the tutelage of a thesis advisor.

A major goal of this course is to foster mutual care and support among English Department thesis writers. With that in mind, the main mode of instruction for this course will be discussion–sometimes about shared readings, sometimes about other students’ writing, and sometimes about the writing process itself. Guided writing in class will play a key role in making the writing process available for discussion. Additionally, students will meet one-on-one (or in small groups) with the professor to discuss their own thesis progress. Finally, students will have the opportunity to take part in structured co-writing sessions outside of class.

Open to juniors and seniors. Preference given to English majors currently writing a critical thesis. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Grobe.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020, Fall 2021

498, 498D, 499 Senior Tutorial

Open to senior English majors who wish to pursue a self-defined project in reading and writing. Students intending to elect this course must submit to the Department a five-page description and rationale for the proposed independent study. Those who propose projects in fiction, verse, playwriting, or autobiography must submit a substantial sample of work in the appropriate mode; students wishing to undertake critical projects must include a tentative bibliography with their proposal. Please consult the English Department website for deadlines and for more information on the senior honors process.

Preregistration is not allowed. Admission with consent of the instructor. Fall semester. The Department.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

Related Courses

Regulations & Requirements

Regulations & Requirements

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English

Professors Emeriti O'Connell and Sofield; Senior Lecturer Emeritus Lieber; Professors Brooks, Cobham-Sander‡, Frank‡, Hastie‡, Parham*, Sanborn (Director of Studies), and K. Sánchez-Eppler†; Associate Professors Bosman, Mireles Christoff†, Grobe (Chair), Nelson†, and Rangan†; Assistant Professors Abramson, Guilford, Lawson‡, Myint†, and Worsley; Writer-in-Residence Lee*; Lecturer and Director of the Creative Writing Program Kapur; Lecturer and Director of the Intensive Writing Program Reardon; Senior Lecturer B. Sánchez-Eppler; Lecturer Sweeney; Visiting Professor Sanders; Visiting Lecturers Bernitt, Couch, Masiki, and Ocasion; Visiting Instructor Gooptu; Merrill Visiting Poet Dryansky.

Major Program. Students majoring in English are encouraged to explore the Department’s wide range of offerings in literature, film and media, performance studies, cultural studies, and creative writing.

Majoring in English requires the completion of ten courses offered or approved by the Department. The Department organizes its courses into four levels. The courses numbered in the 100s are writing-attentive and writing-intensive courses that introduce students to a variety of genres and media, entail frequent writing, and cultivate students’ skills in close reading. The courses in the 200s emphasize a particular approach to method, genre, medium, period, or discourse. They include introductory courses in creative writing as well as literary, film, or cultural study. The courses in the 300s are electives designed to foster immersion into specific topics in literary, film, cultural studies and creative writing. They help students learn skills and/or study materials that will prepare them for independent work in their 400-level seminars. They are open, however, to both majors and non-majors across the college, and generally do not carry prerequisites for admission. Courses in the 400s are junior and senior seminars emphasizing independent inquiry, critical and theoretical issues, and extensive writing. These courses teach students the intellectual skills vital to framing a research question and conducting independent research.

Majors are required to take at least one 100 course, at least two 200 courses, at least two 300 courses, and at least two 400-level seminars. One of these courses must substantially address material from the period before 1800. While senior thesis and special topics courses also have 400 numbers, these individualized courses cannot count as the 400-level seminar.

In the early spring of each year, senior majors present independent work drawn from one of their 400-level seminars or from their senior theses at the English Department Capstone Symposium to fulfill the Comprehensive Requirement. The ten-minute presentations can take many forms and they will be organized into panels. The Comprehensive Requirement is fulfilled by presenting your work at the Symposium, participating in preparation sessions, and also participating in the conversations that are generated by your classmates’ presentations.

Majors may count towards the ten required courses up to three courses in creative writing. Level and period requirements should be fulfilled with courses from Amherst College English Department offerings. Because 400-level seminars can lead in the senior year to a thesis project, the Department strongly urges majors to take at least one of their required 400-level seminars before the end of the junior year. The Department will not guarantee admission to a particular 400-level seminar in the second semester of the senior year.

Senior Thesis. The senior thesis provides an opportunity for independent study to any senior major who is adequately motivated and prepared to undertake such work. English majors apply for admission to the senior thesis courses (English 498/499) in April of their junior year. Admission to English 498/499 is contingent upon the Department’s judgment of the feasibility and value of the student’s proposal as well as of their preparation and capacity to carry it through to a fruitful conclusion. The Department assigns Thesis Advisors to students whose applications it approves.

To be considered for senior honors a student must submit to the Department a portfolio, which contains normally 50 to 70 pages of writing. The work may take the form of a critical essay, a short film or video, a collection of essays or poems or stories, a play, a mixture of forms, an exploration in education or cultural studies.

Before a student can submit a thesis, the final work must be approved by the student’s designated advisor. Once the thesis is approved, the Department appoints a committee of faculty examiners to read it. Following an interview with the student, the committee conveys its evaluation to the whole Department, which then makes the final recommendation for the level of honors in English.

Departmental Honors Program. The Department awards Latin honors to seniors who have achieved distinction in course work for the major and who have also demonstrated, in a submitted portfolio of critical or creative work, a capacity to excel in composition. Students qualify for Latin honors only if they have attained a B+ average in courses approved for the major; the degree summa cum laude usually presupposes an A average.

Learning Goals. By the time of their graduation, we expect that students who major in English will have become:

  • Adept at reading closely and writing well.
  • Skilled at critical writing about works in multiple genres, including both written texts, performances and visual narratives such as film. Some students may choose to create works of their own in verse, prose fiction or other media.
  • Attentive to the production of literary culture in a range of historical periods and social contexts.
  • Informed about the relationship between literary texts, literary criticism, and theories about cultural production.
  • Well versed in the literature associated with at least one specific area of concentration.
  • Capable of producing a well-researched long essay and/or completing a sustained creative project.

Graduate Study. Students interested in graduate work in English or related fields should discuss their plans with their advisor and other members of the Department to learn about particular programs, requirements for admission, the availability of fellowships, and prospects for a professional career. Many graduate programs in English or comparative literature require reading competence in several foreign languages; while to some extent these programs permit students to satisfy the requirement concurrently with graduate work, we would encourage those interested in graduate study to broaden their language skills while at Amherst. We would also encourage students to consider writing a thesis, for several reasons: to produce a polished writing sample they can submit with their application; to gain, and demonstrate, experience in sustained independent work; and to get a sense of the areas they might want to pursue in graduate school, some knowledge of which is essential for writing an effective admissions essay.

N.B. The English Department does not grant advanced placement on the basis of College Entrance Examination Board scores.

*On leave 2021-22.
†On leave fall semester 2021-22.
‡On leave spring semester 2021-22.

105 Engaging Literature: Close Reading

Why study literature? In many contexts, including the contexts of most other academic disciplines, one reads in order to extract the gist of a text. By studying literature, we enable ourselves to do much more than that. Studying literature makes it possible to recover a relationship to language that we all once had, in which words and their interrelationships were new, strange, and rich with possibility. It makes it possible to develop a more acute awareness of the ongoing tension between language as units of meaning (words, phrases, sentences) and language as units of sound (the beat of syllables, the harmonization of one syllable with another). It even makes it possible for us to carry this sense of everything that is uncanny about language–the medium of our relationship to others and to ourselves–into our lives more generally, to recognize that in just about everything that we say, we mean more than we mean to mean. People who study literature are people who are capable of taking away from conversations, no less than from poems, much more than the gist, the summary, the bottom line. By dwelling on texts patiently, by slowing down the process of moving from mystery to certainty, by opening ourselves to the crosscurrents of potential meanings that are present at every moment in just about every sentence, it is possible for us to become more accurate and nuanced readers of just about everything that happens in our lives.

Eighteen seats reserved for first-year students. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2020

106 Engaging Literature: Craft, Conversation, Community

Literature engages us. It moves us, it delights us, it makes us ask hard questions. How do we engage literature? How do we respond to it in conversation, in writing, in performance, and in our communities? How do we write about literature in a way that effectively engages others?

This course seeks to engage you in a process of seeing literature and your own writing process anew. We will engage with authors, in person, in public, and on the page. We will attend literary events and enter into conversations among writers: authors who are influenced and inspired by each other, literary critics who give us illuminating interpretations, and literary historians who open our eyes to contexts heretofore unseen. Students will practice writing about literature in a range of modes from the personal essay to the book review to the academic paper. Frequent writing workshops will be geared toward the process of revising in a collaborative environment. A first course in reading fictional, dramatic, lyric, and non-fiction texts, this course also challenges Amherst College students to think of themselves as writers.

Preference given to first-year students. Limited to 18 students. Ten seats reserved for first-year students. Omitted 2021-22. Professors Brooks and Mireles Christoff.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2018, Spring 2020

107 Poetry with Friends

This poetry workshop is made for buddies: the ones you build and the ones you bring. Although most poets love to go solo, the contemporary writers we will study in this course prove how writing can be better with friends.

In this course, we will look at contemporary poets who collaborate: to perform, to further their own collections, to create their passion projects. We will look at poetic movements that planted the seed for twenty-first century partnerships and examine contemporary collaborations that prove there’s poetic strength in numbers.

Requirements for this course include a desire to experiment with collaboration. Students are encouraged to register with a friend as a way to begin their writing partnership but will also be paired with a partner or group within the course to write with. Completion of this course will include the creation of two sets of collaborative work. Partners will decide if this means writing individual poems that are in conversation with each other, or writing work collectively. This is a great course for non-majors and good friends.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester: Professor Lawson and Visiting Lecturer Dan Bernitt. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Fall 2021

110 Writing About Humor

Why do we laugh at some jokes but not others? What makes something funny? This class will explore humor as a core rhetorical concept to study audience, genre, purpose, context, and exigency. We will analyze how situational and language humor work in essays, stories, and visual media. Students will build their critical reading and writing skills through short, low-stakes weekly writing and three major papers. We will consider how the intersectional identities of authors and audiences (i.e.: how class, race, gender, and disability, among others) influence joke construction and reception. As we read, we will pay close attention to the way that writers use humor as a tool for social critique and to release tension. Students can expect to build a toolkit for creating arguments with evidence, and they will frequently revise the content, organization, and language in their work. We will work together to develop a community of writers who can mutually support each other through the writing process.

Preference given to first-year Amherst College students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Lecturer Reardon.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

111 Having Arguments

Using a variety of texts–novels, essays, short stories–this course will work to develop the reading and writing of difficult prose, paying particular attention to the kinds of evidence and authority, logic and structure that produce strong arguments. The authors we study may include Peter Singer, Aravind Adiga, Willa Cather, Toni Morrison, George Orwell, Charles Johnson, James Baldwin, Alice Munro, William Carlos Williams. This is an intensive writing course. Frequent short papers will be assigned.

Preference given to first-year Amherst College students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester. Senior Lecturer Emeritus Lieber.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2021, Fall 2021

113 Writing Human Rights

This course explores human rights rhetoric through readings of a range of non-fiction briefs, academic articles, and reportage, alongside fictional works. It asks students, through critical writing, to come to terms with our responsibilities as global citizens for upholding a culture of dignity in our world. Together, we will examine the way that authors use the written word to push readers to empathize with others, reflect on the past, learn about injustices, and imagine new realities–as we do the same in our own writing. We will pay close attention to the way that writers build arguments, use evidence, organize texts, and edit their own work, with an eye on developing strategies for using these skills in class assignments, and transferring them to other classes as well. Through writing projects that analyze, challenge, and extend authors’ arguments about the universality of human rights and the pursuit of social and racial justice, we will evaluate the ways that words fuel and mitigate conflict–in both productive and destructive ways.

Preference given to first-year Amherst College students. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester. Lecturer Reardon.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

114 Narratives of Migration and Transformation

How does migration transform identity? Which techniques do writers use to express and recreate this complex experience on the page? What role can language and narrative technique play in forging a sense of self and home? How might writing be related to refuge? Reading across genres of poetry, fiction and memoir, this class explores how writers have described the experience of locating themselves while departing, arriving or living in between. The course will cover topics such as alienation, assimilation, generational memory, survival, nostalgia, hybridity, and transformation. Students can expect a wide range of writing assignments, both analytical and creative. Readings may include Bapsi Sidhwa, Amitav Ghosh, Zadie Smith, José Olivarez, Warsan Shire, Suji Kwock Kim, Fady Joudah, Edwidge Danticat, Eduardo Corral and Ocean Vuong.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Writer Kapur.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021, Spring 2022

115 Writing (about) the News

This course explores media literacy and the rhetoric of news through readings of a range of multimedia news and academic articles. It asks students, through critical writing, to come to terms with our responsibilities as engaged citizens for understanding, and acting on, the information we encounter in the news. Together, we will examine the way that journalists present the written word in print and digital spaces to inform, analyze, and present opinions–as we do the same in our own writing. We will pay close attention to the way that reporter teams explicitly and implicitly build arguments, use evidence, organize texts, and edit their own work, with an eye on developing strategies for using these skills in class assignments, and transferring them to other classes as well. Through writing projects that ask students to examine conversations on current events, particularly those relating to social and racial justice, students will develop skills to evaluate and contribute to the multimedia news landscape.

Preference given to first-year Amherst College students. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester. Lecturer Reardon.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

116 Literary Storms

In this course we will weather famous storms featured in literary, artistic, and cinematic works from the nineteenth century through the present day. Together, we will make our way through snow, sleet, hurricanes, cyclones, tropical storms, superstorms, and everyday rain showers. This topic will provide a unifying thematic thread for a class focused on the fundamentals of close reading, viewing, writing, and revision. We will examine how various genres, narrative styles, and authorial voices engage this common topic in strikingly different ways. We will also use storms to learn about literary and aesthetic concepts such as the sublime, and to think about the basic building blocks of narrative. How do storms blur lines between setting, plot, characterization, suspense, and closure? What does it mean for a setting to come to life or function as a character?

Together, we will discuss: How do stories of environmental violence and human violence collide? Who gets to tell the story of a storm? What stories emerge on either side of the ostensibly rupturing event itself, before and after the storm? How do storms expose and exacerbate disparities along racial and socioeconomic lines? Can reading local storm stories provide a way of thinking about global climate change?

Some of our storms will be based upon actual events, including Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, and Irene; this will raise complex questions about the boundaries between history and art.

Possible works include paintings by J. M. W. Turner; short stories by Kate Chopin, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Ben Marcus; novels by Zora Neale Hurston, Ben Lerner, and Jesmyn Ward; film by Behn Zeitlin, and documentary by Spike Lee.

Limited to 18 students. In the fall semester, ten seats reserved for first-year students. Fall and spring semesters. Professor Abramson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Spring 2021, Fall 2021

117 Arthurian Literature

(Offered as ENGL 117 and EUST 117) [Before 1800] Knights, monsters, quests, and true love: these are the things we associate with King Arthur and tales of his court. Why has Arthurian literature proved so enchanting to centuries of poets, novelists, and recently, filmmakers? In this introductory English course, we will read and watch Arthurian legends from Chaucer to Monty Python, examining the ways in which they have been represented in different eras. Beginning with the historical foundations of the King Arthur legend, we will examine how it blossomed and took form in later eras. Our focus will be on close literary and visual analysis of British, American, and French (in translation) versions of these legends. We will also discuss what cultural forces lie behind the popularity of Arthurian legend in certain eras: later medieval England and France; the Victorian era; and twentieth-century England and America. There will be frequent writing assignments and presentations, as well as a final creative project.

Open to first-year students and sophomores. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Nelson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2020, Spring 2022

119 From Ordinary to Extraordinary: Literature of the Everyday

This is a class all about the art of noticing. Our primary texts fixate on what Amit Chaudhuri calls “the moment of noticing”: heightened attention to the small, the ordinary, the routine. Many readings will be “day-in-the-life” novels set over a 24-hour period; others dwell on single moments, fleeting impressions, or routine rhythms of daily life. And just as our primary authors practice the art of noticing, so will we adopt a similar stance of scrutiny and attention to detail in this course.

We will also discuss questions such as: How does the ordinary become extraordinary? How does the seemingly mundane or quotidian become infused with meaning? How does art make the familiar newly strange or fascinating? What happens to narrative conventions of plot and the event when writers are more interested in capturing the textures, rhythms, and background environments of everyday life? How does one narrate history in the making, as it unfolds in everyday life? How are major historical events and political structures felt over the course of a typical day? What happens when the ordinary and extraordinary change places?

We will look at short stories, novels, photography, and memoir. Possible authors include Mulk Raj Anand, Amit Chaudhuri, Teju Cole, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Henry James, Ian McEwan, Kathleen Stewart, and Virginia Woolf.

Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Abramson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

120 Reading, Writing, and Teaching

(Offered as ENGL 120, AMST 220 and EDST 120) This course considers from many perspectives what it means to read and write and learn and teach both for ourselves and for others. As part of the work of this course, in addition to the usual class hours, students will serve as weekly tutors and classroom assistants in adult basic education centers in nearby towns. Thus this course consciously engages with the obstacles to and the power of education through course readings, through self-reflexive writing about our own varied educational experiences, and through weekly work in the community. Although this course presses participants to reflect a great deal about teaching, this course does not teach how to teach. Instead it offers an exploration of the contexts and processes of education, and of the politics and desires that suffuse learning. Course readings range across literary genres including essays, poems, autobiographies, and novels in which education and teaching figure centrally, as well as readings in ethnography, sociology, psychology, and philosophy. The writing assignments cross many genres as well.

Limited to 18 students. In the fall semester, eight seats reserved for first-year students. Fall semester: Professor Frank. Spring semester: Lecturer B. Sánchez-Eppler.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

121 Writing the College Experience

(Offered as ENGL 121 and EDST 121) What does equity and access look like in college? What should it look like? In this course, students will learn to critique power structures that have created boundaries around higher education, and they will build their critical reading and writing skills through short, low-stakes weekly writing and three major papers that will be revised many times. We will consider how students’ intersectional identities (i.e.: how class, race, gender, and disability, among others) help them navigate college or create barriers to equity and access. We’ll learn how learning is shaped by cultural and rhetorical contexts. As we read, we will pay close attention to the way that writers build arguments to levy their own critiques with evidence, as well as how they organize texts and edit their own work, with an eye on developing our own strategies for using these skills in this course and others. We will work together to develop a community of writers who can mutually support each other through their own multifaceted college experiences.

Preference given to first-year Amherst College students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Lecturer Reardon.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

125 Representing Illness

With a focus on the skills of close reading and analytical writing, we will look at the ways in which writers imagine illness, how they try to make meaning out of illness, and how they use illness to explore other aspects of experience. This is not a course on the history of illness or the social construction of disease. We will discuss not only what writers say about illness but also how they say it: with what language and in what form they speak the experience of bodily and mental suffering. Readings may include drama by Sophocles, Molière and Margaret Edson; poetry by Donne and Mark Doty; fiction by José Saramago and Mark Haddon; and essays by Susan Sontag, Raphael Campo and Temple Grandin.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Bosman.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2014, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Spring 2022

150 Amherst Poets

From Emily Dickinson to Robert Frost to Sonia Sánchez, Amherst is famous for its poets. More than twenty well-known poets have written, lived, studied and taught in the area surrounding the College. This introductory course is designed to welcome students who have not previously taken a college-level English course into the literary environment of Amherst, as well as into the literary community of poetry readers more broadly, by studying five or six Amherst poets very closely. Our main focus will be on the close-reading skills needed to engage with poetry of all kinds, and on the skills needed to write a college-level essay about literature. We will engage in frequent essay-writing workshops together, and there will be a chance to meet and engage with contemporary Amherst Poets on Zoom.

 Limited to 18 students. Fifteen seats reserved for first-year students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Worsley.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Fall 2020, Spring 2021

162 Black (on) Earth: Introduction to African American Environmental Literature

(Offered as ENGL 162 and BLST 162) African and African-descended people have a long-documented and intimate relationship to the natural world as a source of healing, nurture, and wealth. However, for a people who were stripped of their land in colonial Africa, exploited to work the land by European enslavers in the New World, and hung from trees in the American South, and who still have a precarious relationship to water in such places as Flint, Michigan, and post-Maria Puerto Rico, inhabiting the earth is complicated. How might we begin to tell this entangled history? What kinds of stories have Africans and their descendants developed to address their relationship with nature? What does the term “environmental justice” even mean to and for people of African descent today?

In this course, we will encounter a range of texts, including slave narratives, novels, poems, visual art, and performance written by and about Black subjects, to begin to understand how various authors, artists, and activists represent the rich relationship between blackness and the natural world. Readings may include works by Olaudah Equiano, W. E. B Du Bois, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Zora Neale Hurston, Derek Walcott, Jamaica Kincaid, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, T. Dungy, Britt Rusert, Kimberly N. Ruffin, among others.

Limited to 18 students. Ten seats reserved for first-year students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Cobham-Sander.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020

180 Film and Writing

(Offered as ENGL 180 and FAMS 110) A first course in reading films and writing about them. A varied selection of films for study and criticism, partly to illustrate the main elements of film language and partly to pose challenging texts for reading and writing. Frequent short papers. Two class meetings and one screening per week.

Limited to 25 students. Twelve seats reserved for first-year students. Open to first-year and sophomore students. Fall semester. Professor Guilford.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

182 Constructing Childhood: From Page to Screen

(Offered as ENGL 182, EDST 182 and FAMS 182) How has childhood been imagined across the twentieth century and into our own present? Since the Victorian era, childhood and the experience of being a child have been associated with innocence (and experience), nostalgia (and regret), and a simpler (while deeply complex) time of life. Yet across literature and media, childhood is constructed after the fact, by adults whose perceptions are shaped by their understanding of childhood as a distinct and discrete set of experiences. In this course, we will explore constructions of British and American childhoods on page, stage, and screen, exploring two foundational late Victorian/Edwardian intermedial texts (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Peter Pan), before venturing on a journey exploring cinematic depictions of childhood over the course of the twentieth century. We will examine twentieth-century films depicting children and popular genres designed to appeal to child audiences; how media texts represent children as they navigate conceptions of gender, sexuality, race, and class; and children as both consumers and producers of media in the twenty-first century. Students will explore different genres and modes of expository writing, including personal essay and close textual analysis and do an independent, guided research project. Students will gain a familiarity with key terms and methodologies in English and Film & Media Studies; an ability to think and write critically about literary and cinematic texts; an awareness of historical, social and cultural perceptions of childhood in Britain and the United States; confidence in reading primary and secondary sources; and proficiency in analytical writing, including sentence-level clarity, building arguments, using evidence, and working with and appropriately citing a variety of sources.

This course is designed for entering first-year students. Non-English/FAMS majors and Five College students are welcome. Limited to 18 students. Eighteen seats reserved for first-year students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

212 Storytelling Arts in Mesoamerica

(Offered as ENGL 212 and ARHA 212) [Before 1800] This course will explore the major pictorial narrative traditions of Mesoamerica, focusing on manuscripts of the Aztec, Maya, and Mixtec peoples, as well as other media, including texts and images from murals, ceramics, monuments, and mirrors. These visual and narrative media continue to play important roles in the preservation of Indigenous identity, solidarity, and cultural identity within nation states; the course will examine public, popular, and fine arts reviving, repurposing, and supporting resistance using this imagery.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Lecturer Couch.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020, Spring 2022

214 Re-imagining American Literature, A Survey: Pre-Conquest to 1865

[Before 1800] Until the recent past, and still in high schools and many collegiate institutions, courses that intend to survey American literature represent that oeuvre as nearly exclusively the work of white male writers. In this survey we will often encounter writings by American Indians from different nations, by women, by African Americans, as well as more commonly taught writers like Melville, Thoreau, and Emerson.

Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Emeritus O’Connell.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020

215 Re-imagining American Literature, A Survey:  1865 to the Present

Survey courses have in our time increasingly disappeared, except in most high schools. Attempts to make them sufficiently inclusive have seemed impossible. The chosen approach in this course is to concentrate on the remarkable literatures created by African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, bi-national writers, and working-class writers. We will also read “classic” writers like Willa Cather and Fitzgerald along with some of the working-class writers from the Thirties.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Emeritus O’Connell.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Spring 2021

216 Women Writers of Africa and the African Diaspora

(Offered as BLST 203 [D], ENGL 216, and SWAG 203) The term “Women Writers” suggests, and perhaps assumes, a particular category. How useful is this term in describing the writers we tend to include under the frame? And further, how useful are the designations "African" and "African Diaspora"? We will begin by critically examining these central questions, and revisit them frequently as we read specific texts and the body of works included in this course. Our readings comprise a range of literary and scholarly works by canonical and more recent female writers from Africa, the Caribbean, and continental America. Framed primarily by Postcolonial Criticism, our explorations will center on how writers treat historical and contemporary issues specifically connected to women’s experiences, as well as other issues, such as globalization, modernity, and sexuality. We will consider the continuities and points of departure between writers, periods, and regions, and explore the significance of the writers’ stylistic choices. Here our emphasis will be on how writers appropriate vernacular and conventional modes of writing.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Prof. C. Bailey.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Spring 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2022

217 Making Literary Histories I

[Before 1800] What is “English Literature,” and how does one construct its history? What counts as “England” (especially in relation to Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, and to ancient Greece and Rome)? What is the relationship between histories of literature and political, social, religious and intellectual histories? What is the role of gender in the making of literature, and the making of its histories? These are the kinds of questions we will ask as we read texts from the seventh through the seventeenth centuries, including works such as Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (in translation) and writers from Chaucer and Margery Kempe in the Middle Ages to Margaret Cavendish and John Milton in the Renaissance.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Nelson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Spring 2021

221 Writing Poetry I

A first workshop in the writing of poetry. Class members will read and discuss each others’ work and will study the elements of prosody: the line, stanza forms, meter, free verse, and more. Open to anyone interested in writing poetry and learning about the rudiments of craft. Writing exercises weekly.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester: Visiting Writer Kapur. Spring semester: Merrill Visiting Poet Amy Dryansky. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

222 Playwriting I

(Offered as THDA 270 and ENGL 222) This course explores key aspects of writing for the theater in a workshop style, from a transcultural perspective. Through writing exercises, analysis of scenes, feedback sessions, and the rewriting of materials produced, participants will experience the creative process and start developing their own voice as playwrights.

Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Visiting Artist Carneiro.

 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

223 Sound, Movement, and Text: Interactions and Collaborations

(Offered as THDA 255, ENGL 223, and MUSI 255) This studio course is designed as an interactive laboratory for dancers, composers, actors, writers/poets, vocalists, and sound artists to work together to create meaningful interactions between sound, movement, and text. Working individually and in collaborative groups, students will create original material in the various media and experiment with multiple ways to craft interesting exchanges and dialogues between word, sound, and movement or to create hybrid forms. The emphasis in the course will be to work with exercises and structures that engender deep listening, looking, and imagining. Some of the questions that inform the course include: How do music, voices, electronic, digital, and natural sounds create a sonic world for live performance and vice versa? How can movement inform the writing of text and vice-versa? How can we successfully communicate and collaborate across and between the different languages of sounds, words, and movement? We will have a series of informal studio performances, events, and installations throughout the semester with a culminating final showing/listening at the end of the semester.

Requisite: Previous experience in composition in one or more of the central media, or consent of the instructors. Limited to 16 students. Omitted 2021-2022. Professor Woodson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020

225 Non-Fiction I or Personal Story

How can we re-imagine ourselves and the world through our deeply felt personal questions? This course will focus on using personal non-fiction narratives to consider larger themes of politics, history, current events, and our ever-changing social reality. The course welcomes beginning writers who want to learn how to write more creatively without limiting censors and unnecessary judgment. The class will function as a cooperative workshop to help all write more fluently and with greater joy.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2021-22. Writer-in-Residence Lee.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2011, Fall 2019, Fall 2020

226 Fiction Writing I

A first course in writing fiction. Emphasis will be on experimentation as well as on developing skill and craft. Workshop (discussion) format.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Fall and spring semesters. Lecturer D. Sweeney.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

227 Reading and Writing Electronic Literature

This introductory course explores a variety of approaches to digital storytelling, from branching narratives, to hypertext media and video games, to more recent developments in machine-generated poetry and also embodied and location-based narrative. A hands-on class, it will link conventional understandings of narrative form and content to contemporary conversations about interface and computation, and ask students to think about materiality and textuality by experimenting with digital composition.

Omitted 2021-22. Professors Frank and Parham.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019

228 Liveness and the Livestreaming Studio

(Offered as ENGL 228 and THDA 251) In this course, we will explore theories and practices of “liveness.” What do we feel as alive in literature, drama, film, and television? How do we experience liveness across the forms of media? How does live media vs. recorded media influence our perceptions of its authenticity, and how do we express authenticity in each form? We will explore these questions as we examine works from drama, music, and dance; digital marketing, social media, and social networking; political protest, news broadcasts, and public relations.

With this theoretical and critical background in mind, we will also work on adapting between media by taking an existing creative work and transforming it into a dynamic live-streamed event. Works may be in creative writing, theatre, dance, music, or similar form, and they can be an original creation or a work by another author.

Technological Requirements: To fully participate in the final project, students will be expected to have regular access to an iPhone or Android smartphone with a working camera and a Mac or Windows computer with a working camera. If you lack either of these things, we will work with Academic Technology Services to ensure you have access to this technology during the January term.

Completion of this course will include a live in-class performance on the final day. Previous experience in any form of live performance is encouraged, but not required. Class will meet daily for 165 minutes.

Limited to 20 students. January term. Visiting Lecturer Bernitt.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in January 2022, Spring 2022

231 Three, Two, One: Reading Small Drama

How small can drama get while remaining “dramatic”? During the first half of the twentieth century, it was not unusual for a stage in America (or anywhere in the English-speaking world) to be filled with dozens of actors. Over the last sixty years, though, the crowds onstage have thinned. Today, three-, two-, and even one-person plays are as common as twenty-person plays once were. In this course, we will study the work of playwrights who have found new inspiration within these tight constraints.

As a foundational course in drama, this course will teach you the special skills involved in reading plays. As texts meant to be interpreted and staged by theater-makers, plays are radically under-determined things. So, you cannot sit back and play the role of audience. You must also do the imaginative work of all those people–actors, directors, designers, etc.–who turn a play into a performance. This course will teach you the habits of mind that make this imaginative work possible.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Grobe.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2016, Spring 2022

238 Shakespeare

[Before 1800] Readings in the comedies, histories, and tragedies, with attention to their poetic language, dramatic structure, and power in performance. Texts and topics will vary by instructor.

Limited to 50 students. Fall semester. Professor Bosman.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

240 Reading Poetry

A first course in the critical reading of selected English-language poets, which gives students exposure to significant poets, poetic styles, and literary and cultural contexts for poetry from across the tradition. Attention will be given to prosody and poetic forms, and to different ways of reading poems.

Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Professor Emeritus Sofield.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

250 Reading the Novel

An introduction to the study of the novel, through the exploration of a variety of critical terms (plot, character, point of view, tone, realism, identification, genre fiction, the book) and methodologies (structuralist, Marxist, feminist, psychoanalytic). We will draw on a selection of novels in English to illustrate and complicate those terms; possible authors include Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Wilkie Collins, Henry James, Kazuo Ishiguro, Thomas Pynchon, Toni Morrison, John Edgar Wideman, Emma Donoghue, David Foster Wallace, Monique Truong, Jennifer Egan.

Preference given to sophomores. Limited to 35 students. Fall semester. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

253 Modernists: In Their Words and In Their Worlds

This course provides an introduction to literary modernism in two parts, each part in dialogue with the other. First, in their words: we will look at how early twentieth-century writers described their own formal experiments and aesthetic agendas. This section will pair modernist manifestos and critical essays with fiction and poetry written by those same authors. Second, in their worlds: we will examine the historical, geographical, and cultural dimensions of these famous literary experiments. This section pairs modernist primary works with brief readings focused on World War I, colonization and decolonization, the Harlem Renaissance, and urban technology. When it comes to the dynamic relationship between words and worlds, our goal will be synthesis rather than separation. How does historical change relate to changes in literary form?

Possible authors include Mulk Raj Anand, Joseph Conrad, T.S. Eliot, E.M. Forster, Langston Hughes, James Joyce, Nella Larsen, Katherine Mansfield, Ezra Pound, and Virginia Woolf.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Abramson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Fall 2020

257 From Orientalism to the Asian Century: Methods in Transnational Asian Studies

What has Orientalism got to do with speculative science fiction? How does the history of Asia intersect with French and British colonialism? What does the “Asian Century” have in store for us? This course surveys the emerging field of Transnational Asian Studies through the lens of gender, empire, capitalism and migration. The course traces the historical flows and contemporary exchanges rising out of the vast and diverse Asian continent through literary texts, scholarly writing, and visual media. The course will explore categories such as “Asian/American,” “Afro-Asian,” “coolie” and “transnational” among others, while critiquing early iterations of the field for its United States-centric focus.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Visiting Lecturer Gooptu.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

270 Letter Writers and Epistolarity

The participants in this online course will read letters and write letters. This course became radically enhanced with the distancing imposed as COVID-19 exiled us from campus last spring.

The course depends both on experiences and experiments with the letter as a complex instrument of communication, as literary artefact, as carrier of affect, intention and ideas, and as a record of individual and communal growth. Letter writing will be practiced as a performance that deploys persona, tone, voice, purpose, persuasion, transparency, and decorum. Your discoveries and the development of your thoughts will be circulated as letters written among a small circle of correspondence.

Readings will include letters written by Paul, Seneca, Martin Luther King, Biddy Martin, Dorothy Osborne, John Keats, Rainer Maria Rilke, Lou Andreas-Salomé, Sigmund Freud, Boris Pasternak, Marina Tsvetayeva, Robert Oppenheimer. The reading of epistolary novels will focus our attention on fictional uses of the form (Daddy Longlegs, Dangerous Liaisons, Screwtape Letters). We will also pay attention to the current evolution of letter writing in the time of e-mail and social media, and social isolation.

Capstone projects will be organized as researched and curated presentations of selected online manuscript letters, or as a compiled and analyzed collection of personal or family letters, or as epistolary fiction.

In addition to the expected use of Zoom and emergency uses of Skype, students are expected to become familiar with: Google Drive, Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides; Dropbox; Microsoft Word, Power Point, and Excel; Audible and Kindle; parabol.co; and ProQuest Ebook Central.

January. Lecturer B. Sánchez-Eppler.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Spring 2020, January 2021, January 2022, Spring 2022

271 How Can We Talk About Race, Class, and Gender?

Each of us lives in a world in which race, class and gender–complex and elusive terms–reflect multiple realities. In the last few years they have openly shaped public discourse in the US. They also affect individuals and groups differently: invisible to many, an inescapable felt presence for many others. Denial, controversy, struggle, pride, and hesitation are but some of peoples’ responses. A world of courses could not comprehend the responses or the terms themselves, the histories or the controversies. So this course must necessarily be exploratory and, beyond the usual, open to each participant, even in sharp disagreements.

Memoirs, novels and poems, lively and revelatory social science texts make up the readings. Short weekly writings and three essays complete the work of the course.

Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Emeritus O’Connell.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

272 A Primer to Children’s Literature

Children’s books are a site of first encounter, a doorway to literacy and literature. This course will offer both a history of book production for child readers in England and the United States and an exploration of what these first books can teach us about the attractions, expectations, and responsibilities of reading.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor K. Sánchez-Eppler.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2016, Spring 2018, Spring 2021

273 When Corn Mother Meets King Corn: Cultural Studies of the Americas

(Offered as AMST 280 and ENGL 273) In Penobscot author Joseph Nicolar's 1893 narrative, the Corn Mother proclaims, "I am young in age and I am tender, yet my strength is great and I shall be felt all over the world, because I owe my existence to the beautiful plant of the earth." In contrast, according to one Iowa farmer, from the 2007 documentary "King Corn," "We aren't growing quality. We're growing crap." This course aims to unpack depictions like these in order to probe the ways that corn has changed in its significance within the Americas. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, students will be introduced to critical theories and methodologies from American Studies as they study corn's shifting role, across distinct times and places, as a nourishing provider, cultural transformer, commodity, icon, and symbol.

Beginning with the earliest travels of corn and her stories in the Americas, students will learn about the rich histories, traditions, narratives, and uses of "maize" from indigenous communities and nations, as well as its subsequent proliferation and adaptation throughout the world. In addition to literary and historical sources students will engage with a wide variety of texts (from material culture to popular entertainment, public policy and genetics) in order to deepen their understanding of cultural, political, environmental, and economic changes that have characterized life in the Americas.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professors Brooks and Vigil.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Spring 2019

277 Literature and Culture of the Philippines

This course is an introduction to the art, culture, and history of the Philippines through the narrative spaces of literature. While small in size, the 7,107 islands that make up the Philippines have played an important role in geopolitics, and the scars of a deeply conflicted history of occupation by the Spanish, Americans, and Japanese are evident in the literature. Reading a mixture of canonical and emerging authors will help us understand the complex legacies of colonialism in the islands and in the diaspora.

As a discipline, Asian American Studies has deep roots in social justice activism, and many of the texts we will read are responding to colonial and national structures of power. We will pay close attention to the ways in which art identifies, protests, resists, and survives structures of inequality within and between societies. By nature this is an interdisciplinary project, drawing from history, literature, fine art, and sociology to understand how the literature of the Philippines has changed over time. Our questions will consider the relationships between nation and space, diverse embodiments of national identity and ethnicity, and the cultural and historical contexts that inform these issues.

While the literature of the Philippines is written in many different languages, this course will be concerned with translated and English texts.

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Visiting Lecturer Ocasion.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

278 Digital Africas

(Offered as ENGL 278 and BLST 212 [A]) This course will examine how African writers incorporate digital technologies into their work when they publish traditional print texts, experiment with digital formats, or use the internet to redefine their relationship to local and international audiences. We will reflect on how words and values shift in response to new forms of mediation; on the limits these forms place on the bodies they represent, and on the protections they occasionally offer. Students will read fictional works in print, serialized narratives on blogs, as well as other literary products that circulate via social media. Students also will be introduced to a selection of digital humanities tools that will assist them in accessing, analyzing and responding to these works. Course materials include print, digital and hybrid publications by Oyono, Farah, Adichie, Cole, Maphoto, and Wainaina, among others.

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Cobham-Sander.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2021

279 Global Women's Literature

(Offered as SWAG 279, BLST 302, and ENGL 279) What do we mean by “women’s fiction”? How do we understand women’s genres in different national contexts? This course examines topics in feminist thought such as marriage, sexuality, desire and the home in novels written by women writers from South Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. We will draw on postcolonial literary theory, essays on transnational feminism and historical studies to situate our analyses of these novels. Texts include South African writer Nadine Gordimer’s July's People, Pakistani novelist Bapsi Sidhwa's Cracking India, and Caribbean author Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Shandilya.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Spring 2019, Spring 2020

280 Coming to Terms: Cinema

(Offered as ENGL 280 and FAMS 210) An introduction to cinema studies through consideration of key critical terms, together with a selection of various films (classic and contemporary, foreign and American, popular and avant-garde) for illustration and discussion. The terms for discussion may include, among others: modernity, montage, realism, visual pleasure, ethnography, choreography, streaming, and consumption. Two class meetings and one screening per week.

Limited to 35 students. Spring semester. Professor Guilford.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Spring 2022

282 Knowing Television

(Offered as ENGL 282 and FAMS 215) For better or worse, U.S. broadcast television is a cultural form that is not commonly associated with knowledge. This course will take what might seem a radical counter-position to such assumptions–looking at the ways television teaches us what it is and even trains us in potential critical practices for investigating it. By considering its formal structure, its textual definitions, and the means through which we see it, we will map out how it is that we come to know television.

Prior coursework in Film and Media Studies is recommended, but not required. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 45 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hastie.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2010, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Fall 2016, Fall 2019

283 Television Narratives

(Offered as ENGL 283 and FAMS 234) What stories does television tell? And how does it tell them? This course will approach television’s narratives through a focus on both form and content. We will take into account issues of production, distribution, and exhibition, with attention both to historical developments and contemporary transformations to the medium. In this way, we will explore how shifts in programming, platforms, and viewing habits alter both televisual narration and consumption. By considering television’s specific form–whether commercial networks, cable TV, or subscription platforms like Netflix and Hulu–we will query how this specific media format enables or limits the ways it tells stories and what stories it tells. Each iteration of this course will focus on particular forms of narrative programming, through an emphasis on genre, format, historical eras, or cultural facets. Readings will include key critical works in Television Studies, essays on particular television series, and other works that situate television texts in a broader cultural framework and history. The goal of the course is to think through narrative form, representational systems, authorship, exhibition, and reception habits in order to define not just what television narrative is but also what it can be.

In spring 2021, “Television Narratives” focused on policing race, as represented in US television series, with some forays also in documentary programming and music videos from the late 1980s, early 1990s, and our contemporary period. We began with episodic police and detective series of the late 1960s and 1970s, such as The Mod Squad, Tenafly, and Shaft, when the role of the black detective merged social consciousness and contemporary style, sometimes treading the line between criminality and the law. We then turned to the hybrid episodic-serial format of Hill Street Blues, focusing on the representation of both African-American policing and criminality represented within the series. Our next case study, spanning the 1990s and early 2000s, considered the emergence of the police procedural as a dominant televisual form, with an emphasis on the long-running Law and Order franchise. Our final case study composed the latter half of the course, as we looked at mini series and limited season serials, including the docudrama When They See Us and the one-season series Seven Seconds. During this final unit, we also integrated queries into YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram to consider how the narratives of such series are extended through intertextual connections with clips, interviews, and productions by both fans and artists.

Two sections of this course were offered, each section limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hastie.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021

284 Coming to Terms: Media

(Offered as ENGL 284 and FAMS 216) What do we mean when we talk about “the media”? Coming to Terms: Media will parse this question, approaching the media not as a shadowy monolith but as a complex and changing environment comprised of varied technologies, formats, practices, devices, and platforms (e.g.: photography, gramophone records, online dating, smartphones, Netflix). The course will introduce key terms and critical approaches for the study of modern media in their specificity in an era of digital mediation. We will ask questions such as: What are the formal and technical features of different media? How do they construct us as spectators or users, and shape our perception of the world we inhabit? How do our media practices produce experiences of space, time, and community? And crucially, what are the ideological impacts of these perceptions, constructions, and practices when it comes to race, sex, identity, and the circulation of power and capital?

Each week students will encounter important works of twentieth- and twenty-first-century media and cultural theory and will encounter concrete examples to flesh out the abstract concepts in the readings and engage in ample class participation. Assignments will encourage students to enter into a conversation with these texts as a way of exploring and constructing arguments about contemporary media. The course will provide a strong foundation for advanced work in film and media studies, and related disciplines.

This course has no prerequisites, but it is best suited to students who have completed a 100-level course dealing with the analysis of literature or film. Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Rangan.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Spring 2020, Spring 2022

287 Introduction to Film Studies: The History of American Cinema, 1895-1960

(Offered as ENGL 287 and FAMS 212) This course is designed to introduce students to key issues in film studies, focusing on the history of American cinema from 1895 to 1960. We will pay particular attention to the “golden age” of Hollywood, with forays into other national cinemas by way of comparison and critique. Screenings will range from actualities and trick films, to the early narrative features of D. W. Griffith, to the development of genres including film noir (Double Indemnity), the woman’s film of the 1940s (Now, Voyager), the western (Stagecoach) and the suspense film (Rear Window). Reading and writing assignments and in-class discussions will address how to interpret film on the formal/stylistic level (sequence analysis, close reading, visual language) as well as in the context of major trends and figures in film history. A weekly viewing journal will be expected, as a record of students’ critical responses to the films. In addition, three formal essays are required: a 3-5 page sequence analysis; a 6-8 page critical explication of a piece of film criticism (a scholarly article or book chapter) not already assigned for the course; and a final research paper (8-10 pages), to be revised in conjunction with a peer review workshop. By the end of the semester, students can expect to gain the following: a familiarity with key terms in film language and film analysis; an ability to think and write critically about film, its aesthetics, historical development, technology, and cultural context; an overview of some key films in American cinema history from the silent era to 1960; an appreciation of different film genres, their structure, iconic language, and ideological/cultural meanings; and confidence in reading critical/theoretical essays in film criticism and history.

Limited to 35 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

289 Moving Pictures: The History of Silent Cinema

(Offered as ENGL 289 and FAMS 227) This course focuses on global cinema during the silent era (1895-1927). We will explore the wide range of films produced in cinema’s first three decades, including early actualities, animation, trick films, serials, melodrama, and experimental film. Readings in film history will assist us in investigating the rise of classical narrative, the studio system, star and fan culture, and the transition to sound. In addition to studying the work of Charlie Chaplin, Sergei Eisenstein, D. W. Griffith, Georges Méliès, and Dziga Vertov, the course will highlight filmmaking by women and people of color including Alice Guy-Blaché, Oscar Micheaux, and Lois Weber, among others. A weekly viewing journal will be expected, as a record of students’ critical responses to the films. In addition, three formal essays are required: a 3-5 page sequence analysis; a 5-6 page critical explication of a piece of film criticism (a scholarly article or book chapter) not already assigned for the course; and a final research paper (8-10 pages), to be revised in conjunction with a peer review workshop.

This course will run primarily online, with periodic small-group meetings for students who are in residence on campus and parallel small-group meetings for remote students. The additional evening time slot will provide opportunities for students to screen films and engage in structured small-group discussion synchronously, whether remotely or in person. There may be additional opportunities for in-person meetings (including office hours) as the semester progresses.

Recommended requisite: ENGL 180/FAMS 110, Film and Writing, or an equivalent 100-level course. Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2011, Spring 2021

295 Literature and Psychoanalysis

Why does it seem natural to read ourselves and other people in the same way that we read books? This course will introduce students to psychoanalytic thought and psychoanalytic literary interpretation. Freud famously reads Jensen’s short story Gradiva as a case history, but we will seek out ways of reading literature and psychoanalysis together that go beyond diagnosing characters or authors. How is psychoanalytic theory itself literary? How can it help to open up, rather than reduce, our reading experience? And how does literature in turn help to enrich, deepen, challenge and enliven psychoanalytic theories of subject-formation, language, and interpersonal relations? Putting psychoanalytic and fictional texts in conversation, topics of particular interest may include: dreams, desire, sexuality, mourning, trauma, the unconscious, the uncanny, anxiety, embodiment, racialization, paranoia and the reparative impulse. Psychoanalytic readings will be drawn from Freud, Klein, Lacan, Winnicott, Bollas, Khan, Phillips, Riviere, Fanon, Milner, Sedgwick, Felman, and others. Literary texts change from year to year.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Mireles Christoff.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Spring 2020, Spring 2022

296, 395 Literature and the Nonhuman World

Like every other aspect of human culture, literature interacts with biology–with, in Elizabeth Grosz’s words, “a system of (physical, chemical, organic) differences that engenders historical, social, cultural, and sexual differences.” The aim of this course is to make that fact as intellectually fruitful as possible. What happens to our understanding of literature if we think of it as an expression of life? What happens, that is, if we think of literature as one of the countless things that emerges from a non-personal, non-teleological process of evolution? And what happens if we think of individual works of literature as potential ways of getting closer, conceptually and sensually, to life, to the difference-making process within which we all find ourselves? Readings will include Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, James Welch’s Winter in the Blood, J. M. Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello, and the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Wallace Stevens, and Elizabeth Bishop. A background in the natural sciences is welcome but not necessary.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2020

301 The Qur'ān and Its Controversies

(Offered as RELI 385, ASLC 385 and ENGL 301) 

An exploration of several salient questions concerning the Qur’ān, the Islamic Revealed Book. How have Muslims explained the Qur’ān’s own proclamation of its supernatural origin and its miraculous quality?  How does the Qur’ān engage with and respond to the Hebrew Bible and Christian scriptures? Who has the authority to interpret the Qur’ān and why? These are just a few of the tantalizing questions that will occupy us over the course of the semester. We will also discuss the ways that the Qur’ān has been read as a work of law, theology, and mysticism, and how it has shaped theories of the state. Finally, we will isolate the Qur’ān from the Islamic tradition and explore the many ways that it can be read as a work of literature. 

All readings are in English. No prerequisites. 

