Spring 2012 Undergraduate Course Offerings


Eng. 2200: Introduction to English Studies (14975)
MR 3:25-4:50 p.m.
Dr. Kathleen Lubey
This course will acquaint students with what it means to read and to write as an English major. It will be our concern throughout the semester to read representative texts from the major genres of English literature (epic, drama, poetry, novel, essay) and to develop skills for discerning how texts create meaning through both formal and thematic means. The other major focus of the course will be to express this expertise in writing. Acquainting ourselves with how to write critically about literature, we will learn the methods that are central to an analytical engagement with texts: quoting exemplary passages, “close reading” texts, and utilizing specialized literary terminology. We also will become familiar with the major resources for research in our discipline. Evaluation will be based on several papers, a mid-term, a final, and class participation, which will involve class discussion, small group work, and peer review of writing.

Eng. 2200: Introduction to English Studies (15197)
MR 9:05-10:30 a.m.
Dr. Elda Tsou
A foundation course introducing English majors and minors to the disciplinary practices of the English major, with an emphasis on Asian American literature. Required of all majors in their sophomore and junior years.

Eng. 2300: Introduction to Literary Criticism & Theory
MR 9:05-10:30 a.m. (14989)
MR 12:15-1:40 p.m. (14983)
Dr. Gregory Maertz
An immersion in the history of criticism and theory from classical antiquity to the late twentieth century.  Through discussion and analysis of assigned texts, we will examine fundamental antagonisms in Western thought—between art and life, freedom of expression and political control, tradition and originality, classic and romantic, the pursuit of pleasure and didacticism, canonical elitism and the recovery of marginalized texts. Authors to include Plato, Aristotle, Horace, Sir Philip Sidney, Immanuel Kant, Samuel Johnson, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats, Friedrich Nietzsche, Walter Pater, T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Jacques Derrida, Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, and Judith Butler.

Eng. 3110:     Chaucer    (14988)                
TF   3:25-4:50 p.m.
Dr. Wan-Chuan Kao
In 1700, John Dryden designates Geoffrey Chaucer “the father of English poetry.” This course will consider the primary work on which Chaucer’s reputation rests: The Canterbury Tales. We will pay sustained attention to Chaucer’s Middle English at the beginning of the semester to ease the reading process. Then we will travel alongside the Canterbury pilgrims as they tell their tales under the guise of a friendly competition. The Canterbury Tales is frequently read as a commentary on the social divisions in late medieval England such as the traditional estates, religious professionals and laity, and gender hierarchies. But despite the Tales’ professed inclusiveness of the whole of English society, Chaucer nonetheless focuses inordinately on those individuals from the emerging middle classes. Our aim is to approach the Tales from the practices of historicization and theorization; that is, we will both examine Chaucer’s cultural and historical contexts and consider issues of religion, gender, sexuality, marriage, conduct, class, chivalry, courtly love, community, geography, history, power, spirituality, secularism, traditional authority, and individual experience. Of particular importance are questions of voicing and writing, authorship and readership. Lastly, we will think through Chaucer’s famous Retraction at the “end” of the Canterbury Tales, as well as Donald R. Howard’s trenchant observation that the Tale is “unfinished but complete.” What does it mean for the father of literary “Englishness” to end his life’s work on the poetic principle of unfulfilled closure and on the image of a society on the move?

Eng. 3140: Shakespeare: The Jacobean Plays (14973)
TF 10:40-12:05 p.m.
Shakespeare, Law, and Performance
Dr. Steve Mentz
This course explores the ways that Shakespeare’s theater represents two different things: questions of justice and of performance.  We ask what relationship the plays posit between a successful performance, either on stage or in a courtroom, and ethical justice.  Do public trial scenes, either on the Shakespearean stage or in our modern legal culture, increase the possibility of justice being done?  Or do fast-talking lawyers and over-emotional audiences neglect ethical principles?  To add a performative touch to our semester, we’ll work closely with the Adirondack Shakespeare Company – www.adkshakes.org — whose “Justice Project,” a professional production of two Shakespearean plays, will come to St. John’s on the Queens and Manhattan campuses this spring.  We’ll read those two plays – Merchant of Venice and Measure for Measure – along with Othello, All’s Well that Ends Well, and Hamlet.  Students will see both productions and also attend late-stage rehearsals, thereby getting a glimpse of how professional stage productions come into being.

