Fall 2017 Introductory Courses

Introductory Undergraduate Courses in Language and Literature Academic Year 2017-2018, Semester 1

All courses carry 4 credits, unless otherwise indicated.

One 100-level course may count toward the major or minor if taken before or concurrently with EN 220.

Freshmen Seminar in Literature

Through discussions and frequent writing assignments, students develop skills in the close reading of literary texts and learn to express their interpretive ideas in correct and persuasive prose. Satisfies CAS WR 100 requirement.

Freshmen Seminar in Literature: Reading Literature Watching a Screen

“The most dangerous thing about television for U.S. fiction writers,” warns David Foster Wallace, “is that we don’t take it seriously enough as both a disseminator and definer of the cultural atmosphere we breathe and process.” In this course we will focus on depictions of and responses to television and film within novels and short stories by some of the twentieth century’s most important authors. Topics of discussion will include: authors’ resistance to or approval of other mass media, and the effects different media have on readers and viewers. Readings may include: Don DeLillo’s White Noise, Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer; short stories by Robert Coover, Wallace, Raymond Carver, and Lydia Davis; essays by Virginia Woolf, James Baldwin, Wallace, Jonathan Franzen; and teleplays by Samuel Beckett. Theoretical and methodological foundations may include: media studies and medium specificity, as well as theories of communication. Students should expect daily reading responses, as well as multiple longer papers, at least one involving significant research.
CAS EN 120 A1 Bartlett
Mon, Wed, Fri 9:05-9:55

Freshmen Seminar in Literature: The Western: Text and Screen

The Western is a site of conflict, flux and contradiction: its cowboys are at once heroic and antisocial, its antagonists are indigenous peoples and corrupt capitalists alike, and its majestic wilderness is always on the brink of becoming a new city or railroad depot. These contradictions allow the Western’s questions about individualism, colonialism, and industrialization to endure. This class surveys the power of the Western as short story, novel, film and video game. Beginning with Wister’s novel The Virginian (1902) and Porter’s film The Great Train Robbery (1903), we will consider the Western’s legacy as both cliché and America’s greatest cultural export, and explore the genre’s transformation across mediums and nationalities. The class will interrogate the Western’s construction of race, masculinity and identity, and explore the parameters of the Western as genre. Together, we will trace the winding path from Hammett’s hardboiled detective novel, The Glass Key (1930), to Corbucci’s “spaghetti western” Django (1966), Miike’s Japanese Western Sukiyaki Western Django (2007), and Tarantino’s slave-revenge story, Django Unchained (2012). While drawing on different approaches to literary and cultural analysis, we will follow the Western into dramas, thrillers and comedies within and beyond America’s borders.
CAS EN 120 B1 Powers
Mon, Wed 4:30-5:45

Freshmen Seminar in Literature: Modern Mourning & Melancholy

This course surveys the elegiac literary tradition: poems, plays, novels, and films that depict or enact the work of mourning—mourning the dead, mourning an era, mourning lives we might have lived. We’ll investigate how such works can teach us to earnestly grieve, praise, move on; or resist moving on. After surveying some of our language’s defining elegiac works, we will look at contemporary elegies that draw explicitly from tradition, such as Margaret Edson’s play Wit (1999) and its film adaptation together with the death poems of John Donne; Anne Carson’s Nox (2010) with the elegies of Catullus; Stephen Daldry’s film The Hours (2002) with Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. Can we mourn meaningfully today? Can one mourn badly? Why might we turn to literature in mourning? How are things like doubt, or humor, given voice? Additional authors include: Alfred Tennyson, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, W. H. Auden, Paul Celan, Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Hayden, Frank O’Hara, Tom Stoppard, Alice Notley, Robert Pinsky, among others.
CAS EN 120 D1 Brophy
Tue, Thu 9:30-10:45

Divisional Studies Courses
All courses listed below fulfill the Humanities divisional credit in CAS

Reading Modern Literature

Introduces key concepts for understanding major developments in literature since around 1900. Against the backdrop of two calamitous world wars, rapid urbanization, economic booms and busts, the growth of mass culture, and the decline of religious faith, writers have sought to “make it new,” to generate revolutions of an aesthetic, cultural, and political nature. Readings in poetry, drama and fiction from varying traditions, designed to motivate an interest in some of the most engaging, and challenging, works of the last century and more. Authors may include Joseph Conrad, W. B. Yeats, Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, William Faulkner, James Joyce, Zora Neale Hurston, Vladimir Nabokov, Ralph Ellison, and Thomas Pynchon. Topics vary by instructor.