Fall semester. Associate Professor Jaffer.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2021

303 Books and Their Afterlives: Writing and/as Technology

Books have a rich history in multiple cultures, and the experience of reading them is often bound up with their material form. In other words, the way we read books has arguably always been tied to how they look, and smell, and feel. So what happens to books in the digital age? What do books feel like when they are on the Internet? From the first printed text to the digital age and beyond, this course will consider the changing shapes, goals, and aims of books. Beginning with the earliest texts produced with moveable type and ending with experimental electronic literature, we will consider the intertwined histories of reading, books, and the technologies used to make them. This course will include sessions held in Frost Library’s Special Collections and one required field trip to Big Wheel Press in Easthampton, Massachusetts.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Professor Henrichs.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Spring 2020

304 Narratives of Suffering

It’s possible to imagine people who have not yet suffered, who have not yet had a peculiarly intense and sustained experience of physical or psychic pain. Those imaginary people are, however, vulnerable to future suffering. Even more importantly, they live in a world in which many others suffer, so many that a refusal to attend to suffering amounts to a refusal of a meaningfully relational existence. Thinking and feeling in response to suffering is, accordingly, an inescapable aspect of what Henri Bergson describes as “a really living life.” But how do we respond to suffering, whether in others or in ourselves? How do we take it in without appropriating it? How do we express it without turning it into a spectacle? These questions and others like them are difficult, but the aim of this course is to generate an intellectual and emotional atmosphere in which we can be transformed by the process of taking them up. Readings include The Book of Job, King Lear, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Art Spiegelman’s Maus, and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2014, Fall 2016, Spring 2019, Fall 2021

306 Modern British and American Poetry, 1900-1950

Readings and discussions centering on the work of Thomas Hardy, W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, and Wallace Stevens. Some attention also to A.E. Housman, Edward Thomas, Ezra Pound, and William Carlos Williams.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Emeritus Pritchard.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2016, Fall 2018

307 Making Genre in the Eighteenth Century

[Before 1800] Imagine a world where the novel was truly a novel form, and where newspapers were a new idea, and where print had only recently been commercialized. The eighteenth century was a time of great flux in Britain and the US, not only in terms of political change and scientific discovery, but also in terms of the literary world. Poets were beginning to panic that their genre was no longer the dominant mode. Daily journals were changing how people perceived the way time passed. Testimonies from abroad were changing people’s awareness of the world at large. Women were reading in secret, since the men around them often tried to restrict which genres they had access to. Writers who wrote for profit were called “hacks.” Even the very idea of the professional author was under question. In this course, we will consider many different genres of writing, including novels, memoirs, newspapers, lectures, journal articles, travel narratives, plays, and poems, during a period when massive innovations were taking place. Although the majority of the texts we will discuss will be those published in the eighteenth century, we will begin the course with some seventeenth-century texts (such as John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Francis Bacon’s essays), in order to more fully understand the creative vision of eighteenth-century writers like Daniel Defoe, Joseph Addison, Jonathan Edwards, Anne Finch, Laurence Sterne, Phillis Wheatley, Jane Austen, and Olaudah Equiano. There will be an emphasis on engaging with these texts as they were originally printed, with a chance to engage with archival materials. The course will end with a consideration of how notions of the difference between authors of different genres still persist in the present day.

Recommended requisite: Previous English class preferred. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 35 students. Spring semester. Professor Worsley.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

309 The Literary Histories of Technology

[Before 1800] What does a reader in 1620 have in common with a reader in 2020? They are both faced with an overwhelming explosion of textual information made possible by technology. In both 1620 and 2020 readers are confronted with massive quantities of information that threaten to overwhelm. The causes differ: in 1620s London, advances in printing and paper-making technologies made textual materials cheaply and widely available on an unprecedented scale. In 2020, we have the Internet.

This course proposes that the seventeenth- and twenty-first centuries share similar methods of controlling their new information environment; both use creative and figurative language to talk about it. Readers in 1620 used recently-Anglicized terms like metaphor or synecdoche, whereas readers in 2020 talk about uploading everything to the cloud. In this course, we will explore the humanist rhetorical handbooks of the English literary Renaissance as a means to two ends: one, to better understand the literary production of canonical authors like Shakespeare; and two, to engage with the rhetoric of digital creativity in the twenty-first century. We juxtapose readings from Renaissance rhetorical handbooks with poetry and essays from that period and with digital humanities scholarship. The final project of the course will ask students to perform individual research as part of a collaborative, multimodal guide to the information structures of the Internet.

Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Professor Henrichs.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019

310 Interpretation in Law & Literature

(Offered as LJST 341 [Analytic Seminar] and ENGL 310) Interpretation lies at the center of legal and literary activity. Both law and literature are in the business of making sense of texts—statutes, constitutions, poems or stories. Both disciplines confront similar questions regarding the nature of interpretive practice: Should interpretation always be directed to recovering the intent of the author? If we abandon intentionalism as a theory of textual meaning, how do we judge the "excellence" of our interpretations? How can the critic or judge continue to claim to read in an "authoritative" manner in the face of interpretive plurality? In the last few years, a remarkable dialogue has burgeoned between law and literature as both disciplines have grappled with life in a world in which "there are no facts, only interpretations." This seminar will examine contemporary theories of interpretation as they inform both legal and literary understandings. Readings will include works of literature (Hemingway, Kafka, Woolf) and court cases, as well as contributions by theorists of interpretation such as Spinoza, Dilthey, Freud, Geertz, Kermode, Dworkin, and Sontag.

Limited to 15 students. Open to juniors and seniors.Omitted 2021-22. Professor Douglas.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Spring 2012, Spring 2015, Spring 2019, Fall 2020

315 Nabokov's Art and Terrors

(Offered as RUSS 225 and ENGL 315) This course undertakes a sustained examination of the works of Vladimir Nabokov (1899–1977). Drawing on the literary masterpieces of Nabokov’s Russian and English periods, we seek to gain a critical appreciation of his literary art and the cultural and aesthetic contexts from which they emerged. Throughout the course, we will consider his abiding themes such as the complex relationship between art and life, and between the poet, the state, and society; the narration of the experience of time; metafiction, its possibilities and constraints; bad art; the experience of exile; and the privileged position of art and aesthetics. The latter are variously inflected as refuge, asylum, or a space of revolt, as well as what enables the artist to counter, but also to inflict, cruelty. The course will also situate Nabokov’s work with the currents of literary modernism; to that end, readings are also drawn from such figures as Jorge Luis Borges, Franz Kafka, Marcel Proust, and Virginia Woolf. Our access into these themes and the author’s narrative art will be through attentive reading, itself a preeminent theme of Nabokov’s work. No familiarity with Russian history or culture expected. All readings in English. 

This course will meet for three hours MWF as well as require asynchronous film screenings for at leat 2 hours per week. 

January term. Prof. Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Spring 2011, Fall 2013, Spring 2016, Fall 2018, Fall 2020, January 2022, Spring 2022

316 Immersive Accompaniment: Reading the Bildungsroman

(Offered as ENGL 316 and SWAG 316) “From whence comes my help?” “From where does your strength come?” The psalmist and Adrienne Rich ask these questions, which we will face while we read coming-of-age narratives that fit in a genre known by its German name, the Bildungsroman. These novels go beyond the pilgrimage out of adolescence, and into explicit representation of intellectual, aesthetic, and spiritual growth experienced in unison with sexual development, awakenings, thrills, mishaps, and marriage. We will pay attention to how we immerse ourselves into the condition of those who grow on the page; not to “identify” with the characters, but to accompany them. From our immersive accompaniment we will re-emerge–intentionally–to write about how we progress, digress, regress, and grow some more. As we read we will explore many terms and theoretical concerns: Erik Erickson on life stages; Donald Winnicott on holding environment and object relation; Jacques Lacan on mirrors and interminability of desire; Silvan Tomkins on affects and nuclear scripts; Shoshana Feldman on re-reading, un-learning, en-gendering, and–again–desire.

Readings will likely include: Plato, Phaedrus; Susan Choi, Trust Exercise; Lazarillo de Tormes; Teresa de Avila, Interior Castle; John Woolman, The Journal; Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse; Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot; Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous; Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre; James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook; Richard Powers, The Overstory.

Omitted 2021-22. Lecturer B. Sánchez-Eppler.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021

318 Childhood in African and Caribbean Literature

(Offered as ENGL 318, BLST 362 [A/CLA], and LLAS 362) The course will concentrate on Caribbean authors. It explores the process of self-definition in literary works from Africa and the Caribbean that are built around child protagonists. We will examine the authors’ various methods of ordering experience through the choice of literary form and narrative technique, as well as the child/author’s perception of his or her society. French texts will be read in translation.

Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Cobham-Sander.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2015, Spring 2020

319 The Postcolonial Novel: Gender, Race and Empire

(Offered as SWAG 331 and ENGL 319) What is the novel? How do we know when a work of literature qualifies as a novel? In this course we will study the postcolonial novel which explodes the certainties of the European novel. Written in the aftermath of empire, these novels question race, class, gender and empire in their subject matter and narrative form. We will consider fiction from South Asia, the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa. Novels include Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh's The Calcutta Chromosome, Caribbean writer Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John and North African author Tayeb Salih's Season of Migration to the North.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Shandilya.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016, Fall 2018, Spring 2020

320 Literature as Translation

(Offered as EUST 303, ENGL 320 and RUSS 310) Acts of translation underwrite many kinds of cultural production, often invisibly. Writers of the Harlem Renaissance, for instance, engaged with black internationalism through bilingualism and translation, as Brent Edwards has reminded us. In this course we will study literary translation as a creative practice involved in the making of subjects and cultures. We will read key statements about translation by theorists and translators, such as Walter Benjamin, Roman Jakobson, Lawrence Venuti, Peter Cole and Gayatri Spivak. We also will directly engage in translation work: each student will regularly present translations in a workshop format to produce a portfolio as a final project. The class will be “polyglot,” meaning that students are welcome to translate from any language of which they have knowledge; when they share translations, they will be asked also to provide interlinear, or “literal,” translations for those who may not understand the language they are working in.

Requisite: Two years of college-level study of the chosen language. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professors Bosman and Ciepiela. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2021

322 Playwriting Studio

(Offered as THDA 370 and ENGL 322) A workshop for writers who want to complete a full-length play or series of shorter plays. Emphasis will be on bringing a script to a level at which it is ready for the stage. The majority of class time will be devoted to reading and commenting on developing works-in-progress.  In addition, we will also hone playwriting skills through class exercises, and study exemplary plays by established writers as a means of exploring a range of dramatic vocabularies.

Requisite: THDA 270, 272, or the equivalent. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Visiting Artist Carneiro.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

323 On The Edge: Writing for Performance

(Offered as THDA 272 and ENGL 323) This course is an exploration of writing for performance using interdisciplinary and experimental approaches. By exposing students to contemporary manifestations of performance across cultures – including those by Rodrigo Garcia, Rimini Protokoll, Romeo Castelluci, Robert Lepage, Carolina Vivas, and Gebing Tian – this course will lead to a new understanding of the art and practice of writing for the theater. In dialogue with other artforms such as literature, music, dance, and cinema, as well as performance theory, we will creatively explore dynamics involving words, bodies, spaces, objects, and media. Through imagining, devising, writing, and performing exercises, participants will develop their own original pieces that will be showcased as works-in-progress at the end of the semester. 

Limited to 18 students. Spring Semester. Visiting Artist Carneiro.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

324 Writing Poetry II—The Lyric Essay

Poetry is often a study of density and lineation but, as the expectations of genre continue to bend, more and more poets are exploring the lyric nature of the personal essay. In this course, we will assess the expansion of poetic form to include “the lyric essay,” reading essays written by poets and lyric memoirs written by essayists. The course will be primarily generative, with students selecting a specific topic to explore throughout the semester as they build their own, long-form, poetic project.

Requisite: ENGL 221 Writing Poetry I. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Lawson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Spring 2019, Fall 2019

324 Writing Poetry II–Poetry in Translation

"It is normally supposed that something always gets lost in translation; I cling, obstinately, to the notion that something can also be gained."  Salman Rushdie

What can we learn about the craft of poetry through the practice of translation? How can engaging with poetry in another language (even in translation) transform our own thinking and writing? This class will explore these questions by reading and translating poetry from around the world and across the centuries. Readings from Homer, Sappho, Catullus, Montale, Ghalib, Mir and a variety of contemporary Arab poets will be augmented with a mix of essays on the practical and theoretical aspects of translation. Students will experiment with a variety of translation-inspired writing exercises and design a final translation project of their choice. There is no language requirement.

 Limited to 12 students. Spring semester. Visiting Writer Kapur.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

325 Her Story Is: Feminist Approaches to Theater and Performance

(Offered as THDA 275, ENGL 325 and SWAG 275) Western text-based theatre has historically hushed the voices of women and those from marginalized communities. This course will focus on examples of such voices, paying special attention to artists, writers, and thinkers who challenge and deconstruct aesthetics that privilege the male gaze. In dialogue with feminist theories of gender and identity, we will read plays and study works by women and gender non-conforming artists, such as Hildegard von Bingen, Juana Ines de la Cruz, Susan Glaspell, Adrienne Kennedy, Marina Abramovich, and Taylor Mac. Finally, we will also inquire into new forms of gender-inspired “artivism,” such as The Kilroy’s, the Guerilla girls, Pussy Riot, and the #MeToo movement in theatres around the world. During this course, students are expected to pursue an individual writing or performance project that will further explore the concepts discussed. For this purpose, we will study the Theater of the Oppressed methodology as applied by contemporary Latinx feminist theater-makers.

Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-2022. Visiting Artist Carneiro. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

326 Fiction Writing II—Moving Beyond Plot

How do stories move? What are the uses and limitations of the term “plot” in describing movement or development in narrative? What culturally-specific assumptions and expectations about storytelling are bound up with conventional notions of plot, and how can we, as writers and readers, unravel them?

In this advanced fiction writing course, students will explore these questions and more through writing, reading, sharing, and thoughtfully critiquing fiction that challenges, resists, or forgoes linear or sequential narrative. Writers of all aesthetic styles, including plot-driven writers, are welcome. The aim of this course is to build a nurturing and inclusive classroom community where all students can cultivate confidence in their work and writing process.

Requisite: ENGL 226 Fiction Writing I. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Visiting Writer Myint.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2016, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2022

330 Race and Otherness in the Middle Ages

(Offered as ENGL 330 and EUST 330) [Before 1800] By many accounts, a concept of “race” does not emerge in the West until the colonizing of the New World in the Renaissance. Yet medieval people had many ways of identifying, exoticizing, excluding, and discriminating against “others.” This was often framed in terms of religion (Christianity vs. Islam), but it also manifests in terms of physiognomic description and ideas of monstrosity in romance and quest narratives. In this course, we will explore how the “othering” of certain medieval peoples creates a racialized language and discourse at once specific to the Middle Ages and relevant to our current understanding of race. We will read from medieval travel narratives (The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, Prester John, The Medieval Romance of Alexander) as well as literature by Chaucer and others, alongside critical race theory and historical scholarship to give context to our discussions. We will also explore how the Middle Ages have been racialized in contemporary political and popular discourse.

Format: If at least 5 in-person students register for this course, it will run in person, with hybrid options for remote students. Course meetings will include a combination of synchronous and asynchronous activities.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Nelson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Spring 2021

332 Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales

[Before 1800] Geoffrey Chaucer’s medieval masterwork, The Canterbury Tales, represents pilgrims from all walks of life, from peasants to artisans to nobility, telling tales that are comical, tragic, religious, and fantastical. In this course, we read almost the entirety of the Tales in its original language. The course aims to give the student rapid mastery of Chaucer’s English and an active appreciation of his poetry. Our focus will be on Chaucer’s poetry and the ethical and political questions this complex and delightful literary work raises, and how we can understand these questions within a modern context. No prior knowledge of Middle English is expected, although a knowledge of grammar in English or another Western language will be helpful.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Nelson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2019

341 Great English Writers

[Before 1800] A study of six classic writers from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: Ben Jonson, Milton, Dryden, Pope, Swift, and Samuel Johnson.  Among the readings are: Jonson, poems and Volpone; Milton, Comus, “Lycidas” and Paradise Lost; Dryden, poems and critical prose; Pope, “The Rape of the Lock,” Essay on Man, The Dunciad; Swift, Tale of a Tub, Gulliver’s Travels, poems; Johnson, poems, Rasselas, Prefaces to Shakespeare and to the Dictionary, passages from Boswell’s Life of Johnson.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Emeritus Pritchard.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Fall 2017, Spring 2020

348 Modern British Literature, 1900-1950

Readings in twentieth-century writers such as Henry James, Bernard Shaw, Joseph Conrad, D.H. Lawrence, Wyndham Lewis, Ford Madox Ford, Virginia Woolf, Evelyn Waugh, W.H. Auden, Robert Graves, George Orwell, Ivy Compton-Burnett.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Emeritus Pritchard.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2011, Spring 2015, Spring 2018

352 Reading Land, Writing Waters

(Offered as ENGL 352 and AMST 355) In this course, we will leave the classroom and get out on the land. The class begins in winter, a time when many people huddle indoors. We will instead go outside and read the winterland, beginning with a tracking workshop. Readings will include Robin Kimmerer’s influential essay, “The Language of Animacy,” which uses the lens of Indigenous languages to reconsider the boundaries of personhood. We will discuss how language shapes the ways in which we categorize other beings, such as animals and trees, as well as other humans. Our close reading of land and texts will enable us to see how our “reading practices” are shaped by language. Spring will take us to local waterways, including Amherst College’s Wildlife Sanctuary and the Quabbin Reservoir, where we will read William Cronon’s classic essay, “The Trouble with Wilderness” in relation to these built environments. Lauret Savoy’s Trace will lead us to consider our embodied experiences and histories in relation to the places where we live. Throughout, we will grapple with critical questions. How are concepts like “nature” and “culture” intertwined with constructions of race and gender? How has the conservation of “wilderness” been entangled with colonial dispossession and removal? Even as we spend much of our class time on the ground, we will cultivate the craft of writing as a deliberative, interactive process, with frequent informal writing, collaborative workshops and creative nonfiction.

The class will meet only twice a week but the two days and the amount of meeting time will depend on the weather and location, including drive time. Students will not spend more than eight hours/week in class.

Limited to 15 students. Spring semester Professor Brooks.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

354 Antebellum US Literature

In this course, we will be studying the relationship between the national acceleration toward war and the imaginative activities of US writers between 1830 and 1865. Through our readings of Emerson, Douglass, Melville, Stowe, Whitman, Jacobs, and others, we will learn about what happened over the course of those 35 years and, at the same time, learn from the examples of those extraordinary writers. As the nation was doubling in size and getting closer to splitting in half, those writers kept trying to find, in pressurized, transfiguring language, a way of getting from where they were to somewhere better. In the increasingly warlike atmosphere of our times, there may be an even greater value to what they achieved.

Spring semester. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

355, 444 Emily Dickinson

(Offered as ENGL 444 and AMST 364) “Experience is the Angled Road / Preferred against the Mind / By–Paradox–the Mind itself–” Emily Dickinson explained in one poem and in this course we will make use of the resources of the town of Amherst to play experience and mind off each other in our efforts to come to terms with her elusive poetry. The course will visit the Dickinson Homestead and the Evergreens (her brother Austen’s house, and a veritable time capsule), make use of Dickinson manuscripts in the Amherst College archives and special collections, local history materials at the Jones Library and the Amherst Historical Society, and set her work in the context of other nineteenth-century writers such as Helen Hunt Jackson, Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, and Harriet Jacobs. But as we explore how Dickinson’s poetry responds to her world, we will also ask how it can speak to our present. One major project of the course will be to develop exhibits and activities for the Emily Dickinson Museum that will help visitors engage with her poems.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor K. Sánchez-Eppler.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2018, January 2021

357 Race and Relationality

(Offered as ENGL 357 and BLST 365 [US]) When we say “race relations,” we are using a phrase drawn from early twentieth-century American sociology, a phrase that conjures up a scenario in which already-existing racial groups are separated by prejudice and misunderstanding. As many sociologists and historians have argued, we need a new paradigm, one that implies neither that race is a primordial reality nor that racism is merely an information problem. In this course, we will be using histories of the race-concept and theories emerging from the “relational turn” in psychoanalysis to explore the interplay of race and relationality in American literature written between the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law (1850) and Brown v. Board of Education (1954). The aim of this necessarily experimental course is to see what happens if we combine a historically informed understanding of the race-concept with a psychoanalytically informed understanding of relationality and bring both of those understandings to bear on works like Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, William Wells Brown’s Clotel, Herman Melville’s “Benito Cereno,” Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson, Nella Larsen’s Passing, and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. All of the varieties of American racial identification will be part of our discussions but the focus will be on the literary evocations of white-black conjunctions.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Fall 2019

359 Living with Inequality

(Offered as ENGL 359 and EDUC 359) Almost 60% of Americans now experience economic struggles. When they can they struggle to balance food, housing, medical care, clothing, and other needs. There are, at the same time, some 600 billionaires whose combined wealth exceeds that of all other Americans. Yet in 1970, a mere fifty years ago, the United States had the most equitable economic order in the world, and probably in history.

Our course moves around the country and among individuals and groups trying to survive scarcities of many kinds. This is not a literature course but one that does often engage language, how people speak their experience. It will be a journey in exploration.

Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Emeritus O’Connell.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

366 Asian-American Writing Across/Between Genres

In Jenny Boully’s essay, “On the EEO Genre Sheet,” she writes, “I am sometimes called a poet, sometimes an essayist, sometimes a lyric essayist, sometimes a prose poet. My second book was published under the guise of fiction/poetry/essay. I find these categorizations odd: I’ve never felt anything but whole.” In this course we will read works by contemporary Asian-American authors that defy and/or exceed genre expectations and examine these texts’ relationship to wholeness and hybridity. How can we read experimental writing as a politically subversive act? How can we read as a politically subversive act? This is not an introductory course on “Asian-American literature,” but a course that will interrogate the term “Asian-American,” both as a marker of identity and of literary genre. Readings may include works by Mary-Kim Arnold, Jenny Boully, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Lily Hoang, Vi Khi Nao, Diana Khoi Nguyen, and Ocean Vuong.

This is a discussion-based course that will require your weekly synchronous attendance, as well as asynchronous group and individual work. Also, though this is an online course, I am open to the possibility of creating in-person opportunities for students on campus, especially as the semester progresses.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Writer Myint.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Fall 2010, Spring 2021

370 Witch Hunt! Magic and Belief in Renaissance Literature

[Before 1800] What was magic in the early modern world? Why did it cause a crisis in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries? How did that crisis shape the literature of its time? We will follow competing ideas about magic as they ran like wildfire through the imagination of artists, playwrights, and preachers from medieval Germany through Renaissance England to Puritan Massachusetts. We will ask how magic in its apparently beneficial forms, such as alchemy and astrology, might relate to the supposedly malevolent practices of witchcraft, which yielded notorious trials and brutal executions on both sides of the Atlantic. Why did cultures balanced between religion and science become obsessed with magic? How did the fear and wonder that it evoked find its way into art? And what can literary figures of witches and sorcerers still tell us about our modern fantasies of self-empowerment and the counter-threat of demonic possession?

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Bosman.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Spring 2020

371 The African-American Playwright: A Select History of Representation and Citizenship

(Offered as THDA 223, BLST 113, and ENGL 371) What is meant by “the African-American experience” within the context of the U.S. American theater? What do the crafting and thematic concerns of plays penned by significant African-descendent writers in the United States tell us about the history of African-American theatrical performance and the larger issues of Black personhood, community, culture, and citizenship it reflects? This course is a thematic and critical survey of pivotal African-American plays from the mid-nineteenth century to the late twentieth century. Through practical dramaturgy and textual analysis we will study these playwrights’ deployment of their creative voice within social conditions that have evolved over the aforementioned period, from state-sanctioned exclusion to conditioned acceptance within U.S. American socio-cultural discourses. We will also examine how the civic work of these plays (and their writers) meet, intersect and coexist with that of other identity-based advocacy movements. Themes explored include slavery, segregation, nationality, class, religion, gender, sexual identity, among others. Playwrights studied may include Ira Aldridge, Angelina Grimke, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Charles Fuller, Lorraine Hansberry, James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka, Adrienne Kennedy, George C. Wolfe, August Wilson, Ntzoke Shange, and others.

Visiting Assistant Professor Jude Sandy. Fall semester.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

372 Reading the Romance

(Offered as ENGL 372 and SWAG 365) Do people the world over love in the same way, or does romance mean different things in different cultures? What happens when love violates social norms? Is the “romance” genre an escape from real-world conflicts or a resolution of them? This course analyzes romantic narratives from across the world through the lens of feminist theories of sexuality, marriage, and romance. We will read heterosexual romances such as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire, alongside queer fiction such as Sarah Waters’ Fingersmiths and Radclyffe Hall’s Well of Loneliness. We will also pay attention to the Western romantic-comedy film, the telenovela and the Bollywood spectacular.