Eng. 3190: Special Topics in Renaissance Literature: Poetry and Imitation (14974)
TF 1:50-3:15 p.m.
Dr. Steve Mentz
The course crosses the barrier between historical literary study and creative writing by taking seriously a fundamental creed of Renaissance poets: imitation.  Early modern poets emphasized that the English word “poet” means “maker,” and they learned their craft of literary making through imitation, both of past masters and current practitioners.  This course will combine historical study of 6 major English poets – Sir Thomas Wyatt, Lady Mary Wroth, John Donne, Andrew Marvell, Michael Drayton, and Ben Jonson – with a creative writing workshop in which students will write, share, and discuss each other’s imitations of early modern verse forms.  The class time will be divided in two between analysis of Renaissance poetry and workshop discussion of poetry written by the students.  Creative writing minors and concentrators especially welcome!

Eng. 3220: Eighteenth-Century Novel (14982)
MR 10:40-12:05 p.m.
Dr. Kathleen Lubey
This course will examine one of the most central developments of eighteenth-century English literary culture: the emergence of the novel as a genre.  Though we take it for granted as a coherent form today, the novel resulted from a process of exploration and experimentation on the part of prose-fiction writers throughout the 1700s who grappled with techniques for telling plausible stories about common people. Among the writers we’ll study are Haywood, Defoe, Richardson, Fielding, and Burney.  Our discussions will be based both on close textual analysis and on broad historical questions involving gender, social status, and print culture during the period.  Ultimately, we will be concerned with tracing these issues through close attention to formal innovation and narrative technique in the emergent novel. Evaluation will be based on: attendance, frequent reading quizzes, participation, papers totaling 15 written pages, and a final exam.  Expect 80 pages of reading per class meeting.

Eng. 3250: Victorian Literature (14981)
TF 10:40-12:05 p.m.
Dr. Amy M. King
The Victorian age (1838-1901) in England is defined by the stability of a sixty-three year reign by Queen Victoria, but the period was anything but monotonous.  The period is marked by enormous social change, technological innovation, imperial rule, and urbanization. Like our own society, Britain in the Victorian age was an urban industrial society— indeed the first in history— and subject to its own form of shock from information overload and technological change.  Our own middle-class, economic, mobile, complex and interwoven world, increasingly urbanized and organized, was first described and mapped in this period— hence, perhaps, our moment’s continuing interest in the literature of the period. The course will take in a number of genres, including Victorian poetry, journalism, science, and children’s literature, with a particular focus on the period’s dominant genre: the novel.  We will consider a number of economic and social contexts, such as the modern city, industrialism, the newly powerful factors of advertising, the newspaper, transportation, social mobility, empire, and labor and humane reform.   We will also consider intellectual contexts of the Victorian age, especially the thought of Malthus and Darwin and the particular influence of science and philosophical pessimism. We will put particular pressure on ideas of the middle (including class), domesticity, intimacy, and normality, and how these texts work towards or against these newly powerful concepts.  Our largest intellectual task will be to explore the ways in which these texts mark the complex inauguration of our own modern consciousness:  this will be our theme, tracked through various texts, various genres, and various geographical sites (including London, the suburbs, the country, and the empire).   Bronte, Carroll, Dickens, Darwin, Tennyson, Hopkins, Conan Doyle, Hardy.

Eng. 3300: Colonial American Literature (14990)
MR 12:15-1:40 p.m.
Dr. G. Ganter
This course will emphasize contact with aboriginal Americans, but it will also survey some of the basic texts of the New England literary tradition which influenced later canonical writers. Texts will include John Smith’s accounts of his interactions with the Indians of Virginia (is this a history, an advertisement, or a novel?); early histories of the Plymouth colony and New England (the kindness of Squanto, and the “barbarity” of other Indians); the actual court transcripts of the prosecution of the antinomian, Anne Hutchinson, who boldly challenged the Puritan orthodoxy over the interpretation of the Bible; Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative (her family killed, she is dragged along in the dirt behind a Wampanoag army for several months, eating bear fat and clinging to her Congregationalism); Ben Franklin’s Autobiography (the ur-text of American success); several treaties with the Delaware and Haudenosaunee Indians; and a hell-fire sermon of Jonathan Edwards that has come to represent a highly durable American literary form known as the “jeremiad.”

