Course Title: Gender, Crime, and Deviancy
Course Description: Crime and criminals are said to have “prompted the most innovative and influential literature of the early modern period.” But literature (not only fictional narratives and plays, but also court records, letters and depositions) had long had a tradition of representing crime and deviancy. Men, especially, were the ‘usual culprits,’ and were both the subject and the authors of imaginative representations of gender, crime and deviancy. Women, however, came increasingly under scrutiny in this period of tensions across Europe. “Female crimes and wider female behaviour became a target.” The actions that people took to deal with the inequities of class structure, with poverty, the bias of the law, and the problematic laws concerning rape, husbands who murdered wives and wives who murdered husbands packed the courts and the literature of this period. Topics examined in this course—which spills over into early modern England—will include tavern and brawling, marital discord and crime, rape, religion and crime, treason by imagination, subversive women, cross-dressing, and spousal killing. For a brief portion of the course students undertake palaeographical transcriptions of court depositions (c. 1580’s – 1630’s).
Readings: Include: Canterbury Tales, General Prologue, The Pardoner’s Prologue and Tale, Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale, The Miller’s Tale, The Merchant’s Tale, Morte Darthur, and the plays, Arden of Faversham, and The Roaring Girl.
PLAYBILL FOR BOTH PLAYS THIS SPRING: APRIL 2014- SEPT. 2014: LONDON
ROARING GIRL: An anarchic city comedy with the quick-witted, cross-dressing Moll Cutpurse. Governess of the 17th Century London underworld.
ARDEN OF FAVERHAM: Arden is convinced his wife Alice is cheating on him. He is correct - but he doesn't know the full story.
Course Description: In this seminar we investigate the issue of greatness as it seems to be reflected in Shakespeare’s drama. The idea of individual human greatness has accounted for much of the attention Shakespeare’s characters have enjoyed, but more recently they have been deemed interesting to the extent he undermines or interrogates this concept. Does Shakespeare cast his characters as “great?” What is greatness? What theoretical, political, or theological implications does it carry? In considering these questions with regard to Shakespeare’s characters, we also consider his own greatness. What makes him stand apart in our minds from his fellow Renaissance dramatists? Does he capture greatness better than they? Or does he rise above them for complicating the idea in ways they cannot? We will concentrate on Shakespeare’s histories and tragedies, examining each play in tandem with an analogous selection from another dramatist. Selections will include plays by Marlowe, Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, Middleton, Chapman, Massinger, and Webster.
Course Description: This iteration of nineteenth-century studies will compass greats from Tennyson to Hardy in poetry and Carlyle to Morris in nonfiction prose. We’ll also study two significant novels, say Dickens’s Bleak House and George Eliot’s Silas Marner. As the subtitle suggests, we’ll emphasize ways in which writers endeavored to discover and dramatize moral norms—the dynamics of moral decisions—in a post-Enlightenment, materialistic epoch.
Assignments: Work will include a short paper, a long paper, and an in-class report.
Course Title: Anglo-American Poetics: Auden, Bishop, Lowell, Larkin, Plath, and Heaney.
Course Description: After following their separate paths of development for most of the nineteenth century, the British and American poetic traditions collided at the beginning of the twentieth in the creative cataclysm later known as High Modernism. Yet this amazing movement itself held for barely a moment, perhaps just a decade and a half, before the two national strands once more disentangled and once again resumed their separate evolutions. In this seminar we will try to make stylistic and poetic sense of this slow unravelling process by teasing out the persistent Americanness to be found in the music, drive, obstacles, practices, and adaptations of Auden, Larkin, and Heaney, as well as the lingering Englishness traceable in those unmistakably American sensibilities, Bishop, Lowell, and Plath. Our interpretive focus will be on the kind of detailed stylistic analysis needed to articulate into coherence such provocative yet overly broad distinctions as "American" and "British." In conjunction with our close reading, we will also be attending to the tricky art of harnessing the dispersive impulses of textual analysis to the challenges of framing a coherent and persuasive critical argument. Rightly or wrongly, the premise behind this part of our inquiry will be that any argument or case about a literary text readily can, and absolutely must be fitted into one of several basic argumentative forms. The conviction of the seminar is that anyone who understands these forms will find themselves at a deep advantage in the critical game, no matter the author, period, genre, or theme.
Assignments: Two papers, two exams, and multiple class presentations.
Course Title: Modernity/Modernism & Postmodernity/Postmodernism
Course Description: The historical concerns shaping the rise of literary modernism in the United States—e.g., an influx of foreign laborers, changes in the conception of the human body and one's relation to the product of one's labor due to increasing mechanization and industrialization, a wide economic chasm between the "haves" and the "have-nots," heightened access to new regions and cultures as a result of the transportation revolution, a world war--bear an uncanny (or perhaps not) resemblance to those shaping late-stage literary post-modernism—e.g. concerns over illegal immigration, questions about the computerization of culture and its impact on human self-knowledge and relationships, vast discrepancies in wealth between the top 1% and the remaining "99%," globalization, and decades of war in Afghanistan and the Middle East. Yet postmodernism is typically understood as seeking torevise unifying modernist grand narratives into considerations of difference, plurality, and fragmentation. Using historicist literary methods, during the first half of the semester we will examine a range of modernist texts to develop a sound grasp of the causes and conventions of literary modernism. During the second half, we'll do the same for postmodernism. Throughout, we will attempt to establish our own argument about the still vexing questions surrounding the relationship between the two literary periods and movements. At the end of the course, we’ll consider what’s happening to theories of postmodernity now, using as our springboard Jeffery Nealon’s recent claim in Post-Postmodernism (2012) that “fragmentation” has been replaced by “intensification” – “an increasing saturation of the economic sphere into formerly independent segments of everyday cultural life” – as the dominant cultural logic.
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