The secondary school English teacher invites young people to read creatively, write with intelligence and imagination, and grapple with the essential questions that literature asks. It follows that an English teacher should have read widely and should know the texts and contexts that have shaped the development of literature in English and of literary studies generally. By that same token, English teachers should be skilled at reading closely—at analyzing literary and critical texts with an awareness of the diverse models of close reading that literary theory has generated. In their work with adolescents, they should be particularly aware of what affects reading comprehension and of the kinds of instruction that foster it. Finally, English teachers should be writers who have insight into how composition facilitates understanding and encourages complex thinking. The literature curriculum addresses these needs through the integrated study of literature, literary criticism, and literacy pedagogy.
Introduction to Literary Theory 9204522 (3 Credits)
Literary theory and the history of criticism have become central to the study of literature in recent decades. The purpose of this course is to introduce students to a wide range of critical theories developed in the social sciences and humanities including formalism, Marxism, feminism, postcolonial studies, race and ethnic studies, psychoanalysis, reader-response theory, cultural studies, post-structuralism, deconstruction, environmental criticism and others. It provides students with the theoretical framework to pose questions that animate literary studies and inform scholarly debate. What is literature? What counts as literature? Are literary traditions unstable constructs that vary from one historical context to the next? What effects do literary works produce in the world? Gradually students will develop an interdisciplinary awareness of how various theories and critical approaches enliven scholarly research in literary and cultural studies. Readings may vary with instructor.
Selected Readings in American Literature 9204523 (3 Credits)
What does it mean to be an American and to construct an ‘’ethnic’’ identity in a heterogeneous nation that has been characterized by multicultural diversity and multilingual effervescence from its inception? Is the term ‘’ethnic’’ reserved for cultural minorities? If this is the case, then, why do culturally and politically dominant groups often escape this designation? Identity theories can help us understand how different groups are represented and what the politics of representation may mean in different political and historical contexts. This course draws on recent theories of gender, race, class and ethnicity to explore the construction of identity in the works of ‘’canonical’’ writers such as Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Whitman, Dickinson, Alcott, Henry James, Edith Wharton and others. These theories can also help us consider how diverse groups such as African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Chicanos and Arab-Americans have constructed or contested certain representation as they attempt to broaden the parameters of American studies. This course has a comparative multidisciplinary perspective. Readings may include Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, Dubois, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Bell Hooks, Maxine Hong Kingston, Afifah Karam, Suheir Hammad, Mohja Kahf, Gary Paul Nabhan and others.
Readings in the Novel 9204524 (3 Credits)
The novel has often been viewed as the preeminent literary form of the urban middle classes. Its rise coincided with and some would contend, supported the rise of modern democracy. Bakhtin suggests that the novel is characterized by an open and unfinished quality; it is in touch with the fluid and contemporary. Due to the novel’s relatively late arrival and questionable status, it opens up other genres to change and innovation. Said noted the role of the novel in defining English national identity, shedding light on the form as an ideological instrument of power. Other scholars point to the vital role the novel played in making the nation state a reality. V.S Naipaul used the form to probe the failures of the ‘’postcolonial’’ state and Woolf experimented with the form to probe the stream of consciousness. This course focuses on the evolving nature of the ‘’novel’’, its closeness to historical events or collective aspirations and its dynamic interaction with new media and technologies. Readings may include Jane Austen, Defoe, Fielding, the Bronte sisters, Henry James, Conrad, Woolf and others. The course adopts a comparative perspective; readings may extend to Mahfouz’s experimental novels in the Arab world, the rise of women’s war literature in Beirut, the emergence of graphic novels such as Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and the blog as novel like Rajaa al-Sanea’s Girls of Riyadh. Novels will be paired with theoretical and critical readings.
Cosmopolitanism and Narrative Imagination: 9204525 (3 Credits)
Cosmopolitanism has often been entangled in imperialist ambition and embedded in a normative discourse that denies cultural diversity or represses the expression of human variation. Anthony Appiah speaks of the tension between a universal concern for others and a legitimate respect for cultural differences. This course explores the role narrative imagination can play in cultivating a cosmopolitan sensibility and creating a receptive space for the stranger that dwells within as well as without. As educators we will be reflecting self-critically on how a carefully crafted curriculum that is attentive to cultural variation can help students feel at home in an increasingly multifaceted and interconnected world. What does it mean to meet ethical obligations to unfamiliar others? How have variant forms of cosmopolitanism found expression in non-Western cultures? Drawing upon the theoretical work of scholars such as Kristeva, Anthony Appiah, Bruce Robbins, Martha Nussbaum, Edward Said, Gregory Nagy and others, we will explore how cosmopolitanism can inform an emancipator ethics that goes beyond nationalism or a narrowly defined identity politics.
The Pastoral Impulse in Poetry and Society 9204526 (3 Credits)
This is a course in literary criticism, in the interpretation of poetry in English, and much of the class time will be spent discussing individual texts. However, the coursework will be organized around the notion of pastoral, a European literary tradition going back to 300 B.C. and, by extension, a mode of thinking about social relations that is still relevant in the twenty-first century. The earliest pastoral works, those attributed to the Sicilian-Greek poet Theocritus, were poems about shepherds, but, although they may have drawn on the songs of real Sicilian shepherds, they were sophisticated works of art, the products of an urban court culture. That equivocation—a poetic form that dwelt on the simple and the natural in order to make complex statements about society—so captured the imagination of poets like Virgil, Shakespeare and Milton, that it became a central and influential genre. We shall be reading works by more recent British and American poets (William Wordsworth, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Thomas Hardy, Robert Frost, D.H. Lawrence, Wallace Stevens, Philip Larkin, Sylvia Plath, James Merrill), but we shall also look at prose texts that demonstrate the pastoral impulse at work in political and ideological writing, for example, Charles Montague Doughty’s descriptions of Bedouin life in his Travels in Arabia Deserta (1888) and James Agee’s account of poor farmers in the American South in Let Us Know Praise Famous Men (1941).