Spring 2013 Undergraduate Course Offerings




ENG. 2300: Intro to Literary Criticism & Theory (15673)

MR 10:40-12:05 p.m.

Dr. Elda Tsou

This course is an introduction to the range of texts called theory. It covers the major poststructuralist theorists and their philosophical antecedents. Beginning with Plato, Saussure, Marx and Freud, the course will then move into more recent theories, like deconstruction, postcolonial theory, and theories of race, gender, and sexuality. Other thinkers we will cover: Foucault, Spivak, Butler, Said.


ENG. 2300: Intro to Literary Criticism & Theory (15679)

TF 1:50-3:15 p.m.

Dr. Granville Ganter

This course is an introduction to a variety of ways the twentieth century has sought to understand the relation of the “text” (art, or literature) to the “world out there.” Does good art describe the actual world, or is it a complete fantasy? We honestly do not always know. Magritte’s famous modernist claim, “this is not a pipe,” under a picture of a pipe may mean simply that the world of representation is not identical to the world itself. But if a picture is just a picture, what can we say about it? Where does literary value come from? The sincerity of the artist? The mind of the beholder? The work of art itself? This course will explore several answers to these questions. Principal emphases of the course will include early formalisms (art comes from form, not just content); psychoanalysis and dream theory (art results from the collision of the expressive urges of the id and the repressive mechanisms of the ego & superego); Marxist and post-Marxist sociological approaches (art is mediated by lived, material experience).


ENG. 3110: Chaucer (16014)

TF 10:40-12:05               

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 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? Please note that the class will read the original Middle English text. We will pay sustained attention to Chaucer’s English throughout the semester to ease the reading process.


ENG. 3140 Shakespeare: The Jacobean Plays (15657)

Performing the Nation

MR    9:05-10:30 a.m.

Dr. Steven Mentz

This class considers how Shakespeare’s plays construct nationhood and national unity. We’ll begin with a late play about empire and erotic love, Antony and Cleopatra, which will provide a template for how Shakespeare imagines nations and individuals. The core of the semester will be spent reading Shakespeare’s first historical tetralogy, Henry VI Parts 1-3 and Richard III. The class will also engage with professional productions of all four of these plays, performed on the Manhattan and Queens campuses in March and April by the Adirondack Shakespeare Company (adkshakes.org). Students will also read Machiavelli’s The Prince, in an effort to make sense of Shakespeare’s conceptions of political power.


ENG. 3240: Romantic Literature (16078)

TF 10:40-12:05 p.m.

Dr. Gregory Maertz

An introduction to the literature and culture of the Romantic Period (circa 1775-1830). Major examples of poetry, prose fiction, and literary criticism will be considered alongside philosophy, politics, and art. Featured authors will include Jean-Jacques Rousseau, William Blake, Mary Robinson, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, Dorothy Wordsworth, Lord Byron, John William Polidori, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley, and John Keats. Artists to include Henry Fuseli, Jacques-Louis David, Caspar David Friedrich, John Constable, and J.M.W. Turner.


ENG. 3290: Special Topics/18-19th Cent. English Literature (15675)

Special Topics: Femininity and Feminism in Eighteenth-Century Culture

MR 12:15-1:40 p.m.

Dr. Kathleen Lubey

At the close of the eighteenth century, Mary Wollstonecraft published A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, a founding text of modern feminism that envisioned a radically new status for women as intellectually and civically equal to men. But when we look for precursors to Wollstonecraft’s liberating vision for women in the century preceding her, it can be difficult to find anything like her militant standpoint. In this course, we’ll read widely in texts that debate the status of women to ask if we can “hear” elements and pieces of Wollstonecraft’s radical feminism in earlier, less confrontational texts, or whether the term feminism even applies to an era in which equality between the sexes is not recognized. Texts will range from the patriarchal to the scandalous to the pedagogical; from treatises to poems to novels. We will read widely across genres and authors, including works by Mary Astell, Eliza Haywood, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Alexander Pope, Samuel Richardson, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Anna Laetitia Barbauld. Requirements will include regular attendance, active participation, and papers totaling 15-20 written pages.



ENG. 3320: Nineteenth-Century American Fiction (16009)

MR 10:40-12:05 p.m.

Dr. Jennifer Travis

American Gothic


This course will examine how images of witches, vampires, cannibals, and monsters in nineteenth-century American literature has influenced recent popular culture, from Seth Grahame Smith’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to Justin Cronin’s The Passage.  We will read a selection of nineteenth century works by such writers as Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Stephen Crane, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, placing them in conversation with contemporary writers, films, and more.


