Spring 2018 EN 220 Courses

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

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.

Contemporary American Prose

In this course, we will read, discuss, research, and write about a wide range of contemporary prose published in the United States since about 1980. Although our emphasis will be on novels and short stories, we will also read graphic fictions, memoirs, non-fiction prose, criticism, reviews, and scholarly essays. We will discuss various movements within contemporary American prose, such as postmodernism, neo-realism, magical realism, and writing by and about immigrants, and we will also consider influential traditions of English, European, and World literature.

CAS EN 220 B1 Prince
Tue, Thu 12:30-1:45
CAS EN 220 H1 Prince
Tue, Thu 9:30-10:45

Arctic Dreams and Nightmares

The Arctic is a unique region, where the continents of North America, Europe and Asia converge around an ocean. It has been imagined, defined, and experienced in numerous ways: as a “commons” of shared stewardship, a theater for masculine imperial adventure, a home inhabited by Inuit and other Indigenous people for millennia, a sublime icescape for spiritual quests, a laboratory for climate change and ecological collapse, and a lawless terra nullius (“no man’s land”). We will encounter diverse visions of the North and the Arctic in fiction, exploration narratives, travel and nature writing, oral accounts, ethnography, visual art, film, and environmental humanities, from the 19th to the 21st century. We will consider Inuit stories, art, and film, and works by Arctic voyagers and writers from Africa, Great Britain, and Europe. We will examine how the distinct human and environmental histories of the Northwest Passage, the North Pole, Greenland, and Svalbard have generated different Arctic visions.

CAS EN 220 C1 Craciun
Tue, Thu 12:30-1:45

Figures of Authority

We will explore the ways in which ideas about moral and historical authority are dramatized by literary works. Our discussions will focus in part on how writers from colonial contexts responded creatively to influential European ways of thinking about culture and society. Writers we study may include Matthew Arnold, Joseph Conrad, T. S. Eliot, Chinua Achebe, Salman Rushdie, Jean Rhys, Ayad Akhtar.

CAS EN 220 D1 Krishnan
Tue, Thu 11:00-12:15

The Competition for Literature

We are used to thinking of our own time as one in which various new media forms have arisen to compete with literature for ways of representing reality, creating aesthetic pleasure, conveying information, and communicating between creators and audiences (or producers and consumers). Our contemporary “media ecology,” however, has some origins in a much earlier moment. Around the turn to the twentieth century, between 1880 and 1920, several newly invented technologies of representation became widespread: photography, the telephone, the phonograph, the typewriter, radio, and eventually film. In response, the styles, function, and purposes of literature shifted, in part the result of trying to outperform such modern technologies, in part the result of trying to find new justifications for the uniqueness of literature. Our course will explore some of the ways literature competed with more mechanical methods of representation, and examine some of the theoretical reflection on the nature and significance of literature that came out of this crisis of competition. We’ll compare poetry, fiction, and drama from the nineteenth century with innovations in these genres that show the influence of technological methods of recording thought and experience on literary art: for example, the typewriter on modernist poetry (T.S. Eliot and William Carlos Williams), and the phonograph on the literary reproduction of voice (Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying). We’ll sample a few early films to see how they demanded new exercise of sensory perception and how they innovated with the structure of narrative. We’ll also read works that reflect directly on the question of what literature can do in altered modern circumstances: poetry by Frost; fiction and essays by Virginia Woolf; a play by Samuel Beckett. We’ll look into some of the ways critics began analyzing what was happening to literature, as they explored what might be unique about it and how its nature and purposes might be changing.

CAS EN 220 E1 Matthews
Mon, Wed, Fri 9:05-9:55


This course begins with the observation that some of the most innovative stories and poems of the last quarter-century have been about trash, garbage, refuse, cast-offs, leavings, and compost. From the graphic novel Trashed, the hero of which is a trash collector, to the film WALL-E (another hero-as-trash collector, this one a robot), to environmental disaster novels such as Nathaniel Rich’s Odds Against Tomorrow, where a mega-hurricane turns Manhattan into a sea of flotsam, trash and creativity seem to have become intertwined in new and compelling ways. “Garbage has to be the poem of our time,” A. R. Ammons writes in his book-length poem, itself entitled Garbage. Garbage has a lot to do with where we live now: it could provide a way of seeing connections between literature and everyday life. Garbage also has a lot to do with meaning: it could provide a way of asking hard questions about sense and nonsense (“talking trash”) and how literary works make an intelligible order out of what would otherwise be waste. And certainly the topic brings with it a concern for high literature and low, for esteemed works of art and genres dismissed as “mere trash.” Aside from the texts mentioned above, we will also read together texts from the long history of trash, stretching back to the polluted streets and sidewalks of eighteenth-century London in Jonathan Swift and the fascination with decomposing bodies in Walt Whitman in nineteenth-century America.

CAS EN 220 F1 Otten
Mon, Wed, Fri 10:10-11:00

Modern Monster

Monsters have been with us since the days of ancient Greece and Rome, but the modern monster developed during the fin-de-siècle (1870-1910), a time of significant social, cultural, and technological change. Darwin’s theory of evolution established a connection between the human and animal, revealing they were not as different as had been supposed. Freudian psychoanalysis explored the depths of human consciousness. Technology advanced at a relentless pace: the automobile replaced the horse and telegraph wires circled the globe. The rise of Aestheticism and the New Woman created fears of social and cultural degeneration. This was also an age of literary monsters. Mr. Hyde roamed the streets of London, Dr. Moreau created Beast Men on an island in the South Seas, and Dracula plotted invasion from his Transylvanian castle. We will examine the cultural fascination with monsters at the fin-de-siècle, and explore what made these monsters distinctively modern. Readings may include Sigmund Freud’s “The Uncanny,” Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau, and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, as well as significant historical and critical material.

CAS EN 220 I1 Goss
Mon, Wed, Fri 12:20-1:10

Fictions of Formation

The Bildungsroman, or “novel of formation,” has been the exemplary literary form for the “coming-of- age” story. Coming-of-age stories aim to provide insight into a matter of perennial concern: how, over time, do we come to make sense of the world and find our place in it? In this course, we will look at ways novelists have tried to represent this process, and consider the social and political perspectives these narratives convey. What norms and values do such works affirm? Which do they challenge? How have questions of gender and of sexual or racial otherness been handled in the coming-of-age tale? What can readers learn from these books? We will also attend to aesthetic aspects of the novel as a genre, and we will engage with past and current scholarship on the Bildungsroman and its evolution. Works on the syllabus will include “classic” examples such as Jane Eyre and Great Expectations, possibly ironic versions of the genre, such as John Updike’s Rabbit, Run, as well as lesser-known works such as English, August: An Indian Story by Upamanyu Chatterjee and more recent novels, such as Zadie Smith’s White Teeth and Jacqueline Woods’s Another Brooklyn.

CAS EN 220 K1 Walsh
Mon, Wed, Fri 1:25-2:15