Announcement of Classes: Spring 2010

The Announcement of Classes is available one week before Tele-Bears begins every semester. Creative Writing and (for fall) Honors Course applications are available at the same time in the racks outside of 322 Wheeler Hall.


The Power of I: Literary Constructions of the Self

English R1A

Section: 3
Instructor: Bednarska, D.
Time: MWF 2-3
Location: 222 Wheeler


Other Readings and Media

Mary Karr, The Liar’s Club; Eli Clare, Exile & Pride; Harry G. Frankfurt, On Bullshit; Jamaica Kincaid, My Brother; Jeanette Winterson, Written on the Body; Diane Hacker, Rules for Writers. (Some texts may be added later.)

Description

What are the different ways that we come to understand first person narration?  How are different selves created and chosen through texts and textual choices?  How do issues of memory and claims to authenticity affect the way that we read different kinds of texts?  This course will focus on how the self is constructed in literary non-fiction but will also incorporate fiction and poetry.  We will examine how different choices made by the author construct specific understandings of who the author (or narrator) is and the story which they are telling.  Students may be asked to reflect on these issues through small in-class creative writing assignments if time permits.

This course is aimed at developing reading and writing skills in a variety of genres. Students will learn and practice strategies for all stages of the writing process, from prewriting to revision, and also work on grammar, syntax, and style. Course assignments will include a minimum of 32 pages of writing divided among a number of short essays, at least two of which will be revised. This course fulfills the first half of the university’s R&C requirement.


American Elegy

English R1A

Section: 9
Instructor: Auclair, Tracy
Time: MWF 3-4
Location: 222 Wheeler


Other Readings and Media

A course reader of elegies and essays; Diana Hacker, Rules for Writers; Jeffrey A. Hammond, The American Puritan Elegy: A Literary and Cultural Study; Mary Louise Kete, Sentimental Collaborations: Mourning and Middle-Class Identity in Nineteenth-Century America; Jahan Ramazani, Poetry of Mourning: The Modern Elegy from Hardy to Heaney; Melissa F. Zeiger, Beyond Consolation: Death, Sexuality, and the Changing Shapes of Elegy.

Description

In this class, we will study the American elegy, following its development from the 17th-century to the present.  Reading poems in conjunction with essays in literary criticism and cultural history, we will ask the following question:  How did elegiac conventions both reflect and create the conceptual meaning and psychological experience of death and grief in America?

Students will pursue this line of inquiry while learning how to write clearly, read critically, and argue persuasively. Emphasizing the development of these skills, this course will teach students how to evaluate authors’ theses, formulate their own positions, and express them in clear sentences, paragraphs, and essays. Over the course of the semester, students will produce approximately 32 pages of writing which will be broken down into 4 essays of equal length.


Green Reading

English R1B

Section: 4
Instructor: Legere, Charles
Legere, Charles
Time: MWF 11-12
Location: 225 Wheeler


Other Readings and Media

Henry David Thoreau, Walden; Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac; J.M. Coetzee’s The Lives of Animals; David Sibley, The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America; and a course reader with poems, essays, and/or excerpts by William Wordsworth, Bill McKibben, David Owen, Elizabeth Kolbert, William Blake, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Robinson Jeffers, David Owen, Wendell Berry, William Cronon, Jacques Derrida, and Michael Pollan.

Description

In this class, you will become ecologically literate, and learn to write clear argumentative prose. You will learn to identify birds and trees, and keep a journal to practice writing about the environment. As exemplars, we will look at how other writers—Thoreau, Leopold, Steinbeck, McKibben—have written about their environments. In the meantime, in several short papers, you will synthesize your own observations into ecological hypotheses, and revise and perfect them in response to criticism and peer review. In this class, I hope to move together from nature writing to environmental justice. Ultimately, you will be encouraged to reflect on your own place in nature: at the end of the semester, you will present your final paper on “The Future of Nature” at an in-class conference. By the end of the term, you will also be able to tell a Red-Tailed Hawk from a Turkey Vulture from half a mile away.