ENG. 3330 African-American Literature (15669)

TF 10:40-12:05 p.m.

Dr. Granville Ganter

This course will examine early African-American literature, paying particular attention the international aspects of black writing, a discursive and geographical domain sometimes called, “the Black Atlantic.” Stretching from African epic to Chesnutt’s Conjure Woman stories, we will examine the interaction of poetry, the slave narrative, folk stories and the epic, and the novel.  For example, does African epic help us understand the national or racial consciousness that early African American artists had? We will also consider the consequences of joint authorship, when a text is an explicit collaboration between two or more people, or when elements of a text have been borrowed from other sources. What do we do with the evidence, argued recently by Vincent Carretta, that the author of a famous eighteenth-century slave narrative, Olaudah Equiano, may have actually been born in South Carolina and made up or plagiarized his African memories? Or Lydia Maria Child’s novelistic editing of Linda Brent’s Narrative? In what way is the slave narrative, often taken to be the ur-moment of African-American writing, engaged with other anglo-literary traditions? And finally, in what way is a folktale a “literary” text?


ENG 3440: Contemporary Poetry (15667)

 MR 12:15-1:40 p.m.
Dr. John Lowney

This course is an introduction to important movements, trends, and issues in postmodern American poetry.  Beginning with the Confessional, New York School, Beat, Black Arts, and feminist poetries that emerged in the 1950s and 60s and concluding with more recent writing, this course will emphasize the interaction of postmodern poetry with developments in the visual arts, music, and popular culture.  Topics to be considered include the relations of poetry to gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, politics and social protest, and history and autobiography. Among the poets we will read are Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery, Allen Ginsberg, Bob Kaufman, Gwendolyn Brooks, Adrienne Rich, Lyn Hejinian, and Harryette Mullen.  We will also read poetry by two writers who are professors at St. John’s, Lawrence Joseph and Lee Ann Brown.






ENG. 3475 : African American Women’s Rhetorics (16062)

MR. 10:40a.m. -12:05 p.m.

Dr. Carmen Kynard

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 seminar 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 Maxine Waters and 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 to Reverend Prathia Hall; 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 with rappers like Lil Kim holdin’ the mic.  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 work to trace, understand, and reflect on the multiple sites of activism and battles for equality waged by black female rhetors in the United States.

*We define rhetoric as the art of persuasion as used in everyday life and in collective freedom struggles.








ENG. 3520 Modern World Literature (15677)                      

 MR 3:25-4:50 p.m.

Dr. Amy King

This course will look at literature around the significant historical events and movements that mark the start of a truly global modernity, including the Enlightenment, the enormous upheavals brought by the industrial and political revolutions of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the clash of empires in East and West, and the emergence of realism (a newly urban, unheroic, global literary style).   Rather than looking exclusively at the national literatures of Britain and America, this course will read a selection of writers in translation from the broad expanse of world literature.


We will focus our course through the following rubric:  freedom.  In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the question of freedom became an intense preoccupation worldwide. From debates about African slavery and the national independence from peoples under colonial rule in Asia, Africa, and the Americas, to freedom of thought and personal liberty, the question of what freedom entailed and who had a right to it shaped literary, philosophical, and political writers alike. Thus we might read Olaudah Equiano’s 1789 autobiography (the first slave narrative) alongside Nguyen Du’s Vietnamese narrative from 1815, The Tale of Kieu (which tells of a woman sold into slavery in China); this cluster might consider slave songs, philosophical debates about race and slavery, as well as plays and novellas that dealt with Russian serfdom.   Freedom is a thematic beyond texts that deal with literal slavery—in our unit “revolutionary contexts” we explore the period’s interest in broad political and social freedoms, and who was entitled to them (citizens, women, factory workers etc, across a variety of national contexts).  We will also take up the rubric of freedom through a study of the Romantic poets and their successors, as well as through various texts of nineteenth-century realisms.  How do various literary texts suggest what one should be free to do? What limits should there be on freedom? How does literature represent the question of human freedom, and how might certain literary forms break free of convention?

ENG. 3580: Postcolonial Literature (15676)

MR 10:40-12:05 p.m.