Eng. 3390: Special Topics-American Literature to 1900 (14986)
MR 10:40-12:05 p.m.
Dr. Jennifer Travis

American Gothic This course will examine how images of witches, vampires, cannibals, and monsters have shaped American literary history and cultural discourse. We will begin with Seth Grahame Smith’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and read a selection of nineteenth century works by such writers as Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Stephen Crane, and more.
Eng. 3450: Modern Drama (14977)
TF 10:40-12:05 p.m.
Dr. Angela Belli
The focus in this course is on the development of the theater beginning with the work of Henrik Ibsen up to the dramas of the mid-twentieth century.  A historical and critical survey of the aesthetic movements of the last century will acquaint students with such theoretical explorations as Realism, Naturalism, Symbolism and Expressionism.  Students will study the work of dramatists who revolutionized the theater of their time and ended by reflecting the world of our time. Among those to repossess the stage, in addition to Ibsen, are August Strindberg, Anton Chekhov, Luigi Pirandello, Eugene O’Neill, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Sean O’Casey and Robert Bolt.
The goal of the course is to help participants develop an appreciation of the theater, to understand the role of drama in delineating the social and philosophical issues in relevant cultural contexts and to participate in the pursuit of knowledge while discovering the value of art in broadening our understanding of the human condition. 

Eng.  3475: African American Women’s Rhetorics (15504)
MR. 9:05-10:30 a.m.
Dr. Carmen Kynard
“Unbought and Unbossed”: African American Women’s Rhetorics
Imagine that it is 1968 and you could be the first black woman who has ever been elected to congress.  What would your campaign entail?  What would you promise? How would you convince people to believe in your capacity to make changes in their lives?  In 1968, the Brooklyn-native and daughter of Barbadian parents, Shirley Chisholm, did indeed become the first black woman elected to the U.S. Congress.  Her campaign was organized around her now famous slogan: “Fighting Shirley Chisholm— Unbought and Unbossed.”  That slogan will be used as kind of map for our course that will guide our study of how Black women have used rhetorical means in their unique struggle to encounter, re-imagine, and transform their worlds.  In other words, what has it looked like, sounded like, and felt like to be “Unbought and Unbossed” for black female poets, essayists, orators, comedians, activists, MCs, b-girls, DJs, musicians, designers, and artists?   
The course examines the multiple rhetorics— written, oral, and visual— of women in the United States who define themselves as women of African descent and who self-consciously direct their experiences, claims, and persuasive styles from and/or toward black communities.   The course will specifically draw from scholarship on African American rhetoric* that focuses on the ways that African American orators, essayists, and researchers discern across many political and social situations the available means of persuasion for the time and place in which they live.  We will begin by looking at the work of the two most prominent scholars (who are themselves black female rhetors) in African American rhetoric: Jacqueline Jones Royster and Shirley Wilson Logan. We will then look at the rhetorics of black women in many different arenas: anti-slavery speeches of women like Sojourner Truth and Jarena Lee; the anti-lynching campaign of Ida B. Wells; the public works of black female congresswomen like Barbara Jordan; education activism of teachers like Anna Julia Cooper and Gloria Ladson-Billings; “Blueswomen”—from Bessie Smith to Erykah Badu;  folklorists like Zora Neale Hurston and Rebecca Cox Jackson; Civil Right activists  like Fannie Lou Hamer and Ella Baker; Black Power/Black Nationalist activists like Angela Davis and Queen Mother Moore; contemporary Black female ministers, gospel music ministers, and “empowerment specialists”—spanning Mary Mary and Reverend Prathia Hall to Iyanla Vanzant; spoken word artists from Sonia Sanchez to Sunni Patterson; comedians from Moms Mabley to Wanda Sykes; and last but not least, the power of Hip Hop as persuasion from foundational MCs like Money Love on up to contemporary women like Jean Grae.  Knowledge of rhetoric or the rhetors listed is NOT required, only a willingness to look deeply at language and share with colleagues. The class itself will be designed like a multimedia, inquiry-based seminar where we will continually write to trace, understand, and reflect on the multiple sites of activism and battles for equality waged by black female rhetors in the United States. (pre-requisite: ENGL 1000c)     *We define rhetoric as the art of persuasion as used in everyday life and in collective freedom struggles.