Holiday Literature

English R1B

Section: 6
Instructor: Drosdick, Alan
Time: MWF 12-1
Location: 225 Wheeler


Other Readings and Media

Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Carol”; James Joyce “The Dead”; David Sedaris Holidays on Ice; William Shakespeare Twelfth Night; Thomas Kane The Oxford Essential Guide to Writing; a Course Reader.

Description

Holidays find much common ground with literature.  In their ways, both exist outside of time and place by means of their inherent, if relative, universality.  Thanksgiving is not celebrated around the globe, just as Donne is not read the world over, but both hold their places through shared perception and appreciation, their physical trappings– be they books or turkeys– merely symbols through which a greater project might be enacted, namely the poetry or the giving of thanks.  Holidays are strictly dictated by the calendar (Which do you call it, Independence Day or the 4th of July?), but by their very nature function external to the calendar, as one Halloween is the same as the one before it, and is on some level every Halloween.  When celebrating a holiday, we feel like we have stepped out of our lives, and, as Washington Irving puts it, we do not “regulate...time by hours, but by [the smoking of] pipes.”  In short, holidays are magical days when time both stands still and extends back centuries, when the power of symbolism is heightened, and when we feel that on this day we can see a larger picture of both ourselves and the world.  While we shall take holidays as the subject matter for the materials of this course, this is first and foremost a class on writing.  The class will not focus on the assigned literature, but on the students, who will rigorously develop their analytical thinking and writing skills.  Students will learn to develop a working thesis and expand it into a cohesive extended examination of relevant issues regarding the primary texts or films under scrutiny.  Through weekly writing assignments, students will learn to think through writing, improving their ability to assess a work critically and to express the intricacies of their observations.  The final project will ask that students produce a sustained, multifaceted argument, which interprets individually collected research, in the form of a ten-page essay.  The final goal of the course will be to challenge students to become clear, efficient, effective writers.


T.B.A.

English R1B

Section: 8
Instructor: T.B.A.
Time: T.B.A.
Location: T.B.A.


Description

Instructor, time, and location to be announced.

No one will be able to enroll in this section until it has been finalized, which might not be until November or so.


Learning and Constraint

English R1B

Section: 10
Instructor: Weiner, Joshua J
Weiner, Joshua
Time: MWF 3-4
Location: 225 Wheeler Hall


Other Readings and Media

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile; Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe; Jane Austen, Persuasion; Vikram Seth, The Golden Gate; Georges Perec, A Void

Description

This class will try to stimulate reflection on what learning is, and what its relation is to different kinds of constraint. The pressure of this question (learning) and this theme (constraint) will be everywhere brought to bear on the task of this course: learning to write and research better. How can we think more critically about our own learning processes and the forms of constraint that enable them?

The first part of our readings will consider some of the constraints around learning that we are perhaps most likely to think of – universities, classrooms, pedagogical relationships, the essay form, even language itself – by reading two Enlightenment texts that worked hardest to situate learning elsewhere: Rousseau’s Emile and Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. The second part of the course moves away from the scene of education to look at two late 20th century texts that manifest the productive possibilities in different kinds of self-imposed constraint: Vikram Seth’s novel in verse The Golden Gate, and Gilbert Adair’s translation of Georges Perec’s La Disparition, written without the letter e. The hinge between these parts will tackle in many ways the hardest aspect of our theme, the relation between writing and the personal, through a reading of Austen’s novel Persuasion and a selection of poems by Gerald Manley Hopkins. These literary works will be interspersed with bite-sized selections from such theorists as D.A. Miller, Jacques Ranciere, Gregory Bateson, and Jacques Derrida.


Conspiracy Fiction

English R1B

Section: 16
Instructor: Seidel, Matthew
Time: MWF 12-1
Location: 237 Cory


Other Readings and Media

Graham Greene, The Ministry of Fear, Franz Kafka, The Trial, Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49, William Shakespeare, Richard III, a Course Reader.