Prof. Anita Baksh

This course will be an introduction to postcolonial literature and its critical debates. Paying particular attention to writings connected with the historical experiences of colonialism, anti-colonial resistance and decolonization, the course will examine key concepts in postcolonial literature and theory, including identity, language, race, gender, nationhood, neocolonialism and globalization. We will read 20th and 21st century Anglophone literature from Africa, South Asia and the Caribbean. Authors may include Edward Said, Chinua Achebe, Ama Ata Aidoo, Jamaica Kincaid, Bharati Mukherjee, V.S. Naipaul and Shani Mootoo.










ENG. 3610 (16012) / CLS 3610 (15711): Classical Drama in Translation

MR 9:05-10:30 a.m.

Dr. Robert Forman

The course focuses on those plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides that most closely reflect the social and political events of fifth-century Athens—and, oddly enough, the social and political events of contemporary America.  These include the consequences of protracted war and weak leadership, religious extremism, and class conflict. Readingswill include the Trojan War plays of all three playwrights, the Theban Civil War plays of Sophocles and Euripides, and the Medea, Heracles, and Dionysus plays of Euripides.


ENG. 3620  (16112)/ CLS 1210 (16111): Classical Mythology

TF 7:30-8:55 a.m.

Dr. Robert Forman

Recognizing that the classical myths have greatest significance for a present-day audience if considered in contemporary terms, the course will emphasize the psychological underpinnings of the Greek creation account with a reading of Hesiod’s Theogony as well as the Roman counterpart that appears as the first book of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.  The personalities of the twelve Olympian deities as described by Apollodorus and Ovid follow, after which the course turns to Perseus, Theseus, and Heracles as described by Ovid and Euripides.  It concludes with Vergil’s Aeneid 1 and 2, on the fall of Troy, and a selection from Homer’s Odyssey, the homecoming.


ENG. 3720: Intro to Creative Writing (15666)

TF 10:40-12:05 p.m.

Prof. Lee Ann Brown

This is a multi-genre writing workshop and writing lab in which we will practice poetry, flash fiction, playwrighting, performance writing, memoir, non-fiction.  The course employs models of contemporary work in all genres.  Students will finish the semester with a final project in one of their chosen genres, or with one which incorporates multiple genres.  Readings from primary source texts and well as theory or writing will be included.  This course is intended as an introductory course in creative writing and also as an introduction to the Creative Writing Minor.  A Service Learning option is available.


ENG. 3720: Intro to Creative Writing (13586)

W. 1:50-4:40 p.m.


A course designed to help develop creative writing skills, with emphasis on traditional and contemporary forms of poetry, fiction, drama.


ENG. 3740:  Creative Writing: Fiction (15658)

MR 12:15-1:40 p.m.

Prof. Gabriel Brownstein

This is a workshop for any student interested in writing stories.  Students will explore their language and their imagination in storytelling exercises and in original short works.  In class students will read and critique each other’s work, and at the end of the semester they will put together a portfolio of their best revised writing.  As we work on our own fiction, we’ll read the work of a wide variety of writers—Anton Chekhov and Franz Kafka, James Baldwin and Jamaica Kincaid, Clarice Lispector and Delmore Schwartz.


ENG. 3760: Writing as Social Action (15659)

T. 3:25-4:50 p.m.; F. online

Dr. Harry Denny

From Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party Express to Kony 2012 and the “It Gets Better” campaigns, activism in the new millennium channels and riffs on social movements from the past. It also takes up new technologies and social media in ways that transform people’s ability to advance and agitate for change, yet the track record for contemporary activism to engage a wide swath of the college-age population in the US has been mixed. What might spur youth to mobilize as they did in North Africa and the Middle East during the Arab Spring? Could it have happened without apps like Facebook and Twitter, and how do 140 characters affect the rhetoric of activists trying to fire up people? Why do the people with the most to gain from participation in social action end up being the least involved, most likely shut out? What lessons can we take from earlier activists and movements and apply to our own advocacy today? This course explores texts from historical movements for social justice and change, and students study their form, function, style, and ideological implications to make connections toward their own research on and pursuit of activist outlets. At the core of this investigation, students trace how identity politics shape activism, the texts they produce, and the notions of citizenship that the writing and speaking make possible. The course follows a hybrid face-to-face and online model where classroom discussions focus on discussions of theory, methods and primary activist texts, and online meetings involve workshops of weekly writing. From this collaboration on writing, students develop a portfolio of activist analysis, research, and application texts (documents that perform the very sorts of mobilization and persuasion that will have been studied).  All the while, students journal to continue to develop a self-awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses that peers can help them address and resolve.


