English 220: Shakespeare
This class focuses on the following questions: How did Shakespeare’s plays and poetry come out of the literary, cultural and political ideas and controversies of his time? How did his plays and poetry change and develop over the course of a twenty-year career? and How do the major literary genres that he wrote in—Comedy, History, Tragedy, Sonnets, and Romance—reflect his explorations of issues of gender, genre, alterity, and aesthetics? To begin to answer these questions, we will look closely at the details of language in the plays and poems, at historical issues to which Shakespeare responded, and at ideas of class, gender, and alterity expressed in the plays and poems.
FYS: Icons of Western Culture
This reading and writing-intensive course focuses on four figures and products of Western culture that have become cultural icons—the Mona Lisa, Hamlet, the Eiffel Tower, and Marilyn Monroe. The class will focus on the following questions: What did these figures initially signify to their cultures? What were the cultural/historical processes by which these figures developed into their current status? In what way have these figures become cultural fantasies, fetish objects, idols, and/or clichés? What do we discover when we look carefully at these figures from the perspectives of literary analysis, gender studies, visual culture, cultural studies, and psychoanalytic studies?
English 230: Spenser through Milton: The Temptation of Literature:
Focusing on Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Milton’s Paradise Lost, this course considers the seventeenth-century preoccupation with the question: Is fiction inescapably immoral because it seduces audiences with beautiful lies? We will explore how the writers explore this central question in light of larger political/cultural crises of the period, as well as within larger debates about gender, genre, and morality of the period. Other texts/authors that the course may consider include Sidney’s Arcadia, poetry by Queen Elizabeth I and James I, poetry by John Donne and Andrew Marvell, and cultural documents of the period.
English 160: Creative/Critical Non-Fiction
This class introduces students to major writers and genres of contemporary and classic non-fictional writing—particularly the genres of memoir, personal essay, literary criticism, and film review. As we consider these texts, we will be answering the questions: “What is non-fiction?” “What is the relationship between reading non-fictional writings and writing about them? “ And “What are the boundaries between creative and critical non-fictional writing?” Throughout the semester, students will be writing and reading non-fiction by comparing and contrasting students’ writings with those by contemporary and classic essay writers.
Children as Readers
This course introduces students to the tradition of British children’s and young adult novels from Alice in Wonderland to Harry Potter, focusing on how much of this literature emerges from Romantic-Victorian conceptualizations of the child as a site of innocence, imagination, and curiosity. We will consider how this idea of the child persists even as cultural perspectives about childhood develop and change. The course will explore such questions as: What changes in readings of the child or young adult protagonist occur over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries? What does it mean to write or read from the perspective of a child? and What aesthetic and cultural debates and controversies have swirled around readers’ and film adapters’ fascinations with British fantasies and fantasies of Britishness?