Eng. 3600 (15100) / CLS 3600 (15099), Classical Epic in Translation
TF 9:05-10:30 a.m.
Dr. Robert Forman
The course consists of close readings of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Vergil’s Aeneid as well as the Argonautica of Apollonius Rhodius.  To these readings we will apply several critical perspectives: the social order-disorder pattern of the Iliad; how this pattern emerges transformed in the civilized-uncivilized encounters of Odysseus; the “odyssean” and “iliadic” patterns of the Aeneid, the more recent “Homeric Lens” approach; and the Dido-Medea matrix in the Argonautica.  The course assumes only an interest in the recurring patterns of ancient epic.

Eng. 3620 (15359) / CLS 1210 (15360), Classical Mythology
TF 7:30-8:55 a.m.
Dr. Robert Forman
The course consists entirely of primary sources for the myths of Greece and Rome: Hesiod’s Theogony on the birth of the gods and the cosmos; the Homeric Hymns, a collection of post-Homeric works on the gods of the Greeks; Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Hellenistic transformation myths; and several late plays of Euripides, most notably the Bacchae. We will include frequent references to the ways modern writers have used Greek mythic formulas as well as to ancient and modern art and music.  The course assumes no previous knowledge of ancient myth.

Eng. 3640: Vernacular Literature (14979)
MR 10:40-12:05 p.m.
Dr. Dohra Ahmad
In this class we will read novels, short stories, and poems written in various forms of non-standard English: slang, creole, patois, pidgin, and others.  In the United States, we are familiar with the vernacular tradition from the works of Mark Twain, Zora Neale Hurston, William Faulkner, and others; we will begin the semester by re-examining some of those old standards, and will then move on to literature and theory from the West Indies, Nigeria, Kenya, New Zealand, Australia, Scotland, and Ireland.  While maintaining close attention to aesthetic matters, we will also consider these works in their particular historical contexts, examining the import of vernacular writing in an era of globalization.  Can we understand vernaculars as stubbornly local phenomena, expressions of transnational hybridity, or both? Student work includes short essays, presentation, and final research/writing project.

Eng. 3670: Ethnic Autobiography (14980)
MR 3:25-4:50 p.m.
Dr. Elda Tsou
An introduction to twentieth-century American ethnic autobiography in the context of genre, race and gender. Moving through the major “ethnic” literary traditions, we will be examining the formal conventions of autobiography in relation to concepts of “ethnicity,” writing, authenticity and authority.

Eng. 3720: Intro to Creative Writing (14002)
W. 1:50-4:40 p.m.
Prof. Thomas Philipose
This introductory creative writing workshop will focus on your writing and your thoughts (that means you will be writing a lot).  We will explore the creative aspects of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and playwriting.  We will use texts from various genres/media as guides for discovery of what your writing voice/style can be.  You will be expected to attend public readings and performances (off campus and on your own time).  We will not rely on the thoughts/styles/critiques of others (outside of this workshop) to help us become careful readers and diligent writers.  An experimental and non-traditional approach will be encouraged to help elicit fresh, unique work that reflects the individual writers in our workshop.  The majority of our classwork will entail reading and discussing your writing (you will read and write in—and outside of—every class every week). 

Eng. 3720:  Introduction to Creative Writing (13992)
MR 12:15-1:40 p.m.