ENG. 3780: Advanced Poetry Writing Workshop (15661)

TF 1:50-3:15 p.m.

Prof. Lee Ann Brown

This new course is intended for undergraduates who would like to develop and deepen their poetic practice.  In depth reading, listening to and writing poetry are inextricably linked in this course.  Individual attention to shaping extended works of poetry will be emphasized in context of a continuing exploration of contemporary world poetry and poetics.  Students will be required to write and revise a chapbook-length manuscript or long poem.  Opportunities will be had to organize and attend poetry readings and performances on and off campus, to learn about the current state of print and web publishing, and to create our own publications and performances.  The goal is to allow students to enter the literary arena both on campus and in the larger culture.  Service Learning is an essential part of the course as well as a commitment to form a community for hearing new works.





ENG. 3890:  Topics in Film Genre (16011)

Film Noir and Paranoia

MR. 12:15-1:40 p.m.

Dr. Scott Combs

This is a course on American “film noir” and some of its derivatives in cinema and popular culture.  We will start by looking at a couple of early noir classics (The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity) to define the basic elements of the genre—stylistic tendencies, narrative form, character types, literary influences.  Before spring break, we will look at two less popular films of the 1940s in which protagonists ask us to follow cognitive leaps in their explanations of some past crime (Detour, They Won’t Believe Me!).  These “leaps” take the form of elaborate scenarios that are all but impossible to believe.   Our main focus from this point on will be to study noir’s tendency to interpret the world from surface clues, a tendency of concocting plots that are labyrinthine and conspiratorial in nature.  In looking for or anticipating a hidden pattern behind apparent objects and events, noir protagonists engage the spectator in a heightened act of paranoid thinking.  We will look at the political dimension of this paranoid thinking (50s cold war noir, conspiracy films) as well as the seemingly apolitical (thrillers, sci-fi, documentary).  To understand paranoia as a common and even useful operation, we will consider three different theoretical models of paranoia as a cognitive activity—psychoanalytic (Freud), stylistic (Shapiro), and political (Hofstadter).  The course ends by considering the American-ness of paranoia in general.


ENG. 4991: Seminar in British Literature (16063)

Senior Seminar “Memory and Representation”

MR 10:40-12:05 p.m.

Dr. Amy King

At the conclusion of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1813), Elizabeth Bennet voices a surprising lesson about memory: “You must learn some of my philosophy. Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure.” This is a course on memory, and the way in which literature has taken up the subject of the dynamics of human memory, ranging in time from St. Augustine to contemporary fiction.  Memory will be explored across a variety of genres, including: novel, short-story, slave narrative, memoir, drama, film, and poetry (especially elegy but also lyric). We will also treat various memorials— including those devoted to remembrance of war, genocide, terrorism, and epidemic— as cultural texts to be read. Films may include Rashomon,   Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Memento.  Our primary task will be to explore ways in which literature has grappled with the complexity of memory in both its personal and collective dimensions.  In addition, we will read contemporary accounts of memory from the field of psychology and neuroscience.  We will consider the following issues, among others, in relation to the literature:  memory and the self, mourning/elegy, trauma and memory, collective remembrance and representation, individual identity and its relation to memory, memorials, amnesia and hypermnesia, memory and unreliability.


This is a senior seminar, and as such it will be run entirely in the mode of class discussion. The syllabus will include selections from the psychological literature on memory, and will draw on some but not all of the following authors:  Augustine, Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Equiano, Browning, Dickens, Freud, Proust, Chopin, Joyce, Auden, Heaney, Ishiguro, Kahn, Morrison, and Borges.


ENG. 4994: Seminar in Themes/Genres (15674)

Reading Asian American Literature

MR 3:25-4:50 p.m.

Dr. Elda Tsou

This senior seminar will consider what it means to read Asian American literature. This set of texts has been relentlessly politicized, in the sense that they are persistently read as symptomatic of, and referring inevitably to, the historical and political concerns of the identity formation Asian America. On the other hand, the study of literary form has tended toward deracination. Even the new formalism, the revitalized interest in connecting literary form to socio-political formations, has omitted the study of race and racial formations. In this course, we will consider canonical Asian American texts by Kingston, Okada, Yamanaka, and others, to try to understand how they offer us an intervention in the study of form.






About Steve Mentz 1265 Articles
I teach Shakespeare and the blue humanities at St. John's in New York City.

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