Limited to 18 students. Not open to first-year students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Shandilya.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Spring 2021

374 Gothic/Horror: Literature, Film, Television

(Offered as ENGL 374 and FAMS 374) Gothic fictions are known for their ability to send shivers down the spine, evoking sensations of discomfort, fear, and horror. This interdisciplinary course will explore the genre of the Gothic from its roots in the late eighteenth century through the present, moving among literature, film, television, and digital media forms. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein will be a key text; we will explore intermedial texts like Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Bram Stoker’s Dracula; and the course will end with twenty-first century incarnations of the Gothic (Get Out, Penny Dreadful). Throughout, we will discuss the tangled relationship between sexuality, race, and power that characterizes the genre. Students will  develop a creative project, whether a piece of short fiction or a visual/digital exploration of Gothic themes, keep a weekly reading/viewing journal of their responses to the assigned texts, and facilitate discussion on a given text. In addition, students will write a 3- to 5-page close textual analysis, with a mandatory peer review workshop and revision, and a final research paper (10-12 pages) or creative project. Students will gain a familiarity with key literary and film/media studies terms and approaches; an understanding of major works in the Gothic and horror genres; an ability to think and write critically about Gothic literature and related media, in terms of aesthetics, historical development, and cultural context; confidence in reading critical/theoretical essays in literary studies, cultural studies, and film and media studies; and proficiency in various aspects of project-based work, including identifying a research topic, building arguments, using evidence, and working with and appropriately citing a variety of sources.

Requisite: A 200-level foundations course in English or Film & Media Studies, or equivalent. Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

375 Victorian Sensations, or, When Old Media Were New

(Offered as ENGL 375 and FAMS 317) Ghosts, vampires, madwomen, and typists: what do these figures have in common? In this course, we will investigate the characters and events that made the Victorian period the age of sensation, from the rise of popular fiction and the illustrated newspaper to the introduction of new methods for viewing and experiencing the world on a global scale. The course will focus on nineteenth-century Britain, exploring the ways in which Victorian fiction, poetry, and print and visual media give voice to the period’s obsession with sensory experience. We will read Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White, a tale of deception, mistaken identity and madness, alongside works by Robert Browning, Christina Rossetti, Sheridan Le Fanu, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Bram Stoker, among others. Historians of “old” media–including telegraphy, photography, and early cinema–will assist us in exploring new technologies for communication in the nineteenth century, while media archaeologists and theorists of ephemerality, memory, and the archive will deepen our understanding of the relationship between past and present media cultures. Three formal essays will be required: a literary close reading (3-4 pages); a critical explication of a scholarly article (4-5 pages); and a final research project (a 10-12 page paper or a digital humanities project of similar length and scope).

Requisite: A 200-level foundations course in English. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020

376 Disability Media

(Offered as ENGL 376 and FAMS 355) Moving image and audiovisual media frequently assume a fully able subject despite the infinite variety of our embodied capacities and debilitations. This course will explore how this assumption has shaped the design, narrative forms, audiovisual poetics, exhibition contexts, and modes of spectatorship and engagement of a range of media forms, from cinema to digital interfaces. We will examine how critical, experimental, and therapeutic approaches to media, the uses of media by people with disabilities, and media made in collaboration with disabled makers and protagonists enable us to fundamentally rethink what media can be and do. Readings will draw from disability studies and film and media studies as well as philosophy, science and technology studies, performance studies, sound studies, and other areas. Topics may include: disability tropes and rehabilitation narratives in film and TV; prostheses and “assistive” technologies; subtitles, captions, and the politics of accessibility; inclusive product and interface design; staring as spectatorial mode; sound art and polymodal listening. 

Prior coursework in ENGL or FAMS is recommended but not required. Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rangan.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019

377 The Documentary Impulse

(Offered as ENGL 377 and FAMS 383) Documentary is one of the fastest-growing areas of media production today, enjoying unprecedented commercial success in theaters, on television, and online streaming services. What drives the urgent desire to represent reality? Where did this impulse originate, and how do documentarians continue to channel it today? This course focuses on the innovative forms and ethical dilemmas that have resulted from the pursuit of reality. We look at different approaches to documentary (ethnographic, personal, observational, interactive, essayistic, activist) and emerging forms such as fake news, true crime podcasts, mockumentaries, web-docs, and documentary art. Our discussions consider the shifting boundaries of the documentary genre, the unique ethical and political considerations involved in making documentaries, and the impact of technological and socio-cultural changes on historical trends in documentary.

Open to students with no prior film classes. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rangan.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Spring 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019

378 After COPS: Police, Media, and Prison Abolition

(Offered as ENGL 378 and FAMS 382)

Calls to defund the police may have helped to cancel the notorious reality program COPS, but crime scenes, courtrooms, cops, lawyers, victims, and vigilantes dominate our media and our imaginations. This course asks what needs to be abolished—not just canceled—in our media environment in order for us to imagine a world without prisons. Abolition is, at its core, a transformative project that aims to change the very social relations, conditions, and logics that produce the harms for which police and prisons seem to serve as solutions. A project that once took on the seemingly impossible challenge of ending slavery, abolition has become a movement of interlinked struggles against systemic oppression. We will examine a range of media, historical and contemporary, cinematic and televisual, fictional and documentary, global and local, through the lens of abolition, deconstructing carceral scenarios and affects, and discovering and imagining transformative approaches to narrative, healing, and justice. Students enrolling in this course should be prepared to take on a range of activities including and beyond weekly readings, film/media viewing, and analytical writing, such as independent and collaborative research, site-based field work (if public health guidelines permit), and optional creative media assignments.

Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors, and to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Spring semester. Professor Rangan.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

379 Play and Performance Across “The Black Atlantic”

(Offered as THDA 224, BLST 124, and ENGL 379) What is the “African” in “African-American?” From the point of view of U.S. American theater, what is the relationship between African-American theatrical practices and those of a global African diaspora? Grounded in Paul Gilroy’s and other theorists’ positing of “The Black Atlantic,” this course will examine how notions of shared and distinct cultural heritages collide and co-mingle across the theatrical performance worlds of African and other African-descendant peoples. Our point of reference will be canonical and contemporary plays and dance-theater works by African-American artists like Adrienne Kennedy, August Wilson, Katherine Dunham, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Ronald K. Brown, Marcus Gardley, Jackie Sibblies-Drury, Danai Gurira, and others. We will examine how the conflicts, solidarities and assertions of identity and heritage in these artists’ works relate to that of such African-continental, -Caribbean, -European and trans-national figures as Pearl Primus, Wole Soyinka, Germaine Acogny, Ama Ata Aidoo, Femi Osofisan, Derek Walcott, Aimé Césaire, Trevor Rhone, Natasha Gordon and others. This comparative study will be situated against the seminal backdrop of diaspora cultures of ceremonial performance practices still evident throughout the Black world. 

Visiting Assistant Professor Jude Sandy. Spring semester. 2021-2022.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

381 Cinema and Everyday Life

(Offered as ENGL 381 and FAMS 351) Film theorist Siegfried Kracauer declared that some of the first films showed “life at its least controllable and most unconscious moments, a jumble of transient, forever dissolving patterns accessible only to the camera.” This course will explore the ways contemporary narrative films aesthetically represent everyday life–capturing both its transience and our everyday ruminations. We will further consider the ways we incorporate film into our everyday lives through various modes of viewings (the arthouse, the multiplex, the DVD, the mp3), our means of perception, and in the kinds of souvenirs we keep. We will look at films by Chantal Akerman, Robert Altman, Marleen Gorris, Hirokazu Koreeda, Marzieh Makhmalbaf, Terrence Malick, Lynne Ramsay, Tsai Ming-liang, Agnès Varda, Wong Kar-wai, and Andy Warhol. Readings will include work by Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin, Marlene Dietrich, Sigmund Freud, and various works in film and media studies. Three hours of lectures and three hours of film screening per week.

Not open to first-year students. Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hastie.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Fall 2015, Spring 2020

383 Intimate Film Cultures

(Offered as ENGL 383 and FAMS 360] What’s intimate about cinema? And what, if anything, is cinematic about intimacy? Since its invention, cinema has been closely associated with intimate experience, though understandings of this association have shifted over time. For classical film theorists, cinema’s intimate devices (the close-up, the kiss, etc.) were often invested with revolutionary potential, though more recent cultural theorists have issued strong rejoinders to such claims. Isn’t intimacy crucial to the workings of modern power? Doesn’t cinema structure intimate relations in accordance with normative ideologies? Examining a range of intimate film cultures–from early cinema to surrealism, classical Hollywood, Black British film, and queer world cinema–this course will explore the intimate dimensions of filmic representation and reception, and the reasons cinema’s intimacy has been both celebrated and denounced. Assignments include in-class presentations, critical essays, and weekly entries in personal film journals.

Requisite: One 200-level ENGL or FAMS course, or consent of the instructor. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Guilford.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Spring 2022

391 Literature of Everyday Life

This is a class all about the art of noticing. Our primary texts fixate on what Amit Chaudhuri calls “the moment of noticing”: heightened attention to the (seemingly) small, the ordinary, the routine. Many readings will be “day-in-the-life” novels set over a 24-hour period; others dwell on single moments, fleeting impressions, or routine rhythms of daily life.

We will discuss questions such as: What formal and stylistic strategies do writers employ to capture everyday life? What happens to narrative conventions of plot and the event when writers are more interested in the textures, rhythms, and background environments of everyday life? How does the ordinary become extraordinary? How does one narrate history in the making, as it unfolds in everyday life? How are major historical events and political structures felt over the course of a typical day? Is it a privilege to think about the everyday as either boring or beautiful? Does it even make sense to talk about “everyday literature” when experiences of daily life are so diverse and varied?

This class will pair novels and short stories with select critical readings from affect theory, urban studies, modernist studies, cultural studies, and ecocriticism. Possible authors include James Baldwin, Amit Chaudhuri, Anton Chekhov, Christopher Isherwood, James Joyce, Kathleen Stewart, Madeleine Thien, and Virginia Woolf.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Abramson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020, Spring 2022

392 The Performance of Politics

When someone says that a politician is being “theatrical” or that a protestor is following a “script,” it is rarely meant as a compliment‒but why? The implication is that true politics is never theatrical, never scripted, never performed, never entangled with spectacle. Put so baldly, this claim is pretty hard to believe. If, instead, we take for granted that all politics is performed, we are left with several unanswered questions. What would an eye trained on performance (theater, dance, film, comedy, spoken word, etc.) see in our politics that someone else would not? Are there distinct performance traditions in politics, as there are in the performing arts? How do activists and office-holders enter these traditions, learn their ways, and apply them in everyday settings? How are citizens expected (or trained) to engage with this performance of politics‒either as spectators or co-performers? What are the key genres of political performance, and what should every citizen know about them? This class will teach you to see these as researchable questions‒and as part of an ongoing scholarly conversation in fields ranging from performance studies, art history, and media studies to sociology, anthropology, political theory, and history. Through reading and discussion, students will learn to think in interdisciplinary terms about politics, making connections across fields and methodologies. They will also study representations of political action and debate in film, television, and theater in order to uncover whatever lessons performing artists can teach us about contemporary political life.

January term. Professor Grobe.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in January 2021, January 2022, Spring 2022

416 In the Archives of Childhood: Adventures in Book History

(Offered as ENGL 416 and AMST 367) Children’s books have always been part toy. The odd duality of all books–simultaneously object and text, commodity and meaning–is particularly evident in books made for children. Think how much more varied in the shape and size of volumes, the font and layout of print, the style and quantity of illustration are books intended for children compared to books for adults. Sites of innovation and experimentation in book production, children’s literature provides an excellent ground for studying book history. So too, book history provides a good gauge of shifts in cultural attitudes towards childhood. This course is interested in tracing both the history of childhood and the history of books, and what each can tell us about the other.

The course will provide an extraordinary opportunity for original archival research in the world’s finest collection of early American children’s literature. Half of the course meetings will be held at the American Antiquarian Society, in Worcester, Massachusetts, granting students access to one of America’s premier research libraries and enabling students to work directly with the rare materials housed there and with the society’s knowledgeable curators and librarians. This research will culminate in a substantial independent project.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. This course meets for 180 minutes. On days when the class meets at the American Antiquarian Society students should expect to leave Amherst at 1 p.m. and return by 6:30 p.m. Omitted 2021-22. Professor K. Sánchez-Eppler.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2019

432 Shakespeare: Media, Technology, and Performance

[Before 1800] In 1623, what we now call Shakespeare’s First Folio was printed. As a printed book, it represented an object made with some of that culture’s very latest media technology, namely the printing press. Shakespeare’s plays depict technologies: characters use compasses and astronomical charts, for example. His plays were also staged using technology: set design included pyrotechnics, costuming, and the other necessities of putting on a good show. This course will ask, how did Shakespeare’s plays both represent technology in fiction and require it in performance? In order to investigate Early Modern technologies of performance, we will read selections from Shakespearean plays and poems, as well as Renaissance treatises on science and technology.

Of course, technology plays a large role in modern productions. Whether through discussing the advent of electric lights in playhouses, to film adaptations and high-budget productions from the Royal Shakespeare Company, to digital editions of the plays, to experimental augmented reality interfaces, we will critically engage with the technologies of Shakespearean performance in the past, present, and even future. As a final project, students will complete a multimedia project on a chosen play, combining historical research with digital, creative, and experimental practices.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Professor Henrichs.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

435 The Play of Ideas

(Offered as ENGL 435 and THDA 335) We don’t just think, speak, or write our ideas; we perform them, too. Think TED Talks. Think political movements. Think 400-level seminars in English. In this course, you will read plays that are fueled by an argument and arguments that look an awful lot like plays. Readings will range from ancient philosophical dialogues to modern “plays of ideas”–from essays on pedagogy to works of social theory. As the semester wears on, you will begin to research your own angle on our central theme: Ideas performed. Your final project will be a mock prospectus, in which you imagine this “angle” turning into a thesis project–creative, critical, or a mixture of the two.

Previous experience with drama or performance theory might help, but is hardly required for enrollment. As a matter of fact, this course works best when students from a wide range of majors enroll. The reading load isn’t heavy, but expectations are high that you will turn up to class prepared to engage in an active discussion. I mean, would you show up to a performance not knowing your lines, or fail to speak when you heard your cue? I didn’t think so. See you there.

As a small, advanced seminar, this course will proceed mainly through synchronous small-group discussions of shared texts, videos, and images. Students will also take part in synchronous workshops (during regular course meeting times) on research skills, oral presentations, and the craft of proposing a thesis. Those not proposing a thesis–or who are already writing one–will have the choice to work instead on collaborative final projects in lieu of submitting a mock prospectus.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Grobe.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2013, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2021

441 Medieval and Renaissance Lyric

(Offered as ENGL 441 and EUST 374) [Before 1800] In this course, we read a selection of English and other European lyrics (in translation) from the twelfth through the seventeenth centuries. An exciting, fertile era in poetic innovation, these centuries see the dawn of the first romantic love poetry in these languages, the invention of new forms like the sonnet, and the invention of the lyric “anthology.” Reading the lyrics of the French troubadour poets, Chaucer, Petrarch, Wyatt, Donne, Shakespeare, and the many brilliant anonymous poets of medieval England, we will examine both the text and contexts of these short poems. Close readings will be put in dialogue with cultural contexts (such as the volatile court of Henry VIII, in which Thomas Wyatt wrote), and the material contexts of the lyrics (the medieval and early modern manuscripts and books in which they first appeared). We will further think about how the term “lyric” emerges as a privileged poetic category, by reading contemporary “defenses” of poetry and thinking about why the word “lyric” only appears in the sixteenth century. Does the “lyric” poem change once it is defined? How do later works speak to the earlier tradition?

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Nelson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2014, Fall 2016, Spring 2020, Spring 2022

445 British Romantic Poetry: Nature and the Imagination

Can reading poetry change our understanding of our environment? How might the way we perceive nature be conditioned by the ways in which writers have imagined it? In turn, how might the way we perceive our own imaginations be conditioned by ideas about the natural world? Although “nature” might seem like a universal and unchanging concept, British Romantic writers did much to invent our modern ideas about it. Notions of perception, cognition, and the imagination changed alongside our ideas about nature. We will debate what impact this history has had on current environmental discourse, contemporary ethics, and the Green movement. Some critics have argued, for instance, that the Romantics’ reverence for nature is more destructive than it might at first seem. Might it be more environmentally responsible to get rid of the Romantic concept of “nature” altogether? This course gives students a thorough grounding in Romantic Poetry, the philosophy of aesthetics, and literary theory, while also giving them a chance to follow their own research interests in a final project.

The majority of this course will revolve around discussion in various formats, though there will be opportunities for visits to museums and archives in smaller groups. Since research and individual projects will be a central feature of this class, students will receive individual attention and feedback on their work. Students will also have a chance to engage with scholars working in this area.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Worsley.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020, Spring 2022

448 The Body in Peril–An Exploration of Tragedy through Poetic Form

Writing is the landscape through which poets explore the human body. The fluidity of a text often mirrors our relationship to memory–the recollection of the sensory discovering harmony with the fluidity of a poem’s language and syntax. But what happens when a disruption in one’s fundamental experience of being alters the ways in which we experience the world?

In spaces of distress, poetry often makes courageous leaps in formal reinvention. As opposed to dwelling heavily on the subject of physical disruption, this course will examine ways contemporary writers have discovered, or reimagined, prosody as a way to explore the human experience through vulnerability and authenticity. The course will include close-readings of four to six collections of poetry, some creative writing, and discussions on mindfulness practices–all culminating in a critical/personal essay exploring a selected poem of your choice.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Lawson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019

449 Avant-Garde Poetry

Avant-garde poetry resists definition. In this course, we will explore poetry that defies convention, be it formal (exploding the poetic verse line), material (appearing outside of the conventional venues of the published, mass-produced book), or linguistic (using everyday language rather than poetic diction). We will read widely from a range of twentieth- and twenty-first century poets as well as important nineteenth-century forebears. The course will center on the movements and schools of avant-garde poetry in the Anglo-American tradition, such as modernism (T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein); the Harlem Renaissance (Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson); the Beat Poets (Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder); the New York School (Frank O’Hara, Ted Berrigan); the Black Arts poets (Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni); the Language Poets (Susan Howe, Charles Bernstein); and contemporary poets (Nathaniel Mackey, Alice Notley). We will also look at artists’ books, broadsides, and other poetry that makes interesting use of the conventional materials and layout of poetry and poetic books. We will ask, how do these poets and movements challenge the aesthetic and poetic conventions of their time(s)? How do they expand or challenge the boundaries of poetic forms and subjects? What opportunities and constraints do avant-garde approaches offer to poets of color and/or women poets?

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Nelson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2020

453 The Value of Literature

Why, Rita Felski asks, are people “willing to drive five hundred miles to hear a band playing a certain song, or spend years in graduate school puzzling over a single novel?” Concepts like “cultural capital,” “the hegemonic media industry,” or “interpretive communities” do not fully explain “why it is this particular tune that plays over and over in our heads, why it is Virginia Woolf alone who becomes an object of obsession.” Something else has to be involved, a “rogue something,” in the words of Toni Morrison’s narrator in Jazz, that you “have to figure in before you can figure it out.” In this seminar, students will first explore the phenomenon of aesthetic valuation, then turn to a consideration of when, why, and for whom literary experiences are valuable, and finally embark on independent research projects in which each of them studies a single author in depth and experiments with ways of articulating (in a class presentation and in a final essay) the kinds of value that that author may be said to have.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2017, Fall 2019

458 Indigenous American Epics

(Offered as ENGL 458 and AMST 358) [Before 1800] This course will delve deeply into Indigenous literatures of “Turtle Island,” or North America. The Kiché Maya Popol Wuj (Council Book), the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Great Law of Peace, the Wabanaki creation cycle, and Salish Coyote Stories are rooted in longstanding, complex oral narratives of emergence and transformation, which were recorded by Indigenous authors and scribes. These texts will enable us to consider how the temporal and spatial boundaries of America are both defined and extended by colonization, and disrupted by Indigenous texts and decolonial theory. We will close read these major epics as works of classical literature, narratives of tribal history, and living political constitutions, which embed ecological and cultural adaptation.

Reading each long text (in English translation) over several weeks, we will study the tribally and regionally-specific contexts of each epic narrative as well as the “intellectual trade routes” that link them together. We will also consider the place of these epics within American literature and history and their contributions to historical and contemporary decolonization. We will discuss the ways in which the narratives challenge conceptual boundaries, considering categories such as land/place, gender, sexuality, and other-than-human beings.

Open to juniors and seniors, and to sophomores with consent of the instructor. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Brooks.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2021

470 Decolonial Love

In this upper-level course, we will read literary and theoretical texts that, although loosely grouped in terms of period, geography, and style, are all driven by the same set of questions: Is decolonial love possible? What does it look and feel like? We will read scholars and writers who describe the ways that imperialism, capitalism, racism, and heteropatriarchy structure conventional ways of loving, caring, and forming social bonds, as well as conventional ways of telling stories and writing novels. And we will follow these writers as they imagine alternatives to these conventional structures, asking how we might alter the aspects of ourselves and our worlds that seem as fundamental and as intractable as our aesthetics, our desires, our very pleasures. As a class, we will build transportable definitions of colonialism, anticolonialism, and decoloniality from the texts we study and the contexts in which they were written and that they reflect. We will investigate the power of these analytic categories to interrogate aspects of personal as well as geopolitical experience, particularly aspects of experience that we have sometimes mistakenly believed to be without historical or sociological determinants. Possible texts include: Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks; Moraga and Anzaldúa, eds., This Bridge Called My Back; Stevenson, Life Beside Itself; Muñoz, Cruising Utopia; Lorde, “The Uses of the Erotic”; Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun; Cisneros, The House on Mango Street; Mahajan, The Association of Small Bombs; Cole, Open City; Sollett, Raising Victor Vargas; Lee, BlacKkKlansman; Simpson, Islands of Decolonial Love.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Mireles Christoff.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2022

471 Time, Memory, and Ghosts in Post-Dictatorial Narratives

Giorgio Agamben writes in Remnants of Auschwitz that “trauma is thus an event that has no beginning, no ending, no before, no during, and no after.” In this seminar, we will study texts from different genres–poetry, fiction, and memoir–that attempt to narrativize the timeless, ubiquitous, and haunted event that is a military dictatorship. How do these texts undertake the task of remembering or reimagining the past? How do they fill the gap between memory and history, between testimony and literature, and between past and present? What does or can literature do with a legacy of violence and oppression? Readings may include works by Argentinian-Mexican visual artist and novelist Verónica Gerber Bicecci, the Chilean poet Raúl Zurita, the Padaung (Burmese) memoirist Pascal Khoo Thwe, and the Ghanaian-born novelist Ayesha Harruna Attah.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Writer Myint.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Spring 2022

473 Hybrid Forms

The non-traditional texts of writers like Claudia Rankine, Maggie Nelson, Viet Thanh Nguyen and Alison Bechdel have garnered great success that has introduced new audiences to the world of hybrid forms. Through close reading and a study of works at the apex of literary deconstruction, we will erase the lines drawn between poetry and prose, image and memoir, percentage graph and fiction and will embark on an expedition through contemporary hybrid texts, asking what dictates how we define genre.

Completion of this course will include a collaborative oral presentation guiding the reading of one of the semester’s assigned texts and a final critical research project presented in a hybrid form that breaks the boundaries of expected academia. Use of hybridity in the construction of all class assignments (short essays, personal responses, reflections, etc.) will be strongly encouraged.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Lawson and Visiting Lecturer Bernitt.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Fall 2021

475 Fashion / Media / Modernity

(Offered as ENGL 475 and FAMS 431) Fashion has long been associated with frivolity, ephemerality, and triviality. Yet trends in clothing and design are irrevocably linked to politics, technology, society, and cultural change–from hats to hemlines to heels, fashion can reveal the transformations of an era. How has fashion evolved in the modern age, and what is its relationship to literature, film, and other media forms? What can fashion teach us about our past, present, and future? This advanced seminar will delve into the interdisciplinary field of fashion studies to examine the vicissitudes of fashion from the nineteenth century onward, focusing on Britain, Europe, and the United States, with an eye toward the role of imperialism, Orientalism, and cultural appropriation in shaping fashion’s tangled histories. Students will study literary texts; film and television; print, visual, and digital media; and material culture. Potential case studies include the dandy, the New Woman, and the flapper; wartime fashions; subcultural style; the wedding gown; the sneaker; among other topics. Students will do independent research, culminating in a written research project and/or curated digital exhibit; keep a weekly reading/viewing journal recording their critical responses to the assigned texts; and facilitate discussion on a given topic. Students can expect to gain: a familiarity with key terms and approaches in fashion studies, media studies, and cultural studies; an ability to think and write critically about fashion and fashion media, in terms of aesthetics, historical development, and cultural context; confidence in reading critical/theoretical essays; and proficiency in various aspects of project-based work, including identifying a research topic, building arguments, using evidence, and working with and appropriately citing a variety of sources.

