Fall 2017 EN 220 Courses

CAS EN 220: Undergraduate Seminar in Literature
Academic Year 2017-2018, Semester I

Fundamentals of literary analysis, interpretation, and research. Intensive study of selected literary texts centered on a particular topic. Attention to different critical approaches. Frequent papers. Limited class size. Required of concentrators in English. Satisfies WR 150 requirement.

Reading Our Contemporaries

A flawed masterpiece? A passing fashion? A classic? You decide. In this course we will focus on fiction, poetry, drama, and film too new to be part of the canon. Acting as reviewers, we will interpret and evaluate these works, and reflect on our standards and judgments. We will also look at writings of the past as they were received and understood in their own time, and discuss seminal essays concerned with taste and value in the arts. What did Melville’s contemporaries make of his wild tale, Moby Dick? Why did Emily Dickinson’s publishers feel compelled to “correct” her punctuation and add titles to her poems? Why did “The Waste Land” resonate so powerfully with Eliot’s contemporaries? How did early twentieth century audiences respond to avant-garde modernists like Wallace Stevens and Gertrude Stein? In addition to reading past and present works, the class will attend a contemporary play, a poetry reading, a current film, and form thoughtful responses through writing and discussion.

Contemporary authors may include: fiction by Rachel Cusk and Jim Shepard; drama by Kenneth Lin; poetry by Amy Gerstler and Rowan Ricardo Phillips; nonfiction by Helen Macdonald; criticism by Harold Bloom, Susan Sontag, Clive James, A.O. Scott, Cynthia Ozick, James Wood.
A1 Costello
Tues, Thu 12:30-1:45


This course examines several Shakespeare plays for which there are competing film versions in “heritage” or “Renaissance” style, and also in highly modern/contemporary style. We will approach each set of films as adaptations with a concern for how the past is imagined in the present, the ideological and psychological functions of nostalgia, and how modernity is represented. We will triangulate each text and its two films in terms of performance, reception theory, how each understands its historical moment, and theories of visual pleasure. Readings in theory and criticism as well as the plays themselves. Films: Much Ado About Nothing (Branagh, Whedon); Romeo and Juliet (Zeffirelli, Luhrmann), Hamlet (Zeffirelli, Almereyda); Othello (Parker, Sax); Macbeth (Polanski, Goold).
B1 Carroll
Mon, Wed, Fri 12:20-1:10

The Boundaries of Life

How do writers create distinctions between lifeless matter and living beings in fictional worlds made out of nothing but marks on a page? And how can we understand matter to either lose or acquire sentience? What happens when a baby leaps naked and helpless into the “dangerous world,” or King Lear’s daughter suddenly has “no breath at all”? How do readers distinguish between the shearing of a blushing, panting sheep and the skinning of a dead lamb? This course tracks the contrasts writers set up between sensitive, receptive surfaces and the inanimate world. Authors include William Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Alison Bechdel. The course also explores the structures that exist between self and family—both the obligations that bind one person to another, and what happens when those obligations fail to be recognized
C1 Henchman
Tues, Thu 3:30-4:45

American Gothic

American writers have a peculiar and deep-rooted fondness for gloomy mansions, characters buried alive, haunting secrets from the past, hypnotically powerful villains, and corpses that won’t stay dead. From Edgar Allan Poe to Alfred Hitchcock to Toni Morrison, the Gothic mode never loses its ability to rivet us to the page or screen. Why are these stories so compelling? Why are we fascinated by these characters who face situations so extreme, so incomparable to the events of “real life”? And how do Gothic stories change over time? Are the things that terrify in the late eighteenth-century (which is when the first Gothic novels appear) the same as the things that terrify us now? In this seminar, we will investigate the history of fear, first by trying to define the term “Gothic,” and then by turning to four moments in the mode’s history: the British origins of the genre in Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto; the emergence of the classic horror story in the fiction of Poe; the Gothic’s impact on lyric poetry and the sense of personal life in the writings of Emily Dickinson; the continuing presence of the genre in modern and contemporary fiction (Morrison’s Beloved) and film (Psycho and the many more recent films inspired by Hitchcockian horror)
E1 Otten
Mon, Wed, Fri 10:10-11:00