Spring 2021 Graduate Courses
Graduate Courses in Language and Literature
Academic Year 2020-2021, Semester II
All courses carry 4 credits, unless otherwise indicated.
Spring 2021 Graduate Courses that Fulfill Degree Requirements
For Ph.D. students: while one course may fit multiple categories, it can only be used to satisfy one distribution requirement.
Courses with a (T) count for the Theory Requirement
Theory, Critical Method, History of Criticism: EN513 A1; EN606 A1; EN681 A1
Medieval Literature – 1660, or History of English Language: EN723 A1
Literature in English, 1660-1860: EN732 A1 (T),
Literature in English 1860-present: EN512 A1; EN548 A1; EN586 A1; EN594 A1; EN680 A1 (T); EN684 A1 (T); EN754 A1 (T); EN779 A1 (T); EN793 A1
(In)subordination and Early Modern English Literature
This seminar will consider early modern England’s all-but universal invocations of hierarchy and subordination in relation to the shouts, murmurs, overtones and undertones of opposition to such subjection to be found challenging and haunting its presumptive hegemony in political, socio-economic, familial, and sexual arenas. With a primary focus on Tudor-Stuart drama, we will also read widely from masques, poetry, romance, sermons and popular pamphlets as well as manuscript libels, diaries, letters, official proclamations, and documents of enforcement and prosecution. We will consider the positions taken by royalists, humanists, commonwealth men, republicans, common lawyers, Anabaptists, puritans, levelers and civic authorities as well as current analyses offered by sociologists and historians concerned with such phenomena as outright “riot and rebellion,” organized “social banditry,” or the subtle “hidden transcripts” of resistance lurking within apparent compliance. We will consider the discourses and practices of and about outlaws, recusants, pirates, rioters, and mutinous soldiers, unruly wives, female petitioners and prostitutes. Among dramatists, we will read Shakespeare, Jonson, Dekker, Marlowe, Heywood, Massinger, Middleton and Beaumont and Fletcher.
This course will also serve to introduce students to bibliographic skills and tools for researching and utilizing early modern texts and records. We will work on methods of searching, accessing and assessing print and manuscript documents both literary and non-literary. Pending funding, we will supplement our study of early modern paleography with help from experts in the reading of contemporary hands. Fulfills the Medieval Literature – 1660 requirement.
EN723 A1 Siemon
T 3:30 – 6:15p
Transatlantic Literature, Race, and the History of Print, 1607-1855
This course will take inspiration from the methodologies of book history to explore significant works in the Anglophone literary tradition that grapple with race and racialization — from John Smith to Frederick Douglass. Over the past several decades, book history has drawn on multiple disciplines to investigate how print reflects and shapes politics, culture, and society. It places printed objects (books, pamphlets, newspapers, magazines, broadsides, etc.) in a network of economic and social relations in order to emphasize the material contexts that enable communication, including manufacturing, distribution, reading, and performance. For the literary scholar in particular, book history teaches that texts cannot be divorced from the material conditions of their production, dissemination, and commodity status. Over the course of the semester we will consider the relevance, uses, and insights of book history in relation to canonical and non-canonical works that have shaped and reacted to changing ideologies of race before 1900. We will attend to the early Anglophone literature of colonization, the bourgeois public sphere, the history of slavery, early Black and Native American literature, the Haitian Revolution, and the prose genres of autobiography, political protest, and fiction. Texts might include Thomas Harriot, John Smith, Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, Daniel Defoe, Benjamin Franklin, Samson Occom, Phillis Wheatley, Thomas Paine, Olaudah Equiano, Baron de Vastey, William Apess, Fanny Fern, and Frederick Douglass. Theoretical and critical works may include Sylvia Wynter, Robert Darnton, Jürgen Habermas, Saidiya Hartmann, Arjun Appadurai, Paul Gilroy, Joanna Brooks, Meredith McGill, and Marlene Daut. Original archival research will be required of all seminar participants. Fulfills the Literature in English, 1660 – 1860 requirement OR Theory requirement.
EN732 A1 Rezek
F 11:15a – 2:00p
This course joins a growing scholarly effort to reassess 1950’s America by exploring a wide range of original works of literature, film, and social theory that crossed the boundaries between academic and general audiences, and also had lasting impacts on their disciplines and genres. We will try to embrace the strangeness of a decade, which encompassed the invention of Tupperware as well as the creation of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), MAD Magazine and Playboy, the widespread institutionalization of psychology as well as the heyday of television sitcoms, the literary debuts of Philip Roth and James Baldwin. One assumption of the course will be that the decade has become, through dominant critical paradigms, too familiar and accessible. So while we will attend to these paradigms and to the issues that have preoccupied historians and critics of the decade, including the Culture of Consumption, the Cold War and McCarthyism, the Organization Man and the Suburban Middle-Class Housewife, we will also do our best to move beyond them by reading deeply in major works of literature, film, and social and cultural theory. The course will pair a weekly literary or film classic with a work of social theory, examining, for instance Anne Frank’s Diary and Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem as complementary accounts of the Holocaust; Elia Kazan’s A Streetcar Named Desire and Simone De Beauvoir’s The Second Sex on Sexual Politics; Lionel Trilling and Philip Roth on Assimilation; Gordon Allport and Ralph Ellison on the Nature of Prejudice. Fulfills the Literature in English 1860 – Present or Theory requirement.