CAS EN 125 A1 Russo
Mon, Wed, Fri 1:25-2:15

Reading American Literature

This course traces the development of American literature from 1850s up through the Second World War.  We begin with prose and poetry by Emerson, Thoreau, Harriet Jacobs, Whitman, Melville, and Dickinson, writers who were confronted by a national crisis over slavery and impending Civil War, before turning to fiction by Stephen Crane and Henry James exploring cultural changes brought about by the expansion of capitalist power and mechanization at the turn of the century.  Our survey will end with a search for renewal that inspired the flourishing of modernism in fiction and poetry by T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, H.D., Gertrude Stein, Claude McKay, Nella Larsen, Langston Hughes, and others.

CAS EN 127 A1 Patterson
Tue, Thu 11:00-12:15

Introduction to African American Literature

An introduction to the political, cultural, and historical roots of the African American experience through readings of a range of African American literature from Colonial to Contemporary. Meets with AA 103
CAS EN 129 A1 Boelcskevy
Tues, Thu 9:30-10:45


This course explores what it means to be ‘human’ by looking at various science fiction texts that trouble straightforward definitions of humanity. By looking at the monsters, aliens, androids, and cyborgs that populate scifi, we will sketch a genealogy of the genre from Frankenstein forward, and survey various theories of the self, in order to explore the utopian — and dystopian — possibilities suggested by these hybrid, uncanny post-humans. We will be particularly attentive to issues of race, gender, disability, and otherness more broadly, as well as how our ideas of who we are change in an age of social media and MMOs. Texts may include works by Mary Shelley, H.P. Lovecraft, Philip K. Dick, Neil Stephenson, Octavia Butler, Jorge Luis Borges, Samuel Beckett, and Kurt Vonnegut, as well as a selection of films, an episode of Black Mirror, and at least one video game.

CAS EN 130 A1 Alba
Mon, Wed, Fri 9:05-9:55

Introduction to Fiction: World Anglophone Fictions

In this class we study the ways in which writers of fiction navigate between the economically disparate zones of Europe/U.S. and Asia/Africa/Caribbean. We consider if the ability of writers to move between culturally and historically disparate zones is one reason for their critical and, at times, commercial success. The novels we study explore themes of cultural and geographical dislocation, migration, adaptation, and social conflict. Authors we study may include colonial era writers such as Rao, Achebe, and Naipaul as well as more contemporary ones such as Dangarembga, Rhys, Rushdie, Hamid, Rahman, Smith.

CAS EN 141 A1 Krishnan
Mon, Wed 4:30-5:45

Introduction to Poetry

Introduction to the understanding, interpretation, and appreciation of a wide range of poetry. Focus on poetic form, genre, and style, with explorations of cultural and aesthetic contexts. Particular emphasis on close, careful reading and discussion. Topics vary by instructor. This course cannot be taken for credit in addition to the course with the same number that was previously titled “Literary Types: Poetry.”

CAS EN 142 A1 Kirchway
Tue, Thu 9:30-10:45

Reading Shakespeare: Reading Shakespeare: Page, Stage, Screen

Beginning with his grizzly first tragedy, Titus Andronicus, and ending with the magically enigmatic The Winter’s Tale, we will explore the arc of Shakespeare’s career, reading seven of his plays in the social, political and theatrical contexts of his time.  Since Shakespeare’s work cannot be limited to any one moment or place, however, we will also consider how his plays travel across time, space and media by examining the lively performance history and radical appropriations of his texts.  Drawing on Boston’s rich theatre culture, we will attend at least one live performance, together.  For each of the plays we read on the page, we will consider different film adaptations, analyzing how a range of actors, directors and screenwriters have remade Shakespeare in different moments.  Finally, we will consider how Shakespeare lives on hundreds of years after his birth through different social media as we examine the afterlife of his works in the digital age.  Including tragedies (Titus, Othello and Hamlet), histories (Richard II and Henry IV, Part 1), comedies (Much Ado About Nothing and All’s Well That Ends Well) and a romance (A Winter’s Tale), this class delves into some of literature’s most vicious villains, most intriguing plots, most passionate love affairs and most sharp-witted banter.