Requisite: At least one 200-level foundations course in English, Film & Media Studies, Art & the History of Art, History, Theater and Dance, and/or Sexuality, Women’s & Gender Studies. Upper-level coursework in one or more of these fields is strongly recommended. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

480 The Film Essay

(Offered as ENGL 480 and FAMS 411) The “essay” derives its meaning from the original French essayer: to try or attempt. In its attempts to work through and experiment with new ideas, the essay form becomes a manifestation of observation, experience, and transformation. Originally developed through the written form, the essay has also taken shape in visual work–photographic, installation, and, of course, cinematic. The “essay film” is exploratory, digressive, subjective; the “video essay” is similarly personal and simultaneously transformative. The “film essay” has the capacity to be all of these things, though in the past few decades this form has become arguably schematic. Working against the conventions of the “academic” or college essay and inspired by visual experimentation, this course will explore film through a variety of manifestations of the written essay. After all, since film comes in multiple forms and offers multiple experiences, it demands multiple possibilities of rhetorical exploration.

The models for writing in this course will come from both visual and written works. Course readings will be collected from a range of historical periods and will run a gamut of approaches to film: theoretical and experiential, critical and poetic, autobiographical and historical. Class screenings will similarly come from a variety of historical eras, genres, and national spaces. Because writing assignments will often explore the cultural experience of the movies, we will visit a variety of screening venues, including a film festival, “archival” and repertory houses, art cinemas, and commercial theaters. Though it will include some lectures to contextualize readings, this course will primarily be discussion-oriented, with attentive writing workshops. Thus experimenting with method and form, students will produce weekly writings, two extended essays, and a collaboratively-produced project.

Requisite: a 200-level foundations course in ENGL or FAMS. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Hastie.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Spring 2020, Fall 2021

481 Conversations with Experimental Filmmakers

(Offered as ENGL 481, ARHA 481, and FAMS 481) Experimental film is a vital area of contemporary media culture where artists engage the moving image from a wide range of creative approaches, exploring film as an aesthetic, poetic, or political medium, rather than a commercial enterprise. By departing from the conventions of mainstream film, experimental filmmakers present their audience with a stimulating challenge, asking viewers to develop new critical frameworks through which to assess films that often resist classification and traditional interpretive approaches.

In this seminar, students will take up this challenge by exploring different ways of entering into conversation with the work of experimental filmmakers. Through weekly screenings, in-class visits by contemporary filmmakers, and group discussions of course readings (such as artists’ writings, interviews, and related theoretical material), we will develop critical and creative vocabularies that help us to analyze and respond to an array of experimental films and videos. Along with completing writing assignments and in-class presentations, students will plan and execute a final project that can assume a number of critical or creative forms, such as an interview with a filmmaker, a short video, or an analytical essay.

Requisite: At least one foundational course in FAMS, ARHA, or ENGL. Open to juniors and seniors, and to sophomores with consent of the instructor. Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Guilford.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016, Fall 2019

484 “It was the ’70s”: US Film, History, and the Cultural Imagination

(Offered as ENGL 484 and FAMS 424) Sometimes referred to as the “silver era” of US film production, the 1970s were a period of aesthetic, technological, and cultural transformation. New “auteurs” emerged as both mavericks and commercial success stories. Independence reigned supreme for some, while others helped to usher in the contemporary blockbuster. At the same time, scholarly study of film was steadily increasing, experimenting with new disciplinary methods, waging debates, and often distancing itself from popular critical writings. All told, such narratives of the era have meant that the 1970s looms large in our cultural imagination of film production. This course will trace film history to consider how narratives of the era have been written and how, in recent years, they have been written anew.

The first half of the course will explore several canonical works, while the second half of the course will consider films that have been recently excavated and/or remade. By intermixing popular critical writings (including reviews, interviews, and essays), academic writings of the era, and recent historical studies, we will consider historical and historiographical methods of film studies scholarship. Moreover, in our discussion of newly excavated or historically underrepresented cases–including works directed by women, examples of Blaxploitation cinema, and independent drama–we will explore how canons are both designed and remade, functioning as emblems of the time of their own critical production. Students will work with primary archival materials along with contemporaneous critical or theoretical models in order to develop their own historical narratives of 1970s film.

Requisite: Prior FAMS coursework or, alternatively, prior 200-level courses in ENGL. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hastie.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020

485 The City in Literature and Early Film

(Offered as ENGL 485 and FAMS 438) This course examines the role of the city in shaping modern experience. We will study literary works by Charles Baudelaire, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, and Virginia Woolf alongside a number of early films, reading these texts against historical and critical discussions of everyday life in the urban environment. Among other themes, we will take up the debate over “flanerie” as a spatial and social practice, investigating the class and gender dynamics of urban and cinematic spectatorship. Our conversations will be shaped by an awareness of the city as a geographically locatable space to be mapped and traversed, but also as a site for imaginary projections of individual and collective experience. In addition to a short creative assignment, two formal essays are required: a midterm paper (5-7 pages) involving close textual analysis of a primary source; and a final research paper (12-15 pages), with a draft to be revised in conjunction with a peer review workshop.

This course will run primarily online, with periodic small-group meetings for students who are in residence on campus and parallel small-group meetings for remote students. The additional evening time slot will provide opportunities for students to screen films and engage in structured small-group discussion synchronously, whether remotely or in person. There may be additional opportunities for in-person meetings (including office hours) as the semester progresses.

Requisite: A 200-level foundations course in English or equivalent. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021

487 Postwar American Cinema, 1945-1960

(Offered as ENGL 487 and FAMS 425) In the years following World War II, a series of rapid and far-reaching transformations–economic, technological, social, political–dramatically reconfigured American life. Throughout this period of change, cinema served as both mirror and catalyst, reflecting national crises and upheavals while also contributing to the transformation of American culture. This seminar explores both sides of this dynamic, examining how postwar American filmmakers devised innovative strategies for representing the dilemmas of their time, and how artists, studios, and lawmakers sought to intervene in such dilemmas via the moving image. We will view and discuss key examples of popular Hollywood genres from this period–film noir, science fiction, the western, etc.–as well as independent, documentary, and avant-garde films created by countercultural, feminist, queer, and Black artists. Weekly readings will engage such subjects as: nuclear anxiety; suburban domesticity and surveillance; Beat culture and spontaneity; totalitarianism; racial prejudice and civil rights; urban renewal and queer desire; gender and consumer culture; blacklisting, and others. Students will explore such issues through in-class presentations, critical essays, and individual research projects.

Requisite: At least one foundational course in ENGL or FAMS. Open to juniors and seniors and to sophomores with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Guilford.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

490 Special Topics

Independent reading courses.

Fall and spring semester. The Department.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

491 The Creole Imagination

(Offered as ENGL 491, BLST 461 [CLA], and LLAS 461) What would it mean to write in the language in which we dream? A language that we can hear, but cannot (yet) see? Is it possible to conceive a language outside the socio-symbolic order? And can one language subvert the codes and values of another? Questions like these have animated the creolité/nation language debate among Caribbean intellectuals since the mid-1970s, producing some of the most significant francophone and anglophone writing of the twentieth century. This course reads across philosophy, cultural theory, politics, and literature in order to consider the claims such works make for the Creole imagination. We will engage the theoretical and creative work of Édouard Glissant, Maryse Condé, Wilson Harris, Derek Walcott, Kamau Brathwaite, Patrick Chamoiseau, Jamaica Kincaid, and Edwidge Danticat. We also will consider how these writers transform some of the fundamental ideas of psychoanalysis, poststructuralism, and critical historiography. At stake in our readings will be the various aesthetic and political aspects of postcolonial struggle–how to think outside the colonial architecture of language; how to contest and subvert what remains from history’s violence; and how to evaluate the claims to authenticity of creolized New World cultural forms.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Cobham-Sander.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2015, Spring 2018, Spring 2020

492 Creative Thesis Workshop

This is a non-required course for English majors who are currently working on a creative writing or hybrid thesis project. It is meant to offer guidance and a sense of community to these writers as they embark on what can feel like a formidable process. In this course, we will discuss and analyze examples of senior theses in various forms, and discuss issues peculiar to the task of planning, researching, and writing a project of this scope. We will read together to help writers identify models and understand the literary tradition(s) they are working in. We will also talk about the kinds of research that each project invites and requires, and about how to conduct and use that research.

Guided writing in class will play a key role in working through issues of technique, structure, and inspiration. Most important, this course offers students the chance to present and critique work-in-progress with a group of their peers.

Please note: This course does not replace ENGL-498, the Senior Tutorial, which covers students’ independent work under the tutelage of a thesis advisor.

Open to senior majors currently writing a creative or hybrid thesis. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Frank.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

494 Globe and Planet in Contemporary Literature

What does it mean to talk about literature as “global”? How do writers engage the idea of the globe politically, aesthetically, and environmentally?

This is a class about problems of scale and scope. We will consider how contemporary writers represent phenomena that cross national borders: particular attention will be paid to climate change, migration and immigration, the idea of the “global city,” war and terrorism, and the living legacies of colonialism, slavery, and diaspora. What are the formal and ethical challenges of thinking on a global scale? When thinking globally, how can we preserve awareness of local and historical differences? What are literary theorists saying about these questions today? Our readings will pair late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century fiction with critical and theoretical work drawn from ecocriticism and the environmental humanities, postcolonial studies, cultural studies, and so-called new global modernisms. This class will also emphasize the process and skills involved in upper-level literary analysis and research: we will experiment with a range of strategies for note-taking, making sense of dense texts, framing research questions, and finding openings and opportunities to engage in ongoing critical debates and conversations.

Possible authors include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Teju Cole, Mohsin Hamid, Jamaica Kincaid, Arundhati Roy, and W. G. Sebald.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Abramson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021, Fall 2021

495 Modernism, Trauma, and Theories of Violence

This course puts modernist formal innovation in conversation with theories of violence and trauma. We will examine the complex intersection between shattering historical violence and modernist formal and aesthetic techniques, including fragmentation, impressionism, collage, empty centers, rupture, abstraction, and multiperspectivalism. We will pay particular attention to what happens when language and literary form run up against the unspeakable, the unimaginable, the blank, the empty.

Critical readings will be drawn from a range of theoretical works on violence and trauma (postcolonialism, psychoanalysis, cognitive psychology, and affect theory). These textual pairings will provide a case study for how close reading can be enriched by theoretical and historical scaffolding. We will focus on the ways that war and violence overspill boundaries–beyond the battlefield, beyond the moment of impact, beyond what is visible, beyond national borders, beyond the signing of peace treaties. We will consider violence done to individual bodies and minds, as well as the ways that the shocks of world wars reverberate historically and around the globe. How do modernist texts blur lines between front-lines/home front, victim/perpetrator, and civilian/combatant?

Possible authors include Edmund Blunden, Cathy Caruth, Sigmund Freud, Frantz Fanon, Toni Morrison, Michael Ondaatje, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, W. G. Sebald, and Virginia Woolf.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Abramson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

496 Literary and Critical Theory

This course introduces students to the basic concepts and methods of literary and critical theory, a body of work that explores and critiques modern assumptions about truth, culture, power, language, representation, subject-formation, and identity. Surveying a wide range of authors and approaches (postcolonial, gender studies and queer theory, critical race theory, psychoanalytic, etc.), students will grapple with complex theoretical texts, consider the place of theory in literary studies and in film, media, and cultural studies as well, and begin to imagine ways of putting theoretical ideas to work for themselves.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Bosman.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2022

497 Critical Thesis Workshop

This is a non-required course for English majors who are currently working on a critical or hybrid (i.e., not pure creative writing) thesis project. It is meant to offer guidance and a sense of scholarly community to students as they embark on what can feel like a formidable (and often lonely) process. In this course, we will discuss and analyze examples of the thesis form. We will analyze and practice some of the many subgenres theses contain (e.g., the introduction, the literature review, the methodological statement, and various ways of incorporating the voices of other critics, historians, or theorists). We will also read a representative range of recent criticism in the field, discussing critical methods, rhetorical tactics, and writerly voices employed in that work. And we will discuss issues peculiar to the task of planning, researching, and writing a long critical thesis. Most important, as in an advanced creative writing workshop, this course offers students the chance to present and critique work-in-progress with a group of their peers.

Please note: This course does not replace ENGL-498, the Senior Tutorial, which covers students’ independent work under the tutelage of a thesis advisor.

A major goal of this course is to foster mutual care and support among English Department thesis writers. With that in mind, the main mode of instruction for this course will be discussion–sometimes about shared readings, sometimes about other students’ writing, and sometimes about the writing process itself. Guided writing in class will play a key role in making the writing process available for discussion. Additionally, students will meet one-on-one (or in small groups) with the professor to discuss their own thesis progress. Finally, students will have the opportunity to take part in structured co-writing sessions outside of class.

Open to juniors and seniors. Preference given to English majors currently writing a critical thesis. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Grobe.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020, Fall 2021

498, 498D, 499 Senior Tutorial

Open to senior English majors who wish to pursue a self-defined project in reading and writing. Students intending to elect this course must submit to the Department a five-page description and rationale for the proposed independent study. Those who propose projects in fiction, verse, playwriting, or autobiography must submit a substantial sample of work in the appropriate mode; students wishing to undertake critical projects must include a tentative bibliography with their proposal. Please consult the English Department website for deadlines and for more information on the senior honors process.

Preregistration is not allowed. Admission with consent of the instructor. Fall semester. The Department.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

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English

Professors Emeriti O'Connell and Sofield; Senior Lecturer Emeritus Lieber; Professors Brooks, Cobham-Sander‡, Frank‡, Hastie‡, Parham*, Sanborn (Director of Studies), and K. Sánchez-Eppler†; Associate Professors Bosman, Mireles Christoff†, Grobe (Chair), Nelson†, and Rangan†; Assistant Professors Abramson, Guilford, Lawson‡, Myint†, and Worsley; Writer-in-Residence Lee*; Lecturer and Director of the Creative Writing Program Kapur; Lecturer and Director of the Intensive Writing Program Reardon; Senior Lecturer B. Sánchez-Eppler; Lecturer Sweeney; Visiting Professor Sanders; Visiting Lecturers Bernitt, Couch, Masiki, and Ocasion; Visiting Instructor Gooptu; Merrill Visiting Poet Dryansky.

Major Program. Students majoring in English are encouraged to explore the Department’s wide range of offerings in literature, film and media, performance studies, cultural studies, and creative writing.

Majoring in English requires the completion of ten courses offered or approved by the Department. The Department organizes its courses into four levels. The courses numbered in the 100s are writing-attentive and writing-intensive courses that introduce students to a variety of genres and media, entail frequent writing, and cultivate students’ skills in close reading. The courses in the 200s emphasize a particular approach to method, genre, medium, period, or discourse. They include introductory courses in creative writing as well as literary, film, or cultural study. The courses in the 300s are electives designed to foster immersion into specific topics in literary, film, cultural studies and creative writing. They help students learn skills and/or study materials that will prepare them for independent work in their 400-level seminars. They are open, however, to both majors and non-majors across the college, and generally do not carry prerequisites for admission. Courses in the 400s are junior and senior seminars emphasizing independent inquiry, critical and theoretical issues, and extensive writing. These courses teach students the intellectual skills vital to framing a research question and conducting independent research.

Majors are required to take at least one 100 course, at least two 200 courses, at least two 300 courses, and at least two 400-level seminars. One of these courses must substantially address material from the period before 1800. While senior thesis and special topics courses also have 400 numbers, these individualized courses cannot count as the 400-level seminar.

In the early spring of each year, senior majors present independent work drawn from one of their 400-level seminars or from their senior theses at the English Department Capstone Symposium to fulfill the Comprehensive Requirement. The ten-minute presentations can take many forms and they will be organized into panels. The Comprehensive Requirement is fulfilled by presenting your work at the Symposium, participating in preparation sessions, and also participating in the conversations that are generated by your classmates’ presentations.

Majors may count towards the ten required courses up to three courses in creative writing. Level and period requirements should be fulfilled with courses from Amherst College English Department offerings. Because 400-level seminars can lead in the senior year to a thesis project, the Department strongly urges majors to take at least one of their required 400-level seminars before the end of the junior year. The Department will not guarantee admission to a particular 400-level seminar in the second semester of the senior year.

Senior Thesis. The senior thesis provides an opportunity for independent study to any senior major who is adequately motivated and prepared to undertake such work. English majors apply for admission to the senior thesis courses (English 498/499) in April of their junior year. Admission to English 498/499 is contingent upon the Department’s judgment of the feasibility and value of the student’s proposal as well as of their preparation and capacity to carry it through to a fruitful conclusion. The Department assigns Thesis Advisors to students whose applications it approves.

To be considered for senior honors a student must submit to the Department a portfolio, which contains normally 50 to 70 pages of writing. The work may take the form of a critical essay, a short film or video, a collection of essays or poems or stories, a play, a mixture of forms, an exploration in education or cultural studies.

Before a student can submit a thesis, the final work must be approved by the student’s designated advisor. Once the thesis is approved, the Department appoints a committee of faculty examiners to read it. Following an interview with the student, the committee conveys its evaluation to the whole Department, which then makes the final recommendation for the level of honors in English.

Departmental Honors Program. The Department awards Latin honors to seniors who have achieved distinction in course work for the major and who have also demonstrated, in a submitted portfolio of critical or creative work, a capacity to excel in composition. Students qualify for Latin honors only if they have attained a B+ average in courses approved for the major; the degree summa cum laude usually presupposes an A average.

Learning Goals. By the time of their graduation, we expect that students who major in English will have become:

  • Adept at reading closely and writing well.
  • Skilled at critical writing about works in multiple genres, including both written texts, performances and visual narratives such as film. Some students may choose to create works of their own in verse, prose fiction or other media.
  • Attentive to the production of literary culture in a range of historical periods and social contexts.
  • Informed about the relationship between literary texts, literary criticism, and theories about cultural production.
  • Well versed in the literature associated with at least one specific area of concentration.
  • Capable of producing a well-researched long essay and/or completing a sustained creative project.

Graduate Study. Students interested in graduate work in English or related fields should discuss their plans with their advisor and other members of the Department to learn about particular programs, requirements for admission, the availability of fellowships, and prospects for a professional career. Many graduate programs in English or comparative literature require reading competence in several foreign languages; while to some extent these programs permit students to satisfy the requirement concurrently with graduate work, we would encourage those interested in graduate study to broaden their language skills while at Amherst. We would also encourage students to consider writing a thesis, for several reasons: to produce a polished writing sample they can submit with their application; to gain, and demonstrate, experience in sustained independent work; and to get a sense of the areas they might want to pursue in graduate school, some knowledge of which is essential for writing an effective admissions essay.

N.B. The English Department does not grant advanced placement on the basis of College Entrance Examination Board scores.

*On leave 2021-22.
†On leave fall semester 2021-22.
‡On leave spring semester 2021-22.

105 Engaging Literature: Close Reading

Why study literature? In many contexts, including the contexts of most other academic disciplines, one reads in order to extract the gist of a text. By studying literature, we enable ourselves to do much more than that. Studying literature makes it possible to recover a relationship to language that we all once had, in which words and their interrelationships were new, strange, and rich with possibility. It makes it possible to develop a more acute awareness of the ongoing tension between language as units of meaning (words, phrases, sentences) and language as units of sound (the beat of syllables, the harmonization of one syllable with another). It even makes it possible for us to carry this sense of everything that is uncanny about language–the medium of our relationship to others and to ourselves–into our lives more generally, to recognize that in just about everything that we say, we mean more than we mean to mean. People who study literature are people who are capable of taking away from conversations, no less than from poems, much more than the gist, the summary, the bottom line. By dwelling on texts patiently, by slowing down the process of moving from mystery to certainty, by opening ourselves to the crosscurrents of potential meanings that are present at every moment in just about every sentence, it is possible for us to become more accurate and nuanced readers of just about everything that happens in our lives.

Eighteen seats reserved for first-year students. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2020

106 Engaging Literature: Craft, Conversation, Community

Literature engages us. It moves us, it delights us, it makes us ask hard questions. How do we engage literature? How do we respond to it in conversation, in writing, in performance, and in our communities? How do we write about literature in a way that effectively engages others?

This course seeks to engage you in a process of seeing literature and your own writing process anew. We will engage with authors, in person, in public, and on the page. We will attend literary events and enter into conversations among writers: authors who are influenced and inspired by each other, literary critics who give us illuminating interpretations, and literary historians who open our eyes to contexts heretofore unseen. Students will practice writing about literature in a range of modes from the personal essay to the book review to the academic paper. Frequent writing workshops will be geared toward the process of revising in a collaborative environment. A first course in reading fictional, dramatic, lyric, and non-fiction texts, this course also challenges Amherst College students to think of themselves as writers.

Preference given to first-year students. Limited to 18 students. Ten seats reserved for first-year students. Omitted 2021-22. Professors Brooks and Mireles Christoff.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2018, Spring 2020

107 Poetry with Friends

This poetry workshop is made for buddies: the ones you build and the ones you bring. Although most poets love to go solo, the contemporary writers we will study in this course prove how writing can be better with friends.

In this course, we will look at contemporary poets who collaborate: to perform, to further their own collections, to create their passion projects. We will look at poetic movements that planted the seed for twenty-first century partnerships and examine contemporary collaborations that prove there’s poetic strength in numbers.

Requirements for this course include a desire to experiment with collaboration. Students are encouraged to register with a friend as a way to begin their writing partnership but will also be paired with a partner or group within the course to write with. Completion of this course will include the creation of two sets of collaborative work. Partners will decide if this means writing individual poems that are in conversation with each other, or writing work collectively. This is a great course for non-majors and good friends.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester: Professor Lawson and Visiting Lecturer Dan Bernitt. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Fall 2021

110 Writing About Humor

Why do we laugh at some jokes but not others? What makes something funny? This class will explore humor as a core rhetorical concept to study audience, genre, purpose, context, and exigency. We will analyze how situational and language humor work in essays, stories, and visual media. Students will build their critical reading and writing skills through short, low-stakes weekly writing and three major papers. We will consider how the intersectional identities of authors and audiences (i.e.: how class, race, gender, and disability, among others) influence joke construction and reception. As we read, we will pay close attention to the way that writers use humor as a tool for social critique and to release tension. Students can expect to build a toolkit for creating arguments with evidence, and they will frequently revise the content, organization, and language in their work. We will work together to develop a community of writers who can mutually support each other through the writing process.

Preference given to first-year Amherst College students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Lecturer Reardon.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

111 Having Arguments

Using a variety of texts–novels, essays, short stories–this course will work to develop the reading and writing of difficult prose, paying particular attention to the kinds of evidence and authority, logic and structure that produce strong arguments. The authors we study may include Peter Singer, Aravind Adiga, Willa Cather, Toni Morrison, George Orwell, Charles Johnson, James Baldwin, Alice Munro, William Carlos Williams. This is an intensive writing course. Frequent short papers will be assigned.

Preference given to first-year Amherst College students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester. Senior Lecturer Emeritus Lieber.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2021, Fall 2021

113 Writing Human Rights

This course explores human rights rhetoric through readings of a range of non-fiction briefs, academic articles, and reportage, alongside fictional works. It asks students, through critical writing, to come to terms with our responsibilities as global citizens for upholding a culture of dignity in our world. Together, we will examine the way that authors use the written word to push readers to empathize with others, reflect on the past, learn about injustices, and imagine new realities–as we do the same in our own writing. We will pay close attention to the way that writers build arguments, use evidence, organize texts, and edit their own work, with an eye on developing strategies for using these skills in class assignments, and transferring them to other classes as well. Through writing projects that analyze, challenge, and extend authors’ arguments about the universality of human rights and the pursuit of social and racial justice, we will evaluate the ways that words fuel and mitigate conflict–in both productive and destructive ways.

Preference given to first-year Amherst College students. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester. Lecturer Reardon.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

114 Narratives of Migration and Transformation

How does migration transform identity? Which techniques do writers use to express and recreate this complex experience on the page? What role can language and narrative technique play in forging a sense of self and home? How might writing be related to refuge? Reading across genres of poetry, fiction and memoir, this class explores how writers have described the experience of locating themselves while departing, arriving or living in between. The course will cover topics such as alienation, assimilation, generational memory, survival, nostalgia, hybridity, and transformation. Students can expect a wide range of writing assignments, both analytical and creative. Readings may include Bapsi Sidhwa, Amitav Ghosh, Zadie Smith, José Olivarez, Warsan Shire, Suji Kwock Kim, Fady Joudah, Edwidge Danticat, Eduardo Corral and Ocean Vuong.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Writer Kapur.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021, Spring 2022

115 Writing (about) the News

This course explores media literacy and the rhetoric of news through readings of a range of multimedia news and academic articles. It asks students, through critical writing, to come to terms with our responsibilities as engaged citizens for understanding, and acting on, the information we encounter in the news. Together, we will examine the way that journalists present the written word in print and digital spaces to inform, analyze, and present opinions–as we do the same in our own writing. We will pay close attention to the way that reporter teams explicitly and implicitly build arguments, use evidence, organize texts, and edit their own work, with an eye on developing strategies for using these skills in class assignments, and transferring them to other classes as well. Through writing projects that ask students to examine conversations on current events, particularly those relating to social and racial justice, students will develop skills to evaluate and contribute to the multimedia news landscape.