EN754 A1 Mizruchi
M 2:30 – 5:15p
Modernism: Text and Screen
Most accounts of literary modernism emphasize the guiding rubric of the medium in shaping aesthetic debates. As the story is often told, revolutions within the visual arts (painting, in particular) helped steer writers to embrace a self-conscious intensification of language beyond its communicative functions. In this course, we will reassess such narratives of modernism by paying attention to the formative and often combative relationship between modernist literature and the newly invented, less dignified medium of cinematography — literally, the writing of movement. We will look at major figures withing the modernist canon (James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Virginia Woolf, William Carlos Williams, André Breton) and examine how film challenged the fundamental ideas of art, subjectivity, narration, rhythm and description so central to their modernist writing. But we will also look at popular cinema (including Buster Keaton’s slapstick comedies) and the contemporary attempts to recreate modernist experimentation in a cinematic context: the surrealist and dadaist films of Luis Buñuel and Hans Richter, the “city symphonies” of Dziga Vertov and Walter Ruttman, the avant-garde films of Maya Deren, and Samuel Beckett’s films and teleplays. Throughout the course we will balance our attention to primary texts with a selection of relevant criticism (including Miriam Hansen’s claims about film as a form of “vernacular modernism”) to try and discover the many ways in which the cinema, with its depersonalizing visual style and vastly disproportionate audience, exerted a powerful but contradictory force in the modernist attempts at renovating art. Fulfills the Literature in English 1860 – Present or Theory requirement.
EN779 A1 Foltz
T 12:30 – 3:15p
Wordsworth’s poetry in its biographical and historical contexts, focusing on the so-called Great Decade (1798-1808). Special attention to the arts of close reading and textual interpretation in the light of exemplary criticism illustrating a wide variety of approaches from the last half century or more. Attention to Dorothy Wordsworth’s life and writings as well. Fulfills the Literature in English, 1660 – 1860 requirement.
EN793 A1 Rzepka
R 12:30 – 3:15p
History of Criticism 2
Survey of literary critical perspectives and trends in humanistic theory relevant to literary interpretation from the middle of the twentieth century onward, including formalism, structuralism, post-structuralism, gender studies, new historicism, and post-colonial studies. Frequent writing assignments of various lengths. This course fulfills a single unit in the following BU Hub area(s): Philosophical Inquiry and Life’s Meanings. Fulfills the Theory requirement.
EN606 A1 Riquelme
TR 2:00 – 3:15p
Critical Studies in American Writers: American Literature and Pragmatism
This course will explore some intersections of American literature and pragmatist philosophy. Some recurring questions include: What are the limits of knowledge, logic, and language, and how can we encounter them? How do we act and choose under conditions of uncertainty and ambiguity? Do American literary texts reflect and even anticipate pragmatist thought or is the relationship more often marked by tension, conflict, and misunderstanding? How do pragmatist conceptions of truth, aesthetics, and democracy help us understand literature? What contributions might literature make to traditional philosophical projects and forms of expression? Another way to think about the course is this: What happens to American literature and philosophy when confidence in Enlightenment reason breaks down? Fulfills the Literature in English 1860 – Present requirement and Theory requirement.
EN680 A1 Lee
MWF 12:20 – 1:10p
Performative Text and Design
This interdisciplinary, co-taught seminar explores the intersections of text, design, performance, publishing, and activism. It examines a number of techniques, forms, media, and theoretical ideas, asking about their collective and political potential and instantiations. Our aim is to develop a truly interdisciplinary approach to thinking about the many forms a text might take. The course will be complemented by (virtual) field trips to archives, the Papercut Zine library in Somerville, and Queer.Archive.Work (Providence), and will incorporate a number of creative exercises (such as a sound walk, designing a text-based flag/costume), theoretical reading, and a combination of studio and seminar style teaching. Students will work on a number of writing, design, and performance exercises both individually and collaboratively. You will develop and present your ideas in various mediums and formats (performance, publication, video, object, long-form and short-form creative and critical pieces of writing). Our overarching topic is ‘text in space’; which means: we will ask ourselves how text can appear spatially (be it on a wall, on the page, or on other materials) or how it might be used as a performative object. Other themes include: labour, institutional and visual/textual hierarchies, liveness and documentation, ephemerality vs. permanence, digital colonialism, alternative publishing, activist archiving, DIY spaces, avant-garde community formation. Some questions we will be addressing: How can we activate, enact, translate linear and non-linear thinking? How can we think into space? How can text perform on the page, or on / with other materials, and in spoken, signed, or visual forms of communication? What if our guiding principle were to reject functionality? A provocation: what would it mean to make work ‘against use’? We will be looking at writers, artists, and critical theorists who’ve debated the value of deliberately obscure work, work that’s aslant or uncomfortable; work that foregrounds generosity and collectivity; work we need to grapple with, work that resists our immediate consumption. Fulfills the Theory requirement.