Description

In his essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” Richard Hofstadter identifies the distinguishing feature of a conspiracy theory not in “the absence of verifiable facts,” but rather in the “curious leap in imagination…from the undeniable to the unbelievable.”  This course is about how conspiracy fiction reverses this process, imaginatively leaping from the unbelievable to the undeniable.      

We will be less concerned with determining the validity of the plentiful conspiracy theories in circulation than examining how they work narratively. What kinds of techniques do conspiracy fictions use, how does information get withheld and transmitted, and how do we describe the experience of reading them?  We will begin with selections from Paradise Lost, making the acquaintance of Milton’s Archconspirator Lucifer.  From there we’ll enter the realm of mortal scheming: Machiavellian plotting in Richard III, the extended juridical nightmare of Kafka’s The Trial, a World War II spy network in Graham Greene’s The Ministry of Fear, and a playfully ominous history of the postal system in Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49.  The texts come at conspiracy fiction from different angles – tragic, epic, allegorical, realistic, stylized, parodic – so following this particular thread will also provide a broad survey of literary form.

Though conspiracy tends towards opacity, the aim of this course is to avoid it at all cost in your writing.  Writing assignments will build up from a series of shorter exercises and culminate in a longer research project.


Skeletons in the Closet

English R1B

Section: 17
Instructor: Knox, Marisa Palacios
Knox, Marisa
Time: TTh 2-3:30
Location: 225 Wheeler


Other Readings and Media

Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey; Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre; James Weldon Johnson, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man; Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto.

Description

The plot of many works of fiction is often that of a secret being gradually revealed to the reader. This course will examine texts in which characters conceal things from each other, from the most mundane motives to the darkest Gothic sins of the past. We will also trace the methods in which a secret is uncovered, whether by accidental revelation or deliberate detection. Expanding our focus outward, we will examine the expectations of genre created by these texts in engaging the question of how the ability of protagonists to “read” certain clues is connected with the reader’s experience with and understanding of the narrative.

As we apply our own reading resources to analyzing texts built upon strategic obscurity, the class will continuously work on developing the ability to write with clear exposition and argumentation. In order to expand and integrate these arguments within a larger intellectual context, students will cultivate their own sleuthing skills in learning and deploying methods of research through periodic assignments. Students will ultimately apply these practices in writing and revising three papers of increasing length, ranging from three to ten pages.


America in the Thirties

English R1B

Section: 18
Instructor: Pugh, Megan
Pugh, Megan
Time: TTh 3:30-5:00
Location: 225 Wheeler


Other Readings and Media

Tillie Olsen, Yonnondio; Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God; Nathanael West, Day of the Locust; a course reader including work by James Agee, Hart Crane, Pietro di Dinato, Woody Guthrie, Langston Hughes, Toshio Mori, and William Saroyan.

Description

                                           By the relief office I seen my people;

                                           As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking

                                           Is this land made for you and me?

 

                                                                                    —Woody Guthrie

 

In the 1930s, as economic crisis brought new attention to the struggles of working men and women, Americans asked how their country had failed and how it could be fixed. What did—or perhaps, what should—America mean? The Great Depression was an era of stark deprivation, but also of committed idealism, as laborers, artists, and activists tried to reshape society. Americans embraced the promises of progress and change, but they also looked back toward folk cultures that they hoped would help unify the country.

This introduction to college writing and argument will be interdisciplinary in method. We’ll read a good deal of literature alongside proletarian manifestos, dance, photography, music, and film. Our course material will help us ask questions about the relations between “high” and “low” culture, between art, labor, and politics, and between race, gender, and nation—themes you will explore in an eight to ten page research paper analyzing a cultural document of your choice. You will also complete two shorter essays, and we’ll spend much of our time discussing how to improve your research and composition skills.