Assignments will include two short papers, exams, and a presentation of an adaptation of Shakespeare from the digital archive (including YouTube, etc.) 

CAS EN 163 A1 Murphy
Tue, Thu 2:00-3:15

Graphic Novel

In the past several decades the graphic novel has emerged as a significant medium of narrative art. Today comics works have won Pulitzer Prizes, have been adapted for Broadway and Hollywood, and are reviewed everywhere, and with as much fervor, as novels are. In this course, we’ll read graphic novels such as Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Joe Sacco’s Footnotes in Gaza, Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, and Kyle Baker’s Nat Turner, among others. The course aims to understand what the word and image form of the graphic novel allows: why do authors write graphic novels as opposed to traditional novels? How do graphic novels document subjectivity? How do they use the image to explore race and gender, for both fictional and nonfictional characters? How do words and images interact on the page, and how does that interaction influence or produce narrative development?

CAS EN 170 A1 Najarian
Mon, Wed, Fri 1:25-2:25

Literature and the Art of Film

This course will provide an overview of the fundamental critical concepts for the analysis and understanding of film, while reflecting on how it both continues and departs from the tradition of literary narrative. We will cover key technical concepts (e.g. montage, mise-en-scene, and more) over a diverse set of films (both classics and unheralded gems) all the while comparing them to works of modern literature with shared preoccupations. How are stylistic problems of perspective, character, desire, and memory resolved differently in film? How do these differences alter our sense of what narrative itself is, and how it works? Films and readings by Orson Welles, Jean Renoir, James Joyce, Charles Baudelaire, Alfred Hitchcock, Jacques Tourneur, Franz Kafka, Aldous Huxley, Robert Bresson, Virginia Woolf, Edgar Allan Poe, Stanley Kubrick and others. Also offered as CAS CI 201. Students must register for lecture(A1) and film screening(B1). Monday class time is reserved for weekly film screenings.

CAS EN 175 Foltz
A1 Tue, Thu 3:30-4:45
B1 Mon 6:30-8:30 (film screening)

Asian American Literature

What does it mean to be “Asian American?” What are the racial legacies of U.S. imperial expansion, indentured coolie labor, race-based incarceration, and immigration exclusion? How do these meanings relate to gender and sexuality throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries? This course grapples with these questions and more by studying the literature and culture of Americans of Asian ancestry in the United States. Through this class, students will critically engage works of fiction by authors such as Toshio Mori, Karen Tei Yamashita, Jhumpa Lahiri, R. Zamora Linmark, and Viet Nugyen; theater by David Henry Hwang, Lauren Yee, and Philip Kan Gotanda; poetry by Bao Phi, Iris Law, Jenny Zhang, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, and Ocean Vuong; essays by Frank Chin and Maxine Hong Kingston; and graphic novels by Gene Luen Yang and Adrian Tomine. Students will interrogate these works through a combination of critical essays and creative writing prompts in order to harness the intellectual vibrancy and ethical and political urgency that Asian American literature engenders.

CAS EN 177 A1 Rivera
Tue, Thu 3:30-4:45

Post-Apocalyptic Narrative

If you were to predict the future based on contemporary fiction, film, and television, you might forecast a world where small bands of survivors cope with the aftermath of planetary disaster as they stand up either to a totalitarian regime or to pure lawlessness. What can we learn about the nature of narrative if we take these stories seriously? Where does this basic plot come from? What can we learn about the twenty-first century from close-reading these fictions? This is a course on apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic narrative, one that uses the current preoccupation with zombies (The Walking Dead), dystopias (Hunger Games), and environmental disaster (Odds Against Tomorrow) to introduce students to the techniques of genre analysis (what do these stories hold in common?) and cultural studies (what do these stories mean politically, economically, socially?). In other words, what happens when Katniss Everdeen meets Rick Grimes?

CAS EN 180 Otten
A1 Mon, Wed 12:20-1:10 (Lecture)
B1 Wed 2:30-3:20
B2 Fri 12:20-1:10