Preference given to first-year Amherst College students. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester. Lecturer Reardon.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

116 Literary Storms

In this course we will weather famous storms featured in literary, artistic, and cinematic works from the nineteenth century through the present day. Together, we will make our way through snow, sleet, hurricanes, cyclones, tropical storms, superstorms, and everyday rain showers. This topic will provide a unifying thematic thread for a class focused on the fundamentals of close reading, viewing, writing, and revision. We will examine how various genres, narrative styles, and authorial voices engage this common topic in strikingly different ways. We will also use storms to learn about literary and aesthetic concepts such as the sublime, and to think about the basic building blocks of narrative. How do storms blur lines between setting, plot, characterization, suspense, and closure? What does it mean for a setting to come to life or function as a character?

Together, we will discuss: How do stories of environmental violence and human violence collide? Who gets to tell the story of a storm? What stories emerge on either side of the ostensibly rupturing event itself, before and after the storm? How do storms expose and exacerbate disparities along racial and socioeconomic lines? Can reading local storm stories provide a way of thinking about global climate change?

Some of our storms will be based upon actual events, including Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, and Irene; this will raise complex questions about the boundaries between history and art.

Possible works include paintings by J. M. W. Turner; short stories by Kate Chopin, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Ben Marcus; novels by Zora Neale Hurston, Ben Lerner, and Jesmyn Ward; film by Behn Zeitlin, and documentary by Spike Lee.

Limited to 18 students. In the fall semester, ten seats reserved for first-year students. Fall and spring semesters. Professor Abramson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Spring 2021, Fall 2021

117 Arthurian Literature

(Offered as ENGL 117 and EUST 117) [Before 1800] Knights, monsters, quests, and true love: these are the things we associate with King Arthur and tales of his court. Why has Arthurian literature proved so enchanting to centuries of poets, novelists, and recently, filmmakers? In this introductory English course, we will read and watch Arthurian legends from Chaucer to Monty Python, examining the ways in which they have been represented in different eras. Beginning with the historical foundations of the King Arthur legend, we will examine how it blossomed and took form in later eras. Our focus will be on close literary and visual analysis of British, American, and French (in translation) versions of these legends. We will also discuss what cultural forces lie behind the popularity of Arthurian legend in certain eras: later medieval England and France; the Victorian era; and twentieth-century England and America. There will be frequent writing assignments and presentations, as well as a final creative project.

Open to first-year students and sophomores. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Nelson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2020, Spring 2022

119 From Ordinary to Extraordinary: Literature of the Everyday

This is a class all about the art of noticing. Our primary texts fixate on what Amit Chaudhuri calls “the moment of noticing”: heightened attention to the small, the ordinary, the routine. Many readings will be “day-in-the-life” novels set over a 24-hour period; others dwell on single moments, fleeting impressions, or routine rhythms of daily life. And just as our primary authors practice the art of noticing, so will we adopt a similar stance of scrutiny and attention to detail in this course.

We will also discuss questions such as: How does the ordinary become extraordinary? How does the seemingly mundane or quotidian become infused with meaning? How does art make the familiar newly strange or fascinating? What happens to narrative conventions of plot and the event when writers are more interested in capturing the textures, rhythms, and background environments of everyday life? How does one narrate history in the making, as it unfolds in everyday life? How are major historical events and political structures felt over the course of a typical day? What happens when the ordinary and extraordinary change places?

We will look at short stories, novels, photography, and memoir. Possible authors include Mulk Raj Anand, Amit Chaudhuri, Teju Cole, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Henry James, Ian McEwan, Kathleen Stewart, and Virginia Woolf.

Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Abramson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

120 Reading, Writing, and Teaching

(Offered as ENGL 120, AMST 220 and EDST 120) This course considers from many perspectives what it means to read and write and learn and teach both for ourselves and for others. As part of the work of this course, in addition to the usual class hours, students will serve as weekly tutors and classroom assistants in adult basic education centers in nearby towns. Thus this course consciously engages with the obstacles to and the power of education through course readings, through self-reflexive writing about our own varied educational experiences, and through weekly work in the community. Although this course presses participants to reflect a great deal about teaching, this course does not teach how to teach. Instead it offers an exploration of the contexts and processes of education, and of the politics and desires that suffuse learning. Course readings range across literary genres including essays, poems, autobiographies, and novels in which education and teaching figure centrally, as well as readings in ethnography, sociology, psychology, and philosophy. The writing assignments cross many genres as well.

Limited to 18 students. In the fall semester, eight seats reserved for first-year students. Fall semester: Professor Frank. Spring semester: Lecturer B. Sánchez-Eppler.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

121 Writing the College Experience

(Offered as ENGL 121 and EDST 121) What does equity and access look like in college? What should it look like? In this course, students will learn to critique power structures that have created boundaries around higher education, and they will build their critical reading and writing skills through short, low-stakes weekly writing and three major papers that will be revised many times. We will consider how students’ intersectional identities (i.e.: how class, race, gender, and disability, among others) help them navigate college or create barriers to equity and access. We’ll learn how learning is shaped by cultural and rhetorical contexts. As we read, we will pay close attention to the way that writers build arguments to levy their own critiques with evidence, as well as how they organize texts and edit their own work, with an eye on developing our own strategies for using these skills in this course and others. We will work together to develop a community of writers who can mutually support each other through their own multifaceted college experiences.

Preference given to first-year Amherst College students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Lecturer Reardon.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

125 Representing Illness

With a focus on the skills of close reading and analytical writing, we will look at the ways in which writers imagine illness, how they try to make meaning out of illness, and how they use illness to explore other aspects of experience. This is not a course on the history of illness or the social construction of disease. We will discuss not only what writers say about illness but also how they say it: with what language and in what form they speak the experience of bodily and mental suffering. Readings may include drama by Sophocles, Molière and Margaret Edson; poetry by Donne and Mark Doty; fiction by José Saramago and Mark Haddon; and essays by Susan Sontag, Raphael Campo and Temple Grandin.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Bosman.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2014, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Spring 2022

150 Amherst Poets

From Emily Dickinson to Robert Frost to Sonia Sánchez, Amherst is famous for its poets. More than twenty well-known poets have written, lived, studied and taught in the area surrounding the College. This introductory course is designed to welcome students who have not previously taken a college-level English course into the literary environment of Amherst, as well as into the literary community of poetry readers more broadly, by studying five or six Amherst poets very closely. Our main focus will be on the close-reading skills needed to engage with poetry of all kinds, and on the skills needed to write a college-level essay about literature. We will engage in frequent essay-writing workshops together, and there will be a chance to meet and engage with contemporary Amherst Poets on Zoom.

 Limited to 18 students. Fifteen seats reserved for first-year students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Worsley.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Fall 2020, Spring 2021

162 Black (on) Earth: Introduction to African American Environmental Literature

(Offered as ENGL 162 and BLST 162) African and African-descended people have a long-documented and intimate relationship to the natural world as a source of healing, nurture, and wealth. However, for a people who were stripped of their land in colonial Africa, exploited to work the land by European enslavers in the New World, and hung from trees in the American South, and who still have a precarious relationship to water in such places as Flint, Michigan, and post-Maria Puerto Rico, inhabiting the earth is complicated. How might we begin to tell this entangled history? What kinds of stories have Africans and their descendants developed to address their relationship with nature? What does the term “environmental justice” even mean to and for people of African descent today?

In this course, we will encounter a range of texts, including slave narratives, novels, poems, visual art, and performance written by and about Black subjects, to begin to understand how various authors, artists, and activists represent the rich relationship between blackness and the natural world. Readings may include works by Olaudah Equiano, W. E. B Du Bois, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Zora Neale Hurston, Derek Walcott, Jamaica Kincaid, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, T. Dungy, Britt Rusert, Kimberly N. Ruffin, among others.

Limited to 18 students. Ten seats reserved for first-year students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Cobham-Sander.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020

180 Film and Writing

(Offered as ENGL 180 and FAMS 110) A first course in reading films and writing about them. A varied selection of films for study and criticism, partly to illustrate the main elements of film language and partly to pose challenging texts for reading and writing. Frequent short papers. Two class meetings and one screening per week.

Limited to 25 students. Twelve seats reserved for first-year students. Open to first-year and sophomore students. Fall semester. Professor Guilford.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

182 Constructing Childhood: From Page to Screen

(Offered as ENGL 182, EDST 182 and FAMS 182) How has childhood been imagined across the twentieth century and into our own present? Since the Victorian era, childhood and the experience of being a child have been associated with innocence (and experience), nostalgia (and regret), and a simpler (while deeply complex) time of life. Yet across literature and media, childhood is constructed after the fact, by adults whose perceptions are shaped by their understanding of childhood as a distinct and discrete set of experiences. In this course, we will explore constructions of British and American childhoods on page, stage, and screen, exploring two foundational late Victorian/Edwardian intermedial texts (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Peter Pan), before venturing on a journey exploring cinematic depictions of childhood over the course of the twentieth century. We will examine twentieth-century films depicting children and popular genres designed to appeal to child audiences; how media texts represent children as they navigate conceptions of gender, sexuality, race, and class; and children as both consumers and producers of media in the twenty-first century. Students will explore different genres and modes of expository writing, including personal essay and close textual analysis and do an independent, guided research project. Students will gain a familiarity with key terms and methodologies in English and Film & Media Studies; an ability to think and write critically about literary and cinematic texts; an awareness of historical, social and cultural perceptions of childhood in Britain and the United States; confidence in reading primary and secondary sources; and proficiency in analytical writing, including sentence-level clarity, building arguments, using evidence, and working with and appropriately citing a variety of sources.

This course is designed for entering first-year students. Non-English/FAMS majors and Five College students are welcome. Limited to 18 students. Eighteen seats reserved for first-year students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

212 Storytelling Arts in Mesoamerica

(Offered as ENGL 212 and ARHA 212) [Before 1800] This course will explore the major pictorial narrative traditions of Mesoamerica, focusing on manuscripts of the Aztec, Maya, and Mixtec peoples, as well as other media, including texts and images from murals, ceramics, monuments, and mirrors. These visual and narrative media continue to play important roles in the preservation of Indigenous identity, solidarity, and cultural identity within nation states; the course will examine public, popular, and fine arts reviving, repurposing, and supporting resistance using this imagery.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Lecturer Couch.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020, Spring 2022

214 Re-imagining American Literature, A Survey: Pre-Conquest to 1865

[Before 1800] Until the recent past, and still in high schools and many collegiate institutions, courses that intend to survey American literature represent that oeuvre as nearly exclusively the work of white male writers. In this survey we will often encounter writings by American Indians from different nations, by women, by African Americans, as well as more commonly taught writers like Melville, Thoreau, and Emerson.

Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Emeritus O’Connell.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020

215 Re-imagining American Literature, A Survey:  1865 to the Present

Survey courses have in our time increasingly disappeared, except in most high schools. Attempts to make them sufficiently inclusive have seemed impossible. The chosen approach in this course is to concentrate on the remarkable literatures created by African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, bi-national writers, and working-class writers. We will also read “classic” writers like Willa Cather and Fitzgerald along with some of the working-class writers from the Thirties.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Emeritus O’Connell.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Spring 2021

216 Women Writers of Africa and the African Diaspora

(Offered as BLST 203 [D], ENGL 216, and SWAG 203) The term “Women Writers” suggests, and perhaps assumes, a particular category. How useful is this term in describing the writers we tend to include under the frame? And further, how useful are the designations "African" and "African Diaspora"? We will begin by critically examining these central questions, and revisit them frequently as we read specific texts and the body of works included in this course. Our readings comprise a range of literary and scholarly works by canonical and more recent female writers from Africa, the Caribbean, and continental America. Framed primarily by Postcolonial Criticism, our explorations will center on how writers treat historical and contemporary issues specifically connected to women’s experiences, as well as other issues, such as globalization, modernity, and sexuality. We will consider the continuities and points of departure between writers, periods, and regions, and explore the significance of the writers’ stylistic choices. Here our emphasis will be on how writers appropriate vernacular and conventional modes of writing.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Prof. C. Bailey.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Spring 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2022

217 Making Literary Histories I

[Before 1800] What is “English Literature,” and how does one construct its history? What counts as “England” (especially in relation to Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, and to ancient Greece and Rome)? What is the relationship between histories of literature and political, social, religious and intellectual histories? What is the role of gender in the making of literature, and the making of its histories? These are the kinds of questions we will ask as we read texts from the seventh through the seventeenth centuries, including works such as Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (in translation) and writers from Chaucer and Margery Kempe in the Middle Ages to Margaret Cavendish and John Milton in the Renaissance.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Nelson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Spring 2021

221 Writing Poetry I

A first workshop in the writing of poetry. Class members will read and discuss each others’ work and will study the elements of prosody: the line, stanza forms, meter, free verse, and more. Open to anyone interested in writing poetry and learning about the rudiments of craft. Writing exercises weekly.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester: Visiting Writer Kapur. Spring semester: Merrill Visiting Poet Amy Dryansky. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

222 Playwriting I

(Offered as THDA 270 and ENGL 222) This course explores key aspects of writing for the theater in a workshop style, from a transcultural perspective. Through writing exercises, analysis of scenes, feedback sessions, and the rewriting of materials produced, participants will experience the creative process and start developing their own voice as playwrights.

Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Visiting Artist Carneiro.

 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

223 Sound, Movement, and Text: Interactions and Collaborations

(Offered as THDA 255, ENGL 223, and MUSI 255) This studio course is designed as an interactive laboratory for dancers, composers, actors, writers/poets, vocalists, and sound artists to work together to create meaningful interactions between sound, movement, and text. Working individually and in collaborative groups, students will create original material in the various media and experiment with multiple ways to craft interesting exchanges and dialogues between word, sound, and movement or to create hybrid forms. The emphasis in the course will be to work with exercises and structures that engender deep listening, looking, and imagining. Some of the questions that inform the course include: How do music, voices, electronic, digital, and natural sounds create a sonic world for live performance and vice versa? How can movement inform the writing of text and vice-versa? How can we successfully communicate and collaborate across and between the different languages of sounds, words, and movement? We will have a series of informal studio performances, events, and installations throughout the semester with a culminating final showing/listening at the end of the semester.

Requisite: Previous experience in composition in one or more of the central media, or consent of the instructors. Limited to 16 students. Omitted 2021-2022. Professor Woodson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020

225 Non-Fiction I or Personal Story

How can we re-imagine ourselves and the world through our deeply felt personal questions? This course will focus on using personal non-fiction narratives to consider larger themes of politics, history, current events, and our ever-changing social reality. The course welcomes beginning writers who want to learn how to write more creatively without limiting censors and unnecessary judgment. The class will function as a cooperative workshop to help all write more fluently and with greater joy.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2021-22. Writer-in-Residence Lee.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2011, Fall 2019, Fall 2020

226 Fiction Writing I

A first course in writing fiction. Emphasis will be on experimentation as well as on developing skill and craft. Workshop (discussion) format.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Fall and spring semesters. Lecturer D. Sweeney.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

227 Reading and Writing Electronic Literature

This introductory course explores a variety of approaches to digital storytelling, from branching narratives, to hypertext media and video games, to more recent developments in machine-generated poetry and also embodied and location-based narrative. A hands-on class, it will link conventional understandings of narrative form and content to contemporary conversations about interface and computation, and ask students to think about materiality and textuality by experimenting with digital composition.

Omitted 2021-22. Professors Frank and Parham.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019

228 Liveness and the Livestreaming Studio

(Offered as ENGL 228 and THDA 251) In this course, we will explore theories and practices of “liveness.” What do we feel as alive in literature, drama, film, and television? How do we experience liveness across the forms of media? How does live media vs. recorded media influence our perceptions of its authenticity, and how do we express authenticity in each form? We will explore these questions as we examine works from drama, music, and dance; digital marketing, social media, and social networking; political protest, news broadcasts, and public relations.

With this theoretical and critical background in mind, we will also work on adapting between media by taking an existing creative work and transforming it into a dynamic live-streamed event. Works may be in creative writing, theatre, dance, music, or similar form, and they can be an original creation or a work by another author.

Technological Requirements: To fully participate in the final project, students will be expected to have regular access to an iPhone or Android smartphone with a working camera and a Mac or Windows computer with a working camera. If you lack either of these things, we will work with Academic Technology Services to ensure you have access to this technology during the January term.

Completion of this course will include a live in-class performance on the final day. Previous experience in any form of live performance is encouraged, but not required. Class will meet daily for 165 minutes.

Limited to 20 students. January term. Visiting Lecturer Bernitt.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in January 2022, Spring 2022

231 Three, Two, One: Reading Small Drama

How small can drama get while remaining “dramatic”? During the first half of the twentieth century, it was not unusual for a stage in America (or anywhere in the English-speaking world) to be filled with dozens of actors. Over the last sixty years, though, the crowds onstage have thinned. Today, three-, two-, and even one-person plays are as common as twenty-person plays once were. In this course, we will study the work of playwrights who have found new inspiration within these tight constraints.

As a foundational course in drama, this course will teach you the special skills involved in reading plays. As texts meant to be interpreted and staged by theater-makers, plays are radically under-determined things. So, you cannot sit back and play the role of audience. You must also do the imaginative work of all those people–actors, directors, designers, etc.–who turn a play into a performance. This course will teach you the habits of mind that make this imaginative work possible.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Grobe.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2016, Spring 2022

238 Shakespeare

[Before 1800] Readings in the comedies, histories, and tragedies, with attention to their poetic language, dramatic structure, and power in performance. Texts and topics will vary by instructor.

Limited to 50 students. Fall semester. Professor Bosman.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

240 Reading Poetry

A first course in the critical reading of selected English-language poets, which gives students exposure to significant poets, poetic styles, and literary and cultural contexts for poetry from across the tradition. Attention will be given to prosody and poetic forms, and to different ways of reading poems.

Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Professor Emeritus Sofield.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

250 Reading the Novel

An introduction to the study of the novel, through the exploration of a variety of critical terms (plot, character, point of view, tone, realism, identification, genre fiction, the book) and methodologies (structuralist, Marxist, feminist, psychoanalytic). We will draw on a selection of novels in English to illustrate and complicate those terms; possible authors include Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Wilkie Collins, Henry James, Kazuo Ishiguro, Thomas Pynchon, Toni Morrison, John Edgar Wideman, Emma Donoghue, David Foster Wallace, Monique Truong, Jennifer Egan.

Preference given to sophomores. Limited to 35 students. Fall semester. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

253 Modernists: In Their Words and In Their Worlds

This course provides an introduction to literary modernism in two parts, each part in dialogue with the other. First, in their words: we will look at how early twentieth-century writers described their own formal experiments and aesthetic agendas. This section will pair modernist manifestos and critical essays with fiction and poetry written by those same authors. Second, in their worlds: we will examine the historical, geographical, and cultural dimensions of these famous literary experiments. This section pairs modernist primary works with brief readings focused on World War I, colonization and decolonization, the Harlem Renaissance, and urban technology. When it comes to the dynamic relationship between words and worlds, our goal will be synthesis rather than separation. How does historical change relate to changes in literary form?

Possible authors include Mulk Raj Anand, Joseph Conrad, T.S. Eliot, E.M. Forster, Langston Hughes, James Joyce, Nella Larsen, Katherine Mansfield, Ezra Pound, and Virginia Woolf.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Abramson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Fall 2020

257 From Orientalism to the Asian Century: Methods in Transnational Asian Studies

What has Orientalism got to do with speculative science fiction? How does the history of Asia intersect with French and British colonialism? What does the “Asian Century” have in store for us? This course surveys the emerging field of Transnational Asian Studies through the lens of gender, empire, capitalism and migration. The course traces the historical flows and contemporary exchanges rising out of the vast and diverse Asian continent through literary texts, scholarly writing, and visual media. The course will explore categories such as “Asian/American,” “Afro-Asian,” “coolie” and “transnational” among others, while critiquing early iterations of the field for its United States-centric focus.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Visiting Lecturer Gooptu.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

270 Letter Writers and Epistolarity

The participants in this online course will read letters and write letters. This course became radically enhanced with the distancing imposed as COVID-19 exiled us from campus last spring.

The course depends both on experiences and experiments with the letter as a complex instrument of communication, as literary artefact, as carrier of affect, intention and ideas, and as a record of individual and communal growth. Letter writing will be practiced as a performance that deploys persona, tone, voice, purpose, persuasion, transparency, and decorum. Your discoveries and the development of your thoughts will be circulated as letters written among a small circle of correspondence.

Readings will include letters written by Paul, Seneca, Martin Luther King, Biddy Martin, Dorothy Osborne, John Keats, Rainer Maria Rilke, Lou Andreas-Salomé, Sigmund Freud, Boris Pasternak, Marina Tsvetayeva, Robert Oppenheimer. The reading of epistolary novels will focus our attention on fictional uses of the form (Daddy Longlegs, Dangerous Liaisons, Screwtape Letters). We will also pay attention to the current evolution of letter writing in the time of e-mail and social media, and social isolation.

Capstone projects will be organized as researched and curated presentations of selected online manuscript letters, or as a compiled and analyzed collection of personal or family letters, or as epistolary fiction.

In addition to the expected use of Zoom and emergency uses of Skype, students are expected to become familiar with: Google Drive, Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides; Dropbox; Microsoft Word, Power Point, and Excel; Audible and Kindle; parabol.co; and ProQuest Ebook Central.

January. Lecturer B. Sánchez-Eppler.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Spring 2020, January 2021, January 2022, Spring 2022

271 How Can We Talk About Race, Class, and Gender?

Each of us lives in a world in which race, class and gender–complex and elusive terms–reflect multiple realities. In the last few years they have openly shaped public discourse in the US. They also affect individuals and groups differently: invisible to many, an inescapable felt presence for many others. Denial, controversy, struggle, pride, and hesitation are but some of peoples’ responses. A world of courses could not comprehend the responses or the terms themselves, the histories or the controversies. So this course must necessarily be exploratory and, beyond the usual, open to each participant, even in sharp disagreements.

Memoirs, novels and poems, lively and revelatory social science texts make up the readings. Short weekly writings and three essays complete the work of the course.

Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Emeritus O’Connell.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

272 A Primer to Children’s Literature

Children’s books are a site of first encounter, a doorway to literacy and literature. This course will offer both a history of book production for child readers in England and the United States and an exploration of what these first books can teach us about the attractions, expectations, and responsibilities of reading.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor K. Sánchez-Eppler.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2016, Spring 2018, Spring 2021

273 When Corn Mother Meets King Corn: Cultural Studies of the Americas

(Offered as AMST 280 and ENGL 273) In Penobscot author Joseph Nicolar's 1893 narrative, the Corn Mother proclaims, "I am young in age and I am tender, yet my strength is great and I shall be felt all over the world, because I owe my existence to the beautiful plant of the earth." In contrast, according to one Iowa farmer, from the 2007 documentary "King Corn," "We aren't growing quality. We're growing crap." This course aims to unpack depictions like these in order to probe the ways that corn has changed in its significance within the Americas. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, students will be introduced to critical theories and methodologies from American Studies as they study corn's shifting role, across distinct times and places, as a nourishing provider, cultural transformer, commodity, icon, and symbol.

Beginning with the earliest travels of corn and her stories in the Americas, students will learn about the rich histories, traditions, narratives, and uses of "maize" from indigenous communities and nations, as well as its subsequent proliferation and adaptation throughout the world. In addition to literary and historical sources students will engage with a wide variety of texts (from material culture to popular entertainment, public policy and genetics) in order to deepen their understanding of cultural, political, environmental, and economic changes that have characterized life in the Americas.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professors Brooks and Vigil.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Spring 2019

277 Literature and Culture of the Philippines

This course is an introduction to the art, culture, and history of the Philippines through the narrative spaces of literature. While small in size, the 7,107 islands that make up the Philippines have played an important role in geopolitics, and the scars of a deeply conflicted history of occupation by the Spanish, Americans, and Japanese are evident in the literature. Reading a mixture of canonical and emerging authors will help us understand the complex legacies of colonialism in the islands and in the diaspora.