EN681 A1 Seita
F 2:30 – 5:15p
Critical Studies in Literature and Ethnicity: Identity
This course takes seriously the ongoing dependence on “identity” in cultural tensions, artistic expressions and cultural debates. Where did it come from, what does it mean and why does it matter? Via a cross-cultural exploration of literary, historical and critical works we will engage how “identity” is claimed, mobilized and sometimes weaponized. Fulfills the Literature in English 1860 – Present requirement and Theory requirement.
EN684 A1 Chude-Sokei
MW 12:20 – 1:35p
Readings for Writers: Contemporary Literary Nonfiction
Reading and writing seminar for students interested in literary nonfiction, a wide-ranging, sometimes controversial genre in which writers use techniques associated with fiction and poetry to make meaning of lives. This course explores literary nonfiction with an emphasis on life writing through memoirs and essays, as well as varieties of these forms. What kind of voice comes through in examples of life writing? What is the relationship between the situation (the plot, what happens) and the story (the emotional experience), to use Vivian Gornick’s distinction? Participants will read and analyze published writing, with attention to strategies authors use to write about lives, their own and others. The learning goals of this course are to become better readers and practitioners of the craft of life writing.
Everyone will read and respond to published and drafted writing in both weekly discussion posts on the course website and in critiques throughout the semester. Students will also develop their own life writing project of around 15pp with shorter draft segments every few weeks. In addition to assorted personal essays by Jo Ann Beard, Joan Didion, Roxane Gay, Virginia Woolf, and others, the course includes these memoirs:
Harry Dodge, My Meteorite
Kiese Laymon, Heavy
Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts
Rebecca Stott, In the Days of Rain
Jesmyn Ward, Men We Reaped
And selections from these two books:
Rachel Cusk, Coventry
Vivian Gornick, The Situation and the Story
Fulfills the Literature in English 1860 – Present requirement.
EN512 A1 Bernstein
W 2:30 – 5:15p
Modern English Grammar and Style
This course will show how to systematically analyze the grammar and style of sentences and longer units of discourse in English. It will explore academic and popular debates on grammar and grammar instruction and help you become a better speaker and writer. Fulfills the Theory requirement.
EN513 A1 Walsh
TR 9:30 – 10:45a
Studies in Modern Literature: Joyce and After
Readings in transatlantic modernism (Irish, British, American) from 1922 forward. Joyce’s Ulysses is central. Other readings from authors such as James Baldwin, Alison Bechdel, Samuel Beckett, Elizabeth Bishop, William Faulkner, Langston Hughes, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Virginia Woolf.
Fulfills the Literature in English 1860 – Present requirement.
EN548 A1 Riquelme
TR 9:30 – 10:45a
Studies in Anglophone Literature: Caribbean Poetry
A study of twentieth-century and contemporary Caribbean poetry written in English(es), partly through anthologies and partly concentrating on major figures (Derek Walcott of St. Lucia, Kamau Brathwaite of Barbados, Lorna Goodison of Jamaica, Eric Roach of Trinidad and Tobago). We will be reading with attention to issues that lie behind the poems, often expressed the context of debates about the function of the poet in a small society. We will have to come to terms with how writers make choices between various languages of expression (standard, non-standard, and creole), varied media of distribution (different print media, live and recorded performance), oral vs literate aesthetic norms, and multiple literary traditions (especially African and European) in an atmosphere of cultural nationalism and independence. Fulfills the Literature in English 1860 – Present requirement.
EN586 A1 Breiner
TR 11:00a – 12:15p
Studies in Literature and the Arts
Topic for Spring 2021: Stanley Kubrick: The Cinema of Dread
Intensive study of Stanley Kubrick’s feature films, from Fear and Desire to Eyes Wide Shut. We will read novels he adapted: Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, and Stephen King’s The Shining. Other pertinent fiction: Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End (with 2001:A Space Odyssey) and Jaimy Gordon’s Lord of Misrule (with his racetrack movie The Killing). And a book-length study, Kubrick: Inside a Film Artist’s Maze. Topics include: black comedy, visionary experience, and utopic misanthropy. Weekly screenings.
EN564 A1 Monk