Fall 2014 EN 220 Courses

CAS EN 220: Undergraduate Seminar in Literature
Academic Year 2014-2015, 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.

Narratives of Urban Life

The modern metropolis inspires modes of perception and forms of belonging that differ radically from past centuries. This course will explore how works of literature and theatre seek to make sense of urban life in the twentieth century.

CAS EN 220 A1 Arjomand
Mon, Wed, Fri 10:00-11:00

Contemporary American Fiction

Novels and short stories published in America since about 1980, literary and genre works, graphic fiction, and a wide range of criticism, from blogs and tweets to academic essays.  Authors will include Toni Morrison, Philip Roth, Cormac McCarthy, David Foster Wallace, Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Franzen, Michael Chabon, Allegra Goodman, Ha Jin, Art Spiegelman, Junot Diaz, and others.

CAS EN 220 B1 Prince
Mon, Wed, Fri 11:00-12:00


“An empty book is like an infant’s soul, in which anything may be written,” writes the seventeenth-century poet Thomas Traherne at the beginning of his Centuries of Meditation.  Innocence matters to poets, dramatists, and novelists because it is associated with childhood, virginity, nature, and other beginnings, and thus recalls other unavoidable literary themes: sin, experience, sexuality, and civilization.  Yet if the state of innocence is understood as a tabula rasa, an empty page, how can it become a subject of writing?  And when it does, what forms does it take?

This course introduces students to literary analysis by focusing on how writers use and shape the difficult concept of innocence – often, and puzzlingly, by representing it in the form of adult women.  We’ll begin with short poetry by Thomas Wyatt, William Shakespeare, William Blake, Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, and others, practicing techniques of close reading which we’ll then apply to longer poems and plays: the Celtic Lais of Marie de France; the epic romance Troilus and Criseyde by Geoffrey Chaucer; and the tragedy, Duchess of Malfi by John Webster. We’ll continue to build our critical and theoretical vocabulary as we turn to prose, ending the course with two novels: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Beloved by Toni Morrison.

CAS EN 220 C1 Appleford
Tues, Thurs 9:30-11:00

American Literature and World Cultures

“What is an American?”  Ever since the earliest phases of settlement in the New World, writers have asked how cross-cultural encounter and exchange shaped a distinctively national literary tradition in the U.S.  This seminar will explore American literature in its global context, through close analysis of works about immigration, expatriation, and the confluence of European, African, and Asian cultures, from the early  republic up through the Second World War.  Readings by Crevecoeur, Emerson, James, Stein, Sandburg, Fitzgerald, Hughes, Yamada, and others.

CAS EN 220 E1 Patterson
Tues, Thurs 12:30-2:00

American Gothic

American writers seem to 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 Poe to 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 so 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 the novels of Horace Walpole and Mary Shelley; the emergence of the classic horror story in the fiction of Edgar Allan 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 (Toni Morrison’s Beloved) and film (Psycho and the many more recent films inspired by Hitchcockian horror).

CAS EN 220 F1 Otten
Mon, Wed, Fri 1:00-2:00

Reading Boston
On the Page and On Foot

English Class Animates City’s Literary and Cultural Geography

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Making Sense
of Ethnicity

Featured Graduate Student
Emily Donaldson Field

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Faculty Member

Bonnie Costello, Professor of English

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