Spring 2014 Graduate Course Offerings—Literature

English 522:  Literary Theory & Criticism

Instructor:  Jeremy Withers
T 6:10-9:00 pm

This course will examine the history of contemporary literary and cultural theory from its early 20th-century beginnings in formalisms such as New Criticism through more socially focused theories like Marxism, feminism, and queer studies. This course will also give students exposure to the most recent theoretical trends such as animal studies, material ecocriticism, and disability studies. Over the course of the semester, students will learn about a wide variety of theoretical approaches to the analysis of literary texts, as well as to other types of texts such as film, the visual arts, popular culture, music, advertising, and so forth.
Assignments will include class participation, an oral presentation, short written responses to readings, and a researched critical essay of approximately 15 pages.
Required Texts:

  • Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan, Literary Theory: An Anthology, 2nd edition (Blackwell Publishing, 2004) [ISBN-13: 978-1405106962]
  • Robert Dale Parker, How to Interpret Literature: Critical Theory for Literary and Cultural Studies, 2nd edition (Oxford University Press, 2011) [ISBN-13: 978-0199757503]
  • A course packet of additional readings available at the University Bookstore


English 533:  Romantic Literature: Science, Travel, and the Romantic Imagination

Instructor:  Dometa Brothers
TR 6:10-9:00 pm

This course covers the years from 1768, with Capt. Cook’s voyages to the South Pacific, through 1834, when Britain ends slavery in the last of the British colonies.  We will read the diaries and letters of explorers, naturalists, and scientists along with examining some of the most important advances in astronomy, botany, biology (including human biology), and geology.  Our literary journey will follow our historical figures to South and North America, Africa, the South Seas, the Poles, and the “Orient,” in an effort to see how science and travel writing finds its way into some of the greatest literature of the Romantic period.
Our reading list will include Frankenstein, Vathek, plays, and captivity and slave narratives, as well as some of the great Romantic poetry.  From the Nile of the famous sonnet contest to the North Pole of Frankenstein’s narrator—come explore the discoveries that inspired the 19th century.

English 541:  Autobiography, Biography, and Memoir:  American Autobiography

Instructor:  Constance Post
M/W 3:10-4:30 pm

Are blogs and tweets the cutting edge of lifewriting? Should autobiographers tell the truth, or do they have the right to break what Jacques LeJeune calls the “autobiographical pact” by fudging the facts? What is the connection between the growing popularity of autobiography and late capitalism? Take English 541 and join a hot debate about the genre of autobiography, long regarded as the “ugly duckling” of literary study. Critics and writers have much to say about the genre, and so will we in our examination of life writing produced by Americans from 1664 to the present. Through a variety of critical approaches, we will explore the impact of race, gender, and class on autobiography and consider whether autobiographical praxis in the United States is the expression of a unique individual, a unique generation, or a unique nation.
Texts include: 

  • A True History of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson;
  • Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography
  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
  • Henry David Thoreau, Walden
  • Zitkala-Sa, Four Autobiographical Narratives
  • Jane Addams, Twenty Years at Hull House
  • John Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks
  • Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
  • Allen Ginsberg, Howl and Other Poems
  • Mary McCarthy, Memories of a Catholic Girlhood
  • Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior
  • Richard Rodriguez, Hunger of Memory
  • a final selection to be chosen by the class.

Secondary texts include Diane Bjorklund’s Interpreting the Self: Two Hundred Years of American Autobiography and readings placed on reserve.
Requirements:  Seminar presentation, term project, review essays, and final exam.

English 543:  Environmental Literature—Of Predators and Prey

Instructor:  Matthew Sivils
T/TR 11 am – 12:20 pm

“Consider, once more, the universal cannibalism of the sea; all whose creatures prey upon each other, carrying on eternal war since the world began.”
—Herman Melville, Moby-Dick
“As a hunter in the old days, I was not so much a sportsman as I was a predator living off the country.”
—Paul L. Errington, Of Men and Marshes
With special attention devoted to the idea of predation (broadly conceived), this course will invite you to investigate a compelling selection of environmental texts, as well as formative works of environmental criticism (i.e., ecocriticism, ecofeminism, animal studies). Throughout the course, we will explore the connections and controversies between literary and environmental values—between texts, animals, and the land.
To begin, we will familiarize ourselves with ideas from some of our most influential environmental writers and scholars (e.g., Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, Lawrence Buell, Annette Kolodny, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Cary Wolff, to name a few). We will learn a variety of approaches to analyzing environmental literature. In doing so, we will ask ourselves how environmental concerns are based not only in scientific thought, but also in humanistic inquiry.
Once familiar with some key concepts and approaches, we will use this knowledge to delve into a selection of works that deal in various ways with the idea of predation. Along the way, we will investigate how literary interpretations of the environment touch upon such issues as biodiversity, natural resource management, climate change, habitat degradation, sustainability, pollution, environmental justice, and, ultimately, the human place in the natural world.
Assignments will include class participation, leading a class discussion, short written responses to readings, and a researched critical essay of approximately 15 pages. This essay will be developed in consultation with me and on an approved topic of your choice related to the course. (It need not be on predation).

  • Atwood, Margaret. Oryx and Crake (Anchor) ISBN-13: 9780385721677
  • Dickey, James. Deliverance (Delta): ISBN-13: 978-0385313872
  • Errington, Paul L. Of Men and Marshes (U of Iowa Press) ISBN-13: 978-1609381189
  • (selections from) Finch, Robert and John Elder, eds. The Norton Book of Nature Writing (Norton) ISBN-13: 978-0393978162
  • Melville, Herman. Moby-Dick (Norton) ISBN-13: 978-0-393-97283-2 (It’s important to  get this edition because we will use some of its supplemental materials.)