2024 Courses

Wednesday 4:30-7:10 p.m.
Professor Steve Cohen

This course will explore how The Tempest, one of Shakespeare’s most popular and controversial plays, has resonated through our literary and cultural history and continues to shape the way we think about such important matters as gender, race, and (post)colonialism. In addition to a careful reading of the play itself, we will look at some early modern texts that will help us situate The Tempest in the political, economic, and philosophical debates of its time. We will also explore a series of responses and adaptations in various media that show how the play has been understood, disputed, appropriated, and otherwise put to use, primarily in the twentieth century. We will be assisted by a sampling of critical articles, and students will be encouraged to further explore the play’s legacy in an area of their choosing. Selected materials in addition to Shakespeare’s play and its contexts may include works by Michel de Montaigne, Aimé Césaire, Julie Taymor, Derek Jarman, and Peter Greenaway, among others.

Monday 4:30-7:10 p.m.
Professor Susan Gilmore

Gwendolyn Brooks offers us ideal opportunities to enrich our understanding of poetics and prosody through her poetry and prose. And because she merged questions of poetics with questions of prejudice and privilege we can situate her formal choices in a landscape where multiple campaigns for civil rights, women’s rights, and cultural agency were fought at crucial stages of Brooks’s career. We’ll survey Brooks’s works from her first volume, A Street in Bronzeville (1945), through works affiliated with the Black Arts movement and her works for children and beyond to her work in the 1980s-1990s as poet laureate and commentator on a national and international stage. We’ll look, in particular, at her creation of forms such as the “sonnet-ballad” and “verse journalism” and at a new form, the “golden shovel” poem, created by contemporary poets to honor Brooks’s most famous poem, “We Real Cool.” We’ll listen to recordings across several decades to hear and appraise Brooks’s evolving performance styles and their musical underpinnings. And we’ll read her semi- autobiographical novel, Maud Martha, for its cadences and content.  Though Brooks’s formal choices are key to our study of poetics and prosody, we will also consider her work in the context of Brooks’s life and reception; her views on race and gender, racism and identity, art, childhood, apartheid, and war; the historical events and cultural forces that inform her work; the generations of writers she influenced, and the American landscape she described and shaped.

Tuesday and Thursday 12:15-1:30
Professor Lakmali Jayasinghe

This course provides students the opportunity to engage with world literature and visual media from a variety of global cultures in understanding how gender and sexual identities are conceptualized, represented, and practiced in diverse countries from around the world. How do different global cultural understandings of gender and sexuality, particularly from the non-west, help us to explore what it means to be “queer”? In what ways have colonialism and imperialism led to the suppression and erasure of non-heteronormative gender and sexual identities that existed prior to colonialism? To what extent are our current understandings of gender and sexual identity a product of a normative neocolonial epistemology? These are some of the questions that this course will try to address by engaging with texts from world literature, film, and graphic novels that showcase a wide spectrum of global gender and sexual identities.  

Monday and Wednesday 1:40-2:55
Professor Deborah Spillman

Gothic fiction, with its subterranean passageways and restless spirits, has thrilled readers for centuries while engaging them in debates about power, gender, race, and justice. Whereas gothic novels of the late eighteenth century featured the eerie enclosures of medieval monasteries and southern ancestral homes, which served as sites of displaced social critique, gothic fiction since the Victorian age has focused its tales of terror mainly on the seemingly medieval horrors of the present. The eruption of archaic fears in the middle of modern narratives lends gothic fiction its unique power and timely message that perhaps the world we live in may not be as modern as we thought. Selected readings may include Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, as well as contemporary neo-gothic novels like Helen Oyeyemi’s White is for Witching and Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic.

Wednesday 7:20-9:35
Professor Robert Dunne

The American literary canon has been the subject of intense critical debate for the last several decades.  From close critical readings in early and recent theories of canon-making in American literary history, we will grapple with such deceptively simple terms as "American," "literary," and "canon," in light of works of fiction, which will be thematically paired off according to their canonical and non-canonical status.  At the conclusion of the course, I hope you will understand why some primary texts have "always" been in the canon, why others fade into obscurity, and why others emerge from obscurity into prominence; moreover, I hope you will become aware of the contentious theoretical and political struggles that lie behind the neatly packaged covers of American literary histories and anthologies. Authors will include Willa Cather, William Faulkner, Fanny Fern, Hannah Webster Foster, Michael Gold, Nella Larsen, Herman Melville, & others.

Summer Session I, online asynchronous
Professor Aimee Pozorski

American Canons and Cultures will consider the very category of canon itself, as it invites students to read, among a variety of other texts, nineteenth-century American short stories and twentieth-century American poetry to determine the qualities of “canonical” American literature.  The course is directed toward current teachers of American literature but is open to all who share a passion for conversations about inclusion, diversity, tradition, culture, and the canon. 

Summer Session II, online asynchronous
Professor Eric Leonidas

Reading major works by Shakespeare, M Shelley, and Orwell, we’ll seek to find sophisticated yet accessible ways to present and discuss canonical texts. We’ll also review some of the critical debates surrounding these works, debates not only over content but also over their place in a broader curriculum. And we’ll explore the extent to which “old” texts can address seemingly contemporary cultural issues, or whether these are better approached through more recent and diverse British writers.

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Deborah Spillman
Associate Professor & Assistant Chair
Director of Graduate Studies
English | MA
Willard-DiLoreto Hall

Academic Department