Prof. Lee Ann BrownThis course explores forms and genres of creative writing:  poetry, the short talk, flash fictio, memoir and playwrighting.  In-class writing, individually and in group projects are submitted via portfolio.  Students will be expected to write daily, and to try their hand at more than one genre.  Cross-genre work will also be encouraged.  Attendance of at least one extracurricular reading is required per semester.  In-depth reading of others texts form a central part of the course.  Readings include: Joe Brainard, Anne Carson, Gertrude Stein, Adrienne Kennedy, Rita Dove, Paul Hoover, Lisa Jarnot, Yasunari Kawabata. Bernadette Mayer, Harryette Mullen, Frank O’Hara, Arthur Rimbaud, William Shakespeare, Sei Shonagon, Walt Whtiman, Anne Waldman and others.  This course also serves as an introduction to the minor.
Eng. 3730:  Poetry Workshop (14991) MR 3:25-4:50 p.m.
Prof. Lee Ann BrownThis course is designed to enable students to write and revise poems with particular attention to form and intertextuality. Workshops alternate between in-class writing exercises and experiments, and workshops where we will share our new work.  Revised work is gathered in poetry portfolios at mid and end of semester, and students are expected to complete at least one poem per week. Attendance of at least one extracurricular reading is required per semester.  In-depth reading of texts form a central part of the course.  Modern and contemporary American and world poetry will be engaged with as models for our own writing. 
Eng. 3770: Advanced Fiction Writing Workshop (14978)
MR 10:40-12:05 p.m.
Dr. Alice McDermott
This is a special section of the Advanced Fiction Workshop, to be taught by the award-winning fiction writer Alice McDermott, who will hold the prestigious D’Angelo Chair this spring.  Ms. McDermott will not be on campus for the first half of the term, so students in this workshop will be given reading and writing assignments for that part of the semester designed to prepare them for the intensive workshop experience of the second half.  Permission of the Chair is required for students to be able to register for this course.

Eng. 3820:  The History of Sound Film to 1975 (15196)
MR 12:15-1:40 p.m.
Dr. Scott Combs
This course is the second of a two-part introduction to film history sequence (the sequel to English 3810).  It covers the major national schools and styles of filmmaking from the period of sound’s innovation to the New Hollywood of the mid-1970s.  Topics include the rise of sound in Europe and the United States; Hollywood-style narration; Italian neo-realism; postwar Japanese cinema; the French New Wave; authorship and independent film production in the United States; and new European cinemas.  We will look at the history of film form as both a contribution to aesthetics and a reflection of the historical and political climate of the postwar era.  Because this course considers the impact of sound technology on film, our examples tend to foreground the significance of aural and musical qualities.  A 2-hour weekly screening on Wednesdays, 12-2 is required.

Eng. 4991:    Seminar in Brit Literature (14985)         
TF  1:50-3:15 p.m.
Dr. Amy M. King
Everyday Life and the Novel
The novel has been described by Hegel as “the prose of the world,” for the novel is the literary form perhaps most adept at representing the experience of everyday life, with its connection to commonplace and unexceptional experience.  One common feature of the nineteenth-century novels that we will read is their interest in capturing that which we generally do not have access to except through the form of fiction: the hidden features of others’ daily life.  We will consider the depiction of everyday and repetitive experiences of life: work (especially career-building), marriage, manners, and usual or recurrent conditions such as shopping, eating, and conversing.  The difficulty of building a narrative around repetitive experience, and the novel’s techniques for representing experience defined by ordinary, even banal, interactions, as well as potential connections between “everydayness” and nineteenth-century expansion of the reading public, will be recurrent concerns.   In this course we’ll read a selection of nineteenth-century English and French novels from the following possibilities: Jane Austen’s Emma, Anthony Trollope’s Barchester Towers, George Eliot’s Middlemarch, Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge,  Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Emile Zola’s The Ladies’ Paradise.  We’ll conclude the class with Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and the modernist novel’s narrowed temporal focus, in which the everyday becomes one day.

Eng. 4994: Seminar in Themes and Genres (14992)
Magic and Monsters
TF 10:40-12:05 p.m.
Prof. Gabriel Brownstein
“Of bodies changed into different forms I sing,” writes Ovid at the outset of The Metamorphoses. We’ll start this class with Ovid, and then we’ll read Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, and Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  In the second half of the course we’ll read contemporary fiction, including Salmon Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, and Anne Carson’s The Autobiography of Red.  We’ll talk about changes in physical bodies, and the ways these transformations shape and motivate storytelling.
About Steve Mentz 1265 Articles
I teach Shakespeare and the blue humanities at St. John's in New York City.

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