English 190

Research Seminar: Writing a World in Crisis: Medieval and Modern

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
5 Spring 2017 Perry, R. D.
MWF 1-2 51 Evans Pre-1800 Requirement
Middle English
Literary Theory
Research Seminars

Book List

Adorno, Theodor: Minima Moralia: Reflections on a Damaged Life; Adorno, Theodor and Max Horkheimer: Dialectic of Enlightenment; Arendt, Hannah: The Origins of Totalitarianism; Langland, William: Piers Plowman: A New Annotated Edition of the C-text


Please note the changes in the topic, book list, and courses description of this class (as of November 22).

This course looks at two distinct moments in which individual authors attempted to create encyclopedic visions in an attempt to diagnose what they took to be the historical crises of their time. The first moment is medieval: William Langland's England in the 14th century. After the cataclysm of a pandemic (the Black Death), Langland's England was embroiled in a war (the Hundred Years War), witness to a major social upheaval (the Peasant's Revolt), the scene of conflict surrounding an authoritarian ruler (or so Richard II enemies thought of him), riven by religious dissent and controversy (with the early stages of the Wycliffite heresy), and subject to a host of other traumatic social changes due to economic transition (as part of the transition from feudalism to mercantile capitalism). These paroxysms—disease, war, authoritarian rule, religious upheaval, and economic change and uncertainty—likewise characterize the modern moment that will be our secondary focus: the mid-20th century and the horrific events surrounding World War II, which we will discuss through the writings of German émigrés in America (namely, Theodor Adorno, Hannah Arendt, and Max Horkheimer).

All of these writers tried to comprehend their historical moments in a way that remained true to the complexity of their situations, and the works they produced as a result were therefore as complex. They are conceptually expansive and encyclopedic in their concerns. Because the material Langland covers is so temporally distant from us, we will work through that more slowly; it will take us the entire semester to work through one version of Langland's poem. As we begin with Langland's poem, and as you become accustomed to Middle English, we will also read some secondary criticism that will teach you how to read Langland's work. Some of the shorter daily readings of Langland will also be supplemented with critical explication of his work. In addition, the slow reading of Langland's work will be punctuated along the way by the work of Adorno, Arendt, and Horkheimer. We will use these modern writers to help us think through the medieval one. Their attempts to understand historical trauma in all of its complexity will help us understand how Langland does the same thing, and how we might do so ourselves.

This section of English 190 satisfies the pre-1800 requirement for the English major.

Please note that some seats in this section of English 190 are open to senior and junior non-majors.

Other Recent Sections of This Course

Spring, 2019
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
190/1 Research Seminar: Flann O'Brien and Irish Literature Flynn, Catherine
190/2 Research Seminar: Transsexual Literatures and Cultures Lavery, Grace
190/3 Research Seminar: James / Baldwin Best, Stephen M.
190/5 Research Seminar: California Books and Movies Since World War I Starr, George A.
190/6 Research Seminar: Carnal Knowledge in Medieval and Early Modern Literature Miller, Jasmin
190/7 Research Seminar Stancek, Claire Marie
190/8 Research Seminar: Edgar Allan Poe Breitwieser, Mitchell
190/9 Research Seminar: Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln Otter, Samuel
190/10 Research Seminar: Emily Dickinson Shoptaw, John
190/11 Research Seminar: Willa Cather Breitwieser, Mitchell
190/13 Research Seminar: Sixties Cinema Knapp, Jeffrey
190/14 Research Seminar Miller, D.A.
Fall, 2018
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
190/1 Research Seminar: Melville in the 50s Goldsmith, Steven
190/2 Research Seminar: Laughter and Vision: Explorations in the Novel of Ideas Danner, Mark
190/3 Research Seminar: Representations of Coercion and Resistance in African American Slave, Jim Crow, and Neo-slave Narratives JanMohamed, Abdul R.
190/4 Research Seminar: William Blake Goldstein, Amanda Jo
190/7 Research Seminar: The Urban Postcolonial Ellis, Nadia
190/8 Research Seminar: Repression and Resistance Gonzalez, Marcial
190/9 Research Seminar: Mark Twain Griffin, Ben
190/10 Research Seminar No instructor assigned yet.
190/11 Research Seminar No instructor assigned yet.
190/12 Research Seminar: California Books and Movies Since World War I Starr, George A.
190/13 Research Seminar: The Jamesian Novel Hale, Dorothy J.
190/14 Research Seminar Miller, Jennifer
Spring, 2018
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
190/1 Research Seminar: Trials of Literature: Romanticism, Justice, and the Law Langan, Celeste
190/2 Research Seminar: James Joyce Flynn, Catherine
190/3 Research Seminar: Hawthorne & Melville Tamarkin, Elisa
190/4 Research Seminar: Reading Walden Carefully Breitwieser, Mitchell
190/5 Research Seminar: Harlem Renaissance Wagner, Bryan
190/6 Research Seminar: Sixty Years Since: The Historical Novel Kolb, Margaret
190/7 Research Seminar: Contemporary Historical Fiction Yoon, Irene
190/8 Research Seminar: Literary Theory and Its Objects Creasy, CFS
190/9 Research Seminar: The Faerie Queene: The Ethics of Imagination Landreth, David
190/10 Research Seminar: Pagan Fictions in Christian Literature Hobson, Jacob
190/11 Research Seminar: Andrew Marvell Picciotto, Joanna M
190/12 Research Seminar: California Books and Movies Since World War I Starr, George A.
190/13 Research Seminar: Alfred Hitchcock Bader, Julia
Fall, 2017
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
190/1 Research Seminar: Britain in the ‘60s Gang, Joshua
190/2 Research Seminar: The Historical Novel Puckett, Kent
190/3 Research Seminar: Another Day in Purgatory: Irish Literature and the Afterlife Creasy, CFS
190/6 Research Seminar: Literature and Revolution Lee, Steven S.
190/7 Research Seminar: Monsters, Exiles, and Outlaws in Medieval Literature Hobson, Jacob
190/8 Research Seminar: George Eliot and the Realist Novel Kolb, Margaret
190/9 Research Seminar: Historiography and Narrative: Literature and the Interstices of History Jones, Donna V.
190/10 Research Seminar: Suspicious Mind Best, Stephen M.
190/11 Research Seminar: Nonsense Hanson, Kristin
190/12 Research Seminar: Making Memories Yoon, Irene
Spring, 2017
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
190/1 Research Seminar: The Urban Postcolonial Ellis, Nadia
190/2 Research Seminar: Harlem Renaissance Wagner, Bryan
190/3 Research Seminar: Literature and the Linguistic Turn Blevins, Jeffrey
190/4 Research Seminar: Jane Austen and the Theory of the Novel Miller, D.A.
190/6 Research Seminar: Shakespeare: From the Globe to the Global Bahr, Stephanie M
190/7 Research Seminar: Place-Love: Fiction and the Melancholy of Form Xin, Wendy Veronica
190/8 Research Seminar: Literatures of the Ocean Sorensen, Janet
190/9 Research Seminar: Beowulf Thornbury, Emily V.
190/10 Research Seminar: Hollywood in the 1930s Knapp, Jeffrey
190/11 Research Seminar: The Literature of Immortality Jones, Donna V.
190/13 Research Seminar: California Literature & Film Since WWI Starr, George A.

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