As a discipline, Asian American Studies has deep roots in social justice activism, and many of the texts we will read are responding to colonial and national structures of power. We will pay close attention to the ways in which art identifies, protests, resists, and survives structures of inequality within and between societies. By nature this is an interdisciplinary project, drawing from history, literature, fine art, and sociology to understand how the literature of the Philippines has changed over time. Our questions will consider the relationships between nation and space, diverse embodiments of national identity and ethnicity, and the cultural and historical contexts that inform these issues.

While the literature of the Philippines is written in many different languages, this course will be concerned with translated and English texts.

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Visiting Lecturer Ocasion.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

278 Digital Africas

(Offered as ENGL 278 and BLST 212 [A]) This course will examine how African writers incorporate digital technologies into their work when they publish traditional print texts, experiment with digital formats, or use the internet to redefine their relationship to local and international audiences. We will reflect on how words and values shift in response to new forms of mediation; on the limits these forms place on the bodies they represent, and on the protections they occasionally offer. Students will read fictional works in print, serialized narratives on blogs, as well as other literary products that circulate via social media. Students also will be introduced to a selection of digital humanities tools that will assist them in accessing, analyzing and responding to these works. Course materials include print, digital and hybrid publications by Oyono, Farah, Adichie, Cole, Maphoto, and Wainaina, among others.

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Cobham-Sander.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2021

279 Global Women's Literature

(Offered as SWAG 279, BLST 302, and ENGL 279) What do we mean by “women’s fiction”? How do we understand women’s genres in different national contexts? This course examines topics in feminist thought such as marriage, sexuality, desire and the home in novels written by women writers from South Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. We will draw on postcolonial literary theory, essays on transnational feminism and historical studies to situate our analyses of these novels. Texts include South African writer Nadine Gordimer’s July's People, Pakistani novelist Bapsi Sidhwa's Cracking India, and Caribbean author Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Shandilya.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Spring 2019, Spring 2020

280 Coming to Terms: Cinema

(Offered as ENGL 280 and FAMS 210) An introduction to cinema studies through consideration of key critical terms, together with a selection of various films (classic and contemporary, foreign and American, popular and avant-garde) for illustration and discussion. The terms for discussion may include, among others: modernity, montage, realism, visual pleasure, ethnography, choreography, streaming, and consumption. Two class meetings and one screening per week.

Limited to 35 students. Spring semester. Professor Guilford.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Spring 2022

282 Knowing Television

(Offered as ENGL 282 and FAMS 215) For better or worse, U.S. broadcast television is a cultural form that is not commonly associated with knowledge. This course will take what might seem a radical counter-position to such assumptions–looking at the ways television teaches us what it is and even trains us in potential critical practices for investigating it. By considering its formal structure, its textual definitions, and the means through which we see it, we will map out how it is that we come to know television.

Prior coursework in Film and Media Studies is recommended, but not required. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 45 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hastie.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2010, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Fall 2016, Fall 2019

283 Television Narratives

(Offered as ENGL 283 and FAMS 234) What stories does television tell? And how does it tell them? This course will approach television’s narratives through a focus on both form and content. We will take into account issues of production, distribution, and exhibition, with attention both to historical developments and contemporary transformations to the medium. In this way, we will explore how shifts in programming, platforms, and viewing habits alter both televisual narration and consumption. By considering television’s specific form–whether commercial networks, cable TV, or subscription platforms like Netflix and Hulu–we will query how this specific media format enables or limits the ways it tells stories and what stories it tells. Each iteration of this course will focus on particular forms of narrative programming, through an emphasis on genre, format, historical eras, or cultural facets. Readings will include key critical works in Television Studies, essays on particular television series, and other works that situate television texts in a broader cultural framework and history. The goal of the course is to think through narrative form, representational systems, authorship, exhibition, and reception habits in order to define not just what television narrative is but also what it can be.

In spring 2021, “Television Narratives” focused on policing race, as represented in US television series, with some forays also in documentary programming and music videos from the late 1980s, early 1990s, and our contemporary period. We began with episodic police and detective series of the late 1960s and 1970s, such as The Mod Squad, Tenafly, and Shaft, when the role of the black detective merged social consciousness and contemporary style, sometimes treading the line between criminality and the law. We then turned to the hybrid episodic-serial format of Hill Street Blues, focusing on the representation of both African-American policing and criminality represented within the series. Our next case study, spanning the 1990s and early 2000s, considered the emergence of the police procedural as a dominant televisual form, with an emphasis on the long-running Law and Order franchise. Our final case study composed the latter half of the course, as we looked at mini series and limited season serials, including the docudrama When They See Us and the one-season series Seven Seconds. During this final unit, we also integrated queries into YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram to consider how the narratives of such series are extended through intertextual connections with clips, interviews, and productions by both fans and artists.

Two sections of this course were offered, each section limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hastie.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021

284 Coming to Terms: Media

(Offered as ENGL 284 and FAMS 216) What do we mean when we talk about “the media”? Coming to Terms: Media will parse this question, approaching the media not as a shadowy monolith but as a complex and changing environment comprised of varied technologies, formats, practices, devices, and platforms (e.g.: photography, gramophone records, online dating, smartphones, Netflix). The course will introduce key terms and critical approaches for the study of modern media in their specificity in an era of digital mediation. We will ask questions such as: What are the formal and technical features of different media? How do they construct us as spectators or users, and shape our perception of the world we inhabit? How do our media practices produce experiences of space, time, and community? And crucially, what are the ideological impacts of these perceptions, constructions, and practices when it comes to race, sex, identity, and the circulation of power and capital?

Each week students will encounter important works of twentieth- and twenty-first-century media and cultural theory and will encounter concrete examples to flesh out the abstract concepts in the readings and engage in ample class participation. Assignments will encourage students to enter into a conversation with these texts as a way of exploring and constructing arguments about contemporary media. The course will provide a strong foundation for advanced work in film and media studies, and related disciplines.

This course has no prerequisites, but it is best suited to students who have completed a 100-level course dealing with the analysis of literature or film. Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Rangan.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Spring 2020, Spring 2022

287 Introduction to Film Studies: The History of American Cinema, 1895-1960

(Offered as ENGL 287 and FAMS 212) This course is designed to introduce students to key issues in film studies, focusing on the history of American cinema from 1895 to 1960. We will pay particular attention to the “golden age” of Hollywood, with forays into other national cinemas by way of comparison and critique. Screenings will range from actualities and trick films, to the early narrative features of D. W. Griffith, to the development of genres including film noir (Double Indemnity), the woman’s film of the 1940s (Now, Voyager), the western (Stagecoach) and the suspense film (Rear Window). Reading and writing assignments and in-class discussions will address how to interpret film on the formal/stylistic level (sequence analysis, close reading, visual language) as well as in the context of major trends and figures in film history. A weekly viewing journal will be expected, as a record of students’ critical responses to the films. In addition, three formal essays are required: a 3-5 page sequence analysis; a 6-8 page critical explication of a piece of film criticism (a scholarly article or book chapter) not already assigned for the course; and a final research paper (8-10 pages), to be revised in conjunction with a peer review workshop. By the end of the semester, students can expect to gain the following: a familiarity with key terms in film language and film analysis; an ability to think and write critically about film, its aesthetics, historical development, technology, and cultural context; an overview of some key films in American cinema history from the silent era to 1960; an appreciation of different film genres, their structure, iconic language, and ideological/cultural meanings; and confidence in reading critical/theoretical essays in film criticism and history.

Limited to 35 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

289 Moving Pictures: The History of Silent Cinema

(Offered as ENGL 289 and FAMS 227) This course focuses on global cinema during the silent era (1895-1927). We will explore the wide range of films produced in cinema’s first three decades, including early actualities, animation, trick films, serials, melodrama, and experimental film. Readings in film history will assist us in investigating the rise of classical narrative, the studio system, star and fan culture, and the transition to sound. In addition to studying the work of Charlie Chaplin, Sergei Eisenstein, D. W. Griffith, Georges Méliès, and Dziga Vertov, the course will highlight filmmaking by women and people of color including Alice Guy-Blaché, Oscar Micheaux, and Lois Weber, among others. A weekly viewing journal will be expected, as a record of students’ critical responses to the films. In addition, three formal essays are required: a 3-5 page sequence analysis; a 5-6 page critical explication of a piece of film criticism (a scholarly article or book chapter) not already assigned for the course; and a final research paper (8-10 pages), to be revised in conjunction with a peer review workshop.

This course will run primarily online, with periodic small-group meetings for students who are in residence on campus and parallel small-group meetings for remote students. The additional evening time slot will provide opportunities for students to screen films and engage in structured small-group discussion synchronously, whether remotely or in person. There may be additional opportunities for in-person meetings (including office hours) as the semester progresses.

Recommended requisite: ENGL 180/FAMS 110, Film and Writing, or an equivalent 100-level course. Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2011, Spring 2021

295 Literature and Psychoanalysis

Why does it seem natural to read ourselves and other people in the same way that we read books? This course will introduce students to psychoanalytic thought and psychoanalytic literary interpretation. Freud famously reads Jensen’s short story Gradiva as a case history, but we will seek out ways of reading literature and psychoanalysis together that go beyond diagnosing characters or authors. How is psychoanalytic theory itself literary? How can it help to open up, rather than reduce, our reading experience? And how does literature in turn help to enrich, deepen, challenge and enliven psychoanalytic theories of subject-formation, language, and interpersonal relations? Putting psychoanalytic and fictional texts in conversation, topics of particular interest may include: dreams, desire, sexuality, mourning, trauma, the unconscious, the uncanny, anxiety, embodiment, racialization, paranoia and the reparative impulse. Psychoanalytic readings will be drawn from Freud, Klein, Lacan, Winnicott, Bollas, Khan, Phillips, Riviere, Fanon, Milner, Sedgwick, Felman, and others. Literary texts change from year to year.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Mireles Christoff.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Spring 2020, Spring 2022

296, 395 Literature and the Nonhuman World

Like every other aspect of human culture, literature interacts with biology–with, in Elizabeth Grosz’s words, “a system of (physical, chemical, organic) differences that engenders historical, social, cultural, and sexual differences.” The aim of this course is to make that fact as intellectually fruitful as possible. What happens to our understanding of literature if we think of it as an expression of life? What happens, that is, if we think of literature as one of the countless things that emerges from a non-personal, non-teleological process of evolution? And what happens if we think of individual works of literature as potential ways of getting closer, conceptually and sensually, to life, to the difference-making process within which we all find ourselves? Readings will include Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, James Welch’s Winter in the Blood, J. M. Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello, and the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Wallace Stevens, and Elizabeth Bishop. A background in the natural sciences is welcome but not necessary.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2020

301 The Qur'ān and Its Controversies

(Offered as RELI 385, ASLC 385 and ENGL 301) 

An exploration of several salient questions concerning the Qur’ān, the Islamic Revealed Book. How have Muslims explained the Qur’ān’s own proclamation of its supernatural origin and its miraculous quality?  How does the Qur’ān engage with and respond to the Hebrew Bible and Christian scriptures? Who has the authority to interpret the Qur’ān and why? These are just a few of the tantalizing questions that will occupy us over the course of the semester. We will also discuss the ways that the Qur’ān has been read as a work of law, theology, and mysticism, and how it has shaped theories of the state. Finally, we will isolate the Qur’ān from the Islamic tradition and explore the many ways that it can be read as a work of literature. 

All readings are in English. No prerequisites. 

Fall semester. Associate Professor Jaffer.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2021

303 Books and Their Afterlives: Writing and/as Technology

Books have a rich history in multiple cultures, and the experience of reading them is often bound up with their material form. In other words, the way we read books has arguably always been tied to how they look, and smell, and feel. So what happens to books in the digital age? What do books feel like when they are on the Internet? From the first printed text to the digital age and beyond, this course will consider the changing shapes, goals, and aims of books. Beginning with the earliest texts produced with moveable type and ending with experimental electronic literature, we will consider the intertwined histories of reading, books, and the technologies used to make them. This course will include sessions held in Frost Library’s Special Collections and one required field trip to Big Wheel Press in Easthampton, Massachusetts.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Professor Henrichs.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Spring 2020

304 Narratives of Suffering

It’s possible to imagine people who have not yet suffered, who have not yet had a peculiarly intense and sustained experience of physical or psychic pain. Those imaginary people are, however, vulnerable to future suffering. Even more importantly, they live in a world in which many others suffer, so many that a refusal to attend to suffering amounts to a refusal of a meaningfully relational existence. Thinking and feeling in response to suffering is, accordingly, an inescapable aspect of what Henri Bergson describes as “a really living life.” But how do we respond to suffering, whether in others or in ourselves? How do we take it in without appropriating it? How do we express it without turning it into a spectacle? These questions and others like them are difficult, but the aim of this course is to generate an intellectual and emotional atmosphere in which we can be transformed by the process of taking them up. Readings include The Book of Job, King Lear, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Art Spiegelman’s Maus, and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2014, Fall 2016, Spring 2019, Fall 2021

306 Modern British and American Poetry, 1900-1950

Readings and discussions centering on the work of Thomas Hardy, W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, and Wallace Stevens. Some attention also to A.E. Housman, Edward Thomas, Ezra Pound, and William Carlos Williams.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Emeritus Pritchard.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2016, Fall 2018

307 Making Genre in the Eighteenth Century

[Before 1800] Imagine a world where the novel was truly a novel form, and where newspapers were a new idea, and where print had only recently been commercialized. The eighteenth century was a time of great flux in Britain and the US, not only in terms of political change and scientific discovery, but also in terms of the literary world. Poets were beginning to panic that their genre was no longer the dominant mode. Daily journals were changing how people perceived the way time passed. Testimonies from abroad were changing people’s awareness of the world at large. Women were reading in secret, since the men around them often tried to restrict which genres they had access to. Writers who wrote for profit were called “hacks.” Even the very idea of the professional author was under question. In this course, we will consider many different genres of writing, including novels, memoirs, newspapers, lectures, journal articles, travel narratives, plays, and poems, during a period when massive innovations were taking place. Although the majority of the texts we will discuss will be those published in the eighteenth century, we will begin the course with some seventeenth-century texts (such as John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Francis Bacon’s essays), in order to more fully understand the creative vision of eighteenth-century writers like Daniel Defoe, Joseph Addison, Jonathan Edwards, Anne Finch, Laurence Sterne, Phillis Wheatley, Jane Austen, and Olaudah Equiano. There will be an emphasis on engaging with these texts as they were originally printed, with a chance to engage with archival materials. The course will end with a consideration of how notions of the difference between authors of different genres still persist in the present day.

Recommended requisite: Previous English class preferred. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 35 students. Spring semester. Professor Worsley.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

309 The Literary Histories of Technology

[Before 1800] What does a reader in 1620 have in common with a reader in 2020? They are both faced with an overwhelming explosion of textual information made possible by technology. In both 1620 and 2020 readers are confronted with massive quantities of information that threaten to overwhelm. The causes differ: in 1620s London, advances in printing and paper-making technologies made textual materials cheaply and widely available on an unprecedented scale. In 2020, we have the Internet.

This course proposes that the seventeenth- and twenty-first centuries share similar methods of controlling their new information environment; both use creative and figurative language to talk about it. Readers in 1620 used recently-Anglicized terms like metaphor or synecdoche, whereas readers in 2020 talk about uploading everything to the cloud. In this course, we will explore the humanist rhetorical handbooks of the English literary Renaissance as a means to two ends: one, to better understand the literary production of canonical authors like Shakespeare; and two, to engage with the rhetoric of digital creativity in the twenty-first century. We juxtapose readings from Renaissance rhetorical handbooks with poetry and essays from that period and with digital humanities scholarship. The final project of the course will ask students to perform individual research as part of a collaborative, multimodal guide to the information structures of the Internet.

Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Professor Henrichs.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019

310 Interpretation in Law & Literature

(Offered as LJST 341 [Analytic Seminar] and ENGL 310) Interpretation lies at the center of legal and literary activity. Both law and literature are in the business of making sense of texts—statutes, constitutions, poems or stories. Both disciplines confront similar questions regarding the nature of interpretive practice: Should interpretation always be directed to recovering the intent of the author? If we abandon intentionalism as a theory of textual meaning, how do we judge the "excellence" of our interpretations? How can the critic or judge continue to claim to read in an "authoritative" manner in the face of interpretive plurality? In the last few years, a remarkable dialogue has burgeoned between law and literature as both disciplines have grappled with life in a world in which "there are no facts, only interpretations." This seminar will examine contemporary theories of interpretation as they inform both legal and literary understandings. Readings will include works of literature (Hemingway, Kafka, Woolf) and court cases, as well as contributions by theorists of interpretation such as Spinoza, Dilthey, Freud, Geertz, Kermode, Dworkin, and Sontag.

Limited to 15 students. Open to juniors and seniors.Omitted 2021-22. Professor Douglas.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Spring 2012, Spring 2015, Spring 2019, Fall 2020

315 Nabokov's Art and Terrors

(Offered as RUSS 225 and ENGL 315) This course undertakes a sustained examination of the works of Vladimir Nabokov (1899–1977). Drawing on the literary masterpieces of Nabokov’s Russian and English periods, we seek to gain a critical appreciation of his literary art and the cultural and aesthetic contexts from which they emerged. Throughout the course, we will consider his abiding themes such as the complex relationship between art and life, and between the poet, the state, and society; the narration of the experience of time; metafiction, its possibilities and constraints; bad art; the experience of exile; and the privileged position of art and aesthetics. The latter are variously inflected as refuge, asylum, or a space of revolt, as well as what enables the artist to counter, but also to inflict, cruelty. The course will also situate Nabokov’s work with the currents of literary modernism; to that end, readings are also drawn from such figures as Jorge Luis Borges, Franz Kafka, Marcel Proust, and Virginia Woolf. Our access into these themes and the author’s narrative art will be through attentive reading, itself a preeminent theme of Nabokov’s work. No familiarity with Russian history or culture expected. All readings in English. 

This course will meet for three hours MWF as well as require asynchronous film screenings for at leat 2 hours per week. 

January term. Prof. Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Spring 2011, Fall 2013, Spring 2016, Fall 2018, Fall 2020, January 2022, Spring 2022

316 Immersive Accompaniment: Reading the Bildungsroman

(Offered as ENGL 316 and SWAG 316) “From whence comes my help?” “From where does your strength come?” The psalmist and Adrienne Rich ask these questions, which we will face while we read coming-of-age narratives that fit in a genre known by its German name, the Bildungsroman. These novels go beyond the pilgrimage out of adolescence, and into explicit representation of intellectual, aesthetic, and spiritual growth experienced in unison with sexual development, awakenings, thrills, mishaps, and marriage. We will pay attention to how we immerse ourselves into the condition of those who grow on the page; not to “identify” with the characters, but to accompany them. From our immersive accompaniment we will re-emerge–intentionally–to write about how we progress, digress, regress, and grow some more. As we read we will explore many terms and theoretical concerns: Erik Erickson on life stages; Donald Winnicott on holding environment and object relation; Jacques Lacan on mirrors and interminability of desire; Silvan Tomkins on affects and nuclear scripts; Shoshana Feldman on re-reading, un-learning, en-gendering, and–again–desire.

Readings will likely include: Plato, Phaedrus; Susan Choi, Trust Exercise; Lazarillo de Tormes; Teresa de Avila, Interior Castle; John Woolman, The Journal; Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse; Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot; Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous; Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre; James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook; Richard Powers, The Overstory.

Omitted 2021-22. Lecturer B. Sánchez-Eppler.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021

318 Childhood in African and Caribbean Literature

(Offered as ENGL 318, BLST 362 [A/CLA], and LLAS 362) The course will concentrate on Caribbean authors. It explores the process of self-definition in literary works from Africa and the Caribbean that are built around child protagonists. We will examine the authors’ various methods of ordering experience through the choice of literary form and narrative technique, as well as the child/author’s perception of his or her society. French texts will be read in translation.

Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Cobham-Sander.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2015, Spring 2020

319 The Postcolonial Novel: Gender, Race and Empire

(Offered as SWAG 331 and ENGL 319) What is the novel? How do we know when a work of literature qualifies as a novel? In this course we will study the postcolonial novel which explodes the certainties of the European novel. Written in the aftermath of empire, these novels question race, class, gender and empire in their subject matter and narrative form. We will consider fiction from South Asia, the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa. Novels include Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh's The Calcutta Chromosome, Caribbean writer Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John and North African author Tayeb Salih's Season of Migration to the North.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Shandilya.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016, Fall 2018, Spring 2020

320 Literature as Translation

(Offered as EUST 303, ENGL 320 and RUSS 310) Acts of translation underwrite many kinds of cultural production, often invisibly. Writers of the Harlem Renaissance, for instance, engaged with black internationalism through bilingualism and translation, as Brent Edwards has reminded us. In this course we will study literary translation as a creative practice involved in the making of subjects and cultures. We will read key statements about translation by theorists and translators, such as Walter Benjamin, Roman Jakobson, Lawrence Venuti, Peter Cole and Gayatri Spivak. We also will directly engage in translation work: each student will regularly present translations in a workshop format to produce a portfolio as a final project. The class will be “polyglot,” meaning that students are welcome to translate from any language of which they have knowledge; when they share translations, they will be asked also to provide interlinear, or “literal,” translations for those who may not understand the language they are working in.

Requisite: Two years of college-level study of the chosen language. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professors Bosman and Ciepiela. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2021

322 Playwriting Studio

(Offered as THDA 370 and ENGL 322) A workshop for writers who want to complete a full-length play or series of shorter plays. Emphasis will be on bringing a script to a level at which it is ready for the stage. The majority of class time will be devoted to reading and commenting on developing works-in-progress.  In addition, we will also hone playwriting skills through class exercises, and study exemplary plays by established writers as a means of exploring a range of dramatic vocabularies.

Requisite: THDA 270, 272, or the equivalent. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Visiting Artist Carneiro.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

323 On The Edge: Writing for Performance

(Offered as THDA 272 and ENGL 323) This course is an exploration of writing for performance using interdisciplinary and experimental approaches. By exposing students to contemporary manifestations of performance across cultures – including those by Rodrigo Garcia, Rimini Protokoll, Romeo Castelluci, Robert Lepage, Carolina Vivas, and Gebing Tian – this course will lead to a new understanding of the art and practice of writing for the theater. In dialogue with other artforms such as literature, music, dance, and cinema, as well as performance theory, we will creatively explore dynamics involving words, bodies, spaces, objects, and media. Through imagining, devising, writing, and performing exercises, participants will develop their own original pieces that will be showcased as works-in-progress at the end of the semester. 

Limited to 18 students. Spring Semester. Visiting Artist Carneiro.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

324 Writing Poetry II—The Lyric Essay

Poetry is often a study of density and lineation but, as the expectations of genre continue to bend, more and more poets are exploring the lyric nature of the personal essay. In this course, we will assess the expansion of poetic form to include “the lyric essay,” reading essays written by poets and lyric memoirs written by essayists. The course will be primarily generative, with students selecting a specific topic to explore throughout the semester as they build their own, long-form, poetic project.

Requisite: ENGL 221 Writing Poetry I. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Lawson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Spring 2019, Fall 2019

324 Writing Poetry II–Poetry in Translation

"It is normally supposed that something always gets lost in translation; I cling, obstinately, to the notion that something can also be gained."  Salman Rushdie

What can we learn about the craft of poetry through the practice of translation? How can engaging with poetry in another language (even in translation) transform our own thinking and writing? This class will explore these questions by reading and translating poetry from around the world and across the centuries. Readings from Homer, Sappho, Catullus, Montale, Ghalib, Mir and a variety of contemporary Arab poets will be augmented with a mix of essays on the practical and theoretical aspects of translation. Students will experiment with a variety of translation-inspired writing exercises and design a final translation project of their choice. There is no language requirement.

 Limited to 12 students. Spring semester. Visiting Writer Kapur.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

325 Her Story Is: Feminist Approaches to Theater and Performance

(Offered as THDA 275, ENGL 325 and SWAG 275) Western text-based theatre has historically hushed the voices of women and those from marginalized communities. This course will focus on examples of such voices, paying special attention to artists, writers, and thinkers who challenge and deconstruct aesthetics that privilege the male gaze. In dialogue with feminist theories of gender and identity, we will read plays and study works by women and gender non-conforming artists, such as Hildegard von Bingen, Juana Ines de la Cruz, Susan Glaspell, Adrienne Kennedy, Marina Abramovich, and Taylor Mac. Finally, we will also inquire into new forms of gender-inspired “artivism,” such as The Kilroy’s, the Guerilla girls, Pussy Riot, and the #MeToo movement in theatres around the world. During this course, students are expected to pursue an individual writing or performance project that will further explore the concepts discussed. For this purpose, we will study the Theater of the Oppressed methodology as applied by contemporary Latinx feminist theater-makers.

Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2021-2022. Visiting Artist Carneiro. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

326 Fiction Writing II—Moving Beyond Plot

How do stories move? What are the uses and limitations of the term “plot” in describing movement or development in narrative? What culturally-specific assumptions and expectations about storytelling are bound up with conventional notions of plot, and how can we, as writers and readers, unravel them?

In this advanced fiction writing course, students will explore these questions and more through writing, reading, sharing, and thoughtfully critiquing fiction that challenges, resists, or forgoes linear or sequential narrative. Writers of all aesthetic styles, including plot-driven writers, are welcome. The aim of this course is to build a nurturing and inclusive classroom community where all students can cultivate confidence in their work and writing process.

Requisite: ENGL 226 Fiction Writing I. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Visiting Writer Myint.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2016, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2022

330 Race and Otherness in the Middle Ages

(Offered as ENGL 330 and EUST 330) [Before 1800] By many accounts, a concept of “race” does not emerge in the West until the colonizing of the New World in the Renaissance. Yet medieval people had many ways of identifying, exoticizing, excluding, and discriminating against “others.” This was often framed in terms of religion (Christianity vs. Islam), but it also manifests in terms of physiognomic description and ideas of monstrosity in romance and quest narratives. In this course, we will explore how the “othering” of certain medieval peoples creates a racialized language and discourse at once specific to the Middle Ages and relevant to our current understanding of race. We will read from medieval travel narratives (The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, Prester John, The Medieval Romance of Alexander) as well as literature by Chaucer and others, alongside critical race theory and historical scholarship to give context to our discussions. We will also explore how the Middle Ages have been racialized in contemporary political and popular discourse.

Format: If at least 5 in-person students register for this course, it will run in person, with hybrid options for remote students. Course meetings will include a combination of synchronous and asynchronous activities.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Nelson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Spring 2021

332 Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales

[Before 1800] Geoffrey Chaucer’s medieval masterwork, The Canterbury Tales, represents pilgrims from all walks of life, from peasants to artisans to nobility, telling tales that are comical, tragic, religious, and fantastical. In this course, we read almost the entirety of the Tales in its original language. The course aims to give the student rapid mastery of Chaucer’s English and an active appreciation of his poetry. Our focus will be on Chaucer’s poetry and the ethical and political questions this complex and delightful literary work raises, and how we can understand these questions within a modern context. No prior knowledge of Middle English is expected, although a knowledge of grammar in English or another Western language will be helpful.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Nelson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2019

341 Great English Writers

[Before 1800] A study of six classic writers from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: Ben Jonson, Milton, Dryden, Pope, Swift, and Samuel Johnson.  Among the readings are: Jonson, poems and Volpone; Milton, Comus, “Lycidas” and Paradise Lost; Dryden, poems and critical prose; Pope, “The Rape of the Lock,” Essay on Man, The Dunciad; Swift, Tale of a Tub, Gulliver’s Travels, poems; Johnson, poems, Rasselas, Prefaces to Shakespeare and to the Dictionary, passages from Boswell’s Life of Johnson.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Emeritus Pritchard.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Fall 2017, Spring 2020

348 Modern British Literature, 1900-1950

Readings in twentieth-century writers such as Henry James, Bernard Shaw, Joseph Conrad, D.H. Lawrence, Wyndham Lewis, Ford Madox Ford, Virginia Woolf, Evelyn Waugh, W.H. Auden, Robert Graves, George Orwell, Ivy Compton-Burnett.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Emeritus Pritchard.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2011, Spring 2015, Spring 2018

352 Reading Land, Writing Waters

(Offered as ENGL 352 and AMST 355) In this course, we will leave the classroom and get out on the land. The class begins in winter, a time when many people huddle indoors. We will instead go outside and read the winterland, beginning with a tracking workshop. Readings will include Robin Kimmerer’s influential essay, “The Language of Animacy,” which uses the lens of Indigenous languages to reconsider the boundaries of personhood. We will discuss how language shapes the ways in which we categorize other beings, such as animals and trees, as well as other humans. Our close reading of land and texts will enable us to see how our “reading practices” are shaped by language. Spring will take us to local waterways, including Amherst College’s Wildlife Sanctuary and the Quabbin Reservoir, where we will read William Cronon’s classic essay, “The Trouble with Wilderness” in relation to these built environments. Lauret Savoy’s Trace will lead us to consider our embodied experiences and histories in relation to the places where we live. Throughout, we will grapple with critical questions. How are concepts like “nature” and “culture” intertwined with constructions of race and gender? How has the conservation of “wilderness” been entangled with colonial dispossession and removal? Even as we spend much of our class time on the ground, we will cultivate the craft of writing as a deliberative, interactive process, with frequent informal writing, collaborative workshops and creative nonfiction.

The class will meet only twice a week but the two days and the amount of meeting time will depend on the weather and location, including drive time. Students will not spend more than eight hours/week in class.

Limited to 15 students. Spring semester Professor Brooks.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

354 Antebellum US Literature

In this course, we will be studying the relationship between the national acceleration toward war and the imaginative activities of US writers between 1830 and 1865. Through our readings of Emerson, Douglass, Melville, Stowe, Whitman, Jacobs, and others, we will learn about what happened over the course of those 35 years and, at the same time, learn from the examples of those extraordinary writers. As the nation was doubling in size and getting closer to splitting in half, those writers kept trying to find, in pressurized, transfiguring language, a way of getting from where they were to somewhere better. In the increasingly warlike atmosphere of our times, there may be an even greater value to what they achieved.

Spring semester. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

355, 444 Emily Dickinson

(Offered as ENGL 444 and AMST 364) “Experience is the Angled Road / Preferred against the Mind / By–Paradox–the Mind itself–” Emily Dickinson explained in one poem and in this course we will make use of the resources of the town of Amherst to play experience and mind off each other in our efforts to come to terms with her elusive poetry. The course will visit the Dickinson Homestead and the Evergreens (her brother Austen’s house, and a veritable time capsule), make use of Dickinson manuscripts in the Amherst College archives and special collections, local history materials at the Jones Library and the Amherst Historical Society, and set her work in the context of other nineteenth-century writers such as Helen Hunt Jackson, Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, and Harriet Jacobs. But as we explore how Dickinson’s poetry responds to her world, we will also ask how it can speak to our present. One major project of the course will be to develop exhibits and activities for the Emily Dickinson Museum that will help visitors engage with her poems.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor K. Sánchez-Eppler.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2018, January 2021

357 Race and Relationality

(Offered as ENGL 357 and BLST 365 [US]) When we say “race relations,” we are using a phrase drawn from early twentieth-century American sociology, a phrase that conjures up a scenario in which already-existing racial groups are separated by prejudice and misunderstanding. As many sociologists and historians have argued, we need a new paradigm, one that implies neither that race is a primordial reality nor that racism is merely an information problem. In this course, we will be using histories of the race-concept and theories emerging from the “relational turn” in psychoanalysis to explore the interplay of race and relationality in American literature written between the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law (1850) and Brown v. Board of Education (1954). The aim of this necessarily experimental course is to see what happens if we combine a historically informed understanding of the race-concept with a psychoanalytically informed understanding of relationality and bring both of those understandings to bear on works like Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, William Wells Brown’s Clotel, Herman Melville’s “Benito Cereno,” Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson, Nella Larsen’s Passing, and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. All of the varieties of American racial identification will be part of our discussions but the focus will be on the literary evocations of white-black conjunctions.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Sanborn.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Fall 2019

359 Living with Inequality

(Offered as ENGL 359 and EDUC 359) Almost 60% of Americans now experience economic struggles. When they can they struggle to balance food, housing, medical care, clothing, and other needs. There are, at the same time, some 600 billionaires whose combined wealth exceeds that of all other Americans. Yet in 1970, a mere fifty years ago, the United States had the most equitable economic order in the world, and probably in history.

Our course moves around the country and among individuals and groups trying to survive scarcities of many kinds. This is not a literature course but one that does often engage language, how people speak their experience. It will be a journey in exploration.

Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Emeritus O’Connell.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

366 Asian-American Writing Across/Between Genres

In Jenny Boully’s essay, “On the EEO Genre Sheet,” she writes, “I am sometimes called a poet, sometimes an essayist, sometimes a lyric essayist, sometimes a prose poet. My second book was published under the guise of fiction/poetry/essay. I find these categorizations odd: I’ve never felt anything but whole.” In this course we will read works by contemporary Asian-American authors that defy and/or exceed genre expectations and examine these texts’ relationship to wholeness and hybridity. How can we read experimental writing as a politically subversive act? How can we read as a politically subversive act? This is not an introductory course on “Asian-American literature,” but a course that will interrogate the term “Asian-American,” both as a marker of identity and of literary genre. Readings may include works by Mary-Kim Arnold, Jenny Boully, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Lily Hoang, Vi Khi Nao, Diana Khoi Nguyen, and Ocean Vuong.

This is a discussion-based course that will require your weekly synchronous attendance, as well as asynchronous group and individual work. Also, though this is an online course, I am open to the possibility of creating in-person opportunities for students on campus, especially as the semester progresses.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Writer Myint.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Fall 2010, Spring 2021

370 Witch Hunt! Magic and Belief in Renaissance Literature

[Before 1800] What was magic in the early modern world? Why did it cause a crisis in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries? How did that crisis shape the literature of its time? We will follow competing ideas about magic as they ran like wildfire through the imagination of artists, playwrights, and preachers from medieval Germany through Renaissance England to Puritan Massachusetts. We will ask how magic in its apparently beneficial forms, such as alchemy and astrology, might relate to the supposedly malevolent practices of witchcraft, which yielded notorious trials and brutal executions on both sides of the Atlantic. Why did cultures balanced between religion and science become obsessed with magic? How did the fear and wonder that it evoked find its way into art? And what can literary figures of witches and sorcerers still tell us about our modern fantasies of self-empowerment and the counter-threat of demonic possession?

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Bosman.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Spring 2020

371 The African-American Playwright: A Select History of Representation and Citizenship

(Offered as THDA 223, BLST 113, and ENGL 371) What is meant by “the African-American experience” within the context of the U.S. American theater? What do the crafting and thematic concerns of plays penned by significant African-descendent writers in the United States tell us about the history of African-American theatrical performance and the larger issues of Black personhood, community, culture, and citizenship it reflects? This course is a thematic and critical survey of pivotal African-American plays from the mid-nineteenth century to the late twentieth century. Through practical dramaturgy and textual analysis we will study these playwrights’ deployment of their creative voice within social conditions that have evolved over the aforementioned period, from state-sanctioned exclusion to conditioned acceptance within U.S. American socio-cultural discourses. We will also examine how the civic work of these plays (and their writers) meet, intersect and coexist with that of other identity-based advocacy movements. Themes explored include slavery, segregation, nationality, class, religion, gender, sexual identity, among others. Playwrights studied may include Ira Aldridge, Angelina Grimke, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Charles Fuller, Lorraine Hansberry, James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka, Adrienne Kennedy, George C. Wolfe, August Wilson, Ntzoke Shange, and others.

Visiting Assistant Professor Jude Sandy. Fall semester.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

372 Reading the Romance

(Offered as ENGL 372 and SWAG 365) Do people the world over love in the same way, or does romance mean different things in different cultures? What happens when love violates social norms? Is the “romance” genre an escape from real-world conflicts or a resolution of them? This course analyzes romantic narratives from across the world through the lens of feminist theories of sexuality, marriage, and romance. We will read heterosexual romances such as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire, alongside queer fiction such as Sarah Waters’ Fingersmiths and Radclyffe Hall’s Well of Loneliness. We will also pay attention to the Western romantic-comedy film, the telenovela and the Bollywood spectacular.

Limited to 18 students. Not open to first-year students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Shandilya.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Spring 2021

374 Gothic/Horror: Literature, Film, Television

(Offered as ENGL 374 and FAMS 374) Gothic fictions are known for their ability to send shivers down the spine, evoking sensations of discomfort, fear, and horror. This interdisciplinary course will explore the genre of the Gothic from its roots in the late eighteenth century through the present, moving among literature, film, television, and digital media forms. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein will be a key text; we will explore intermedial texts like Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Bram Stoker’s Dracula; and the course will end with twenty-first century incarnations of the Gothic (Get Out, Penny Dreadful). Throughout, we will discuss the tangled relationship between sexuality, race, and power that characterizes the genre. Students will  develop a creative project, whether a piece of short fiction or a visual/digital exploration of Gothic themes, keep a weekly reading/viewing journal of their responses to the assigned texts, and facilitate discussion on a given text. In addition, students will write a 3- to 5-page close textual analysis, with a mandatory peer review workshop and revision, and a final research paper (10-12 pages) or creative project. Students will gain a familiarity with key literary and film/media studies terms and approaches; an understanding of major works in the Gothic and horror genres; an ability to think and write critically about Gothic literature and related media, in terms of aesthetics, historical development, and cultural context; confidence in reading critical/theoretical essays in literary studies, cultural studies, and film and media studies; and proficiency in various aspects of project-based work, including identifying a research topic, building arguments, using evidence, and working with and appropriately citing a variety of sources.

Requisite: A 200-level foundations course in English or Film & Media Studies, or equivalent. Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

375 Victorian Sensations, or, When Old Media Were New

(Offered as ENGL 375 and FAMS 317) Ghosts, vampires, madwomen, and typists: what do these figures have in common? In this course, we will investigate the characters and events that made the Victorian period the age of sensation, from the rise of popular fiction and the illustrated newspaper to the introduction of new methods for viewing and experiencing the world on a global scale. The course will focus on nineteenth-century Britain, exploring the ways in which Victorian fiction, poetry, and print and visual media give voice to the period’s obsession with sensory experience. We will read Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White, a tale of deception, mistaken identity and madness, alongside works by Robert Browning, Christina Rossetti, Sheridan Le Fanu, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Bram Stoker, among others. Historians of “old” media–including telegraphy, photography, and early cinema–will assist us in exploring new technologies for communication in the nineteenth century, while media archaeologists and theorists of ephemerality, memory, and the archive will deepen our understanding of the relationship between past and present media cultures. Three formal essays will be required: a literary close reading (3-4 pages); a critical explication of a scholarly article (4-5 pages); and a final research project (a 10-12 page paper or a digital humanities project of similar length and scope).

Requisite: A 200-level foundations course in English. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020

376 Disability Media

(Offered as ENGL 376 and FAMS 355) Moving image and audiovisual media frequently assume a fully able subject despite the infinite variety of our embodied capacities and debilitations. This course will explore how this assumption has shaped the design, narrative forms, audiovisual poetics, exhibition contexts, and modes of spectatorship and engagement of a range of media forms, from cinema to digital interfaces. We will examine how critical, experimental, and therapeutic approaches to media, the uses of media by people with disabilities, and media made in collaboration with disabled makers and protagonists enable us to fundamentally rethink what media can be and do. Readings will draw from disability studies and film and media studies as well as philosophy, science and technology studies, performance studies, sound studies, and other areas. Topics may include: disability tropes and rehabilitation narratives in film and TV; prostheses and “assistive” technologies; subtitles, captions, and the politics of accessibility; inclusive product and interface design; staring as spectatorial mode; sound art and polymodal listening. 

Prior coursework in ENGL or FAMS is recommended but not required. Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rangan.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019

377 The Documentary Impulse

(Offered as ENGL 377 and FAMS 383) Documentary is one of the fastest-growing areas of media production today, enjoying unprecedented commercial success in theaters, on television, and online streaming services. What drives the urgent desire to represent reality? Where did this impulse originate, and how do documentarians continue to channel it today? This course focuses on the innovative forms and ethical dilemmas that have resulted from the pursuit of reality. We look at different approaches to documentary (ethnographic, personal, observational, interactive, essayistic, activist) and emerging forms such as fake news, true crime podcasts, mockumentaries, web-docs, and documentary art. Our discussions consider the shifting boundaries of the documentary genre, the unique ethical and political considerations involved in making documentaries, and the impact of technological and socio-cultural changes on historical trends in documentary.

Open to students with no prior film classes. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rangan.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Spring 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019

378 After COPS: Police, Media, and Prison Abolition

(Offered as ENGL 378 and FAMS 382)

Calls to defund the police may have helped to cancel the notorious reality program COPS, but crime scenes, courtrooms, cops, lawyers, victims, and vigilantes dominate our media and our imaginations. This course asks what needs to be abolished—not just canceled—in our media environment in order for us to imagine a world without prisons. Abolition is, at its core, a transformative project that aims to change the very social relations, conditions, and logics that produce the harms for which police and prisons seem to serve as solutions. A project that once took on the seemingly impossible challenge of ending slavery, abolition has become a movement of interlinked struggles against systemic oppression. We will examine a range of media, historical and contemporary, cinematic and televisual, fictional and documentary, global and local, through the lens of abolition, deconstructing carceral scenarios and affects, and discovering and imagining transformative approaches to narrative, healing, and justice. Students enrolling in this course should be prepared to take on a range of activities including and beyond weekly readings, film/media viewing, and analytical writing, such as independent and collaborative research, site-based field work (if public health guidelines permit), and optional creative media assignments.

Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors, and to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Spring semester. Professor Rangan.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

379 Play and Performance Across “The Black Atlantic”

(Offered as THDA 224, BLST 124, and ENGL 379) What is the “African” in “African-American?” From the point of view of U.S. American theater, what is the relationship between African-American theatrical practices and those of a global African diaspora? Grounded in Paul Gilroy’s and other theorists’ positing of “The Black Atlantic,” this course will examine how notions of shared and distinct cultural heritages collide and co-mingle across the theatrical performance worlds of African and other African-descendant peoples. Our point of reference will be canonical and contemporary plays and dance-theater works by African-American artists like Adrienne Kennedy, August Wilson, Katherine Dunham, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Ronald K. Brown, Marcus Gardley, Jackie Sibblies-Drury, Danai Gurira, and others. We will examine how the conflicts, solidarities and assertions of identity and heritage in these artists’ works relate to that of such African-continental, -Caribbean, -European and trans-national figures as Pearl Primus, Wole Soyinka, Germaine Acogny, Ama Ata Aidoo, Femi Osofisan, Derek Walcott, Aimé Césaire, Trevor Rhone, Natasha Gordon and others. This comparative study will be situated against the seminal backdrop of diaspora cultures of ceremonial performance practices still evident throughout the Black world. 

Visiting Assistant Professor Jude Sandy. Spring semester. 2021-2022.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

381 Cinema and Everyday Life

(Offered as ENGL 381 and FAMS 351) Film theorist Siegfried Kracauer declared that some of the first films showed “life at its least controllable and most unconscious moments, a jumble of transient, forever dissolving patterns accessible only to the camera.” This course will explore the ways contemporary narrative films aesthetically represent everyday life–capturing both its transience and our everyday ruminations. We will further consider the ways we incorporate film into our everyday lives through various modes of viewings (the arthouse, the multiplex, the DVD, the mp3), our means of perception, and in the kinds of souvenirs we keep. We will look at films by Chantal Akerman, Robert Altman, Marleen Gorris, Hirokazu Koreeda, Marzieh Makhmalbaf, Terrence Malick, Lynne Ramsay, Tsai Ming-liang, Agnès Varda, Wong Kar-wai, and Andy Warhol. Readings will include work by Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin, Marlene Dietrich, Sigmund Freud, and various works in film and media studies. Three hours of lectures and three hours of film screening per week.

Not open to first-year students. Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hastie.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Fall 2015, Spring 2020

383 Intimate Film Cultures

(Offered as ENGL 383 and FAMS 360] What’s intimate about cinema? And what, if anything, is cinematic about intimacy? Since its invention, cinema has been closely associated with intimate experience, though understandings of this association have shifted over time. For classical film theorists, cinema’s intimate devices (the close-up, the kiss, etc.) were often invested with revolutionary potential, though more recent cultural theorists have issued strong rejoinders to such claims. Isn’t intimacy crucial to the workings of modern power? Doesn’t cinema structure intimate relations in accordance with normative ideologies? Examining a range of intimate film cultures–from early cinema to surrealism, classical Hollywood, Black British film, and queer world cinema–this course will explore the intimate dimensions of filmic representation and reception, and the reasons cinema’s intimacy has been both celebrated and denounced. Assignments include in-class presentations, critical essays, and weekly entries in personal film journals.

Requisite: One 200-level ENGL or FAMS course, or consent of the instructor. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Guilford.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Spring 2022

391 Literature of Everyday Life

This is a class all about the art of noticing. Our primary texts fixate on what Amit Chaudhuri calls “the moment of noticing”: heightened attention to the (seemingly) small, the ordinary, the routine. Many readings will be “day-in-the-life” novels set over a 24-hour period; others dwell on single moments, fleeting impressions, or routine rhythms of daily life.

We will discuss questions such as: What formal and stylistic strategies do writers employ to capture everyday life? What happens to narrative conventions of plot and the event when writers are more interested in the textures, rhythms, and background environments of everyday life? How does the ordinary become extraordinary? How does one narrate history in the making, as it unfolds in everyday life? How are major historical events and political structures felt over the course of a typical day? Is it a privilege to think about the everyday as either boring or beautiful? Does it even make sense to talk about “everyday literature” when experiences of daily life are so diverse and varied?

This class will pair novels and short stories with select critical readings from affect theory, urban studies, modernist studies, cultural studies, and ecocriticism. Possible authors include James Baldwin, Amit Chaudhuri, Anton Chekhov, Christopher Isherwood, James Joyce, Kathleen Stewart, Madeleine Thien, and Virginia Woolf.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Abramson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020, Spring 2022

392 The Performance of Politics

When someone says that a politician is being “theatrical” or that a protestor is following a “script,” it is rarely meant as a compliment‒but why? The implication is that true politics is never theatrical, never scripted, never performed, never entangled with spectacle. Put so baldly, this claim is pretty hard to believe. If, instead, we take for granted that all politics is performed, we are left with several unanswered questions. What would an eye trained on performance (theater, dance, film, comedy, spoken word, etc.) see in our politics that someone else would not? Are there distinct performance traditions in politics, as there are in the performing arts? How do activists and office-holders enter these traditions, learn their ways, and apply them in everyday settings? How are citizens expected (or trained) to engage with this performance of politics‒either as spectators or co-performers? What are the key genres of political performance, and what should every citizen know about them? This class will teach you to see these as researchable questions‒and as part of an ongoing scholarly conversation in fields ranging from performance studies, art history, and media studies to sociology, anthropology, political theory, and history. Through reading and discussion, students will learn to think in interdisciplinary terms about politics, making connections across fields and methodologies. They will also study representations of political action and debate in film, television, and theater in order to uncover whatever lessons performing artists can teach us about contemporary political life.

January term. Professor Grobe.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in January 2021, January 2022, Spring 2022

416 In the Archives of Childhood: Adventures in Book History

(Offered as ENGL 416 and AMST 367) Children’s books have always been part toy. The odd duality of all books–simultaneously object and text, commodity and meaning–is particularly evident in books made for children. Think how much more varied in the shape and size of volumes, the font and layout of print, the style and quantity of illustration are books intended for children compared to books for adults. Sites of innovation and experimentation in book production, children’s literature provides an excellent ground for studying book history. So too, book history provides a good gauge of shifts in cultural attitudes towards childhood. This course is interested in tracing both the history of childhood and the history of books, and what each can tell us about the other.

The course will provide an extraordinary opportunity for original archival research in the world’s finest collection of early American children’s literature. Half of the course meetings will be held at the American Antiquarian Society, in Worcester, Massachusetts, granting students access to one of America’s premier research libraries and enabling students to work directly with the rare materials housed there and with the society’s knowledgeable curators and librarians. This research will culminate in a substantial independent project.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. This course meets for 180 minutes. On days when the class meets at the American Antiquarian Society students should expect to leave Amherst at 1 p.m. and return by 6:30 p.m. Omitted 2021-22. Professor K. Sánchez-Eppler.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2019

432 Shakespeare: Media, Technology, and Performance

[Before 1800] In 1623, what we now call Shakespeare’s First Folio was printed. As a printed book, it represented an object made with some of that culture’s very latest media technology, namely the printing press. Shakespeare’s plays depict technologies: characters use compasses and astronomical charts, for example. His plays were also staged using technology: set design included pyrotechnics, costuming, and the other necessities of putting on a good show. This course will ask, how did Shakespeare’s plays both represent technology in fiction and require it in performance? In order to investigate Early Modern technologies of performance, we will read selections from Shakespearean plays and poems, as well as Renaissance treatises on science and technology.

Of course, technology plays a large role in modern productions. Whether through discussing the advent of electric lights in playhouses, to film adaptations and high-budget productions from the Royal Shakespeare Company, to digital editions of the plays, to experimental augmented reality interfaces, we will critically engage with the technologies of Shakespearean performance in the past, present, and even future. As a final project, students