This course focuses on literary representations of animals, or animal narratives, to show how humans understand their own place in the world and responsibilities to the world. The central questions of the course will be: How are animals represented by humans? According to these representations, what is the relationship between humans and animals? We will contextualize these central questions by discussing contemporary debates about the animal/human relationship. By reading animal narratives in conjunction with discussion of contemporary debates about related topics, we will better understand the complicated relationship between humans and animals and the ethical issues involved in this relationship.
This course assumes that the act of reading drama and writing drama inform each other, and each activity can be used to improve a student’s ability to do the other well. With this premise in mind, we will read dramatic works by a variety of playwrights, analyze them using the language of both dramatic writers and critics, and complete writing exercises to improve our ability to use literary conventions creatively and critically. We will discuss conventions such as character, plot, setting, and dialogue, and we will engage a variety of critical perspectives as we read and write drama.
This course assumes that the act of reading short stories and writing them inform each other, and each activity can be used to improve a student’s ability to do the other well. With this premise in mind, we analyze short stories by a variety of writers, using the language of both creative writers and literary critics, and participate in writing exercises to improve our ability to use the literary conventions employed in these stories. We discuss conventions such as plot, character, setting, point of view, and diction, and we engage a variety of critical perspectives, including reader-response criticism, deconstruction, psychological criticism, gender criticism, sociological criticism, and historical criticism.
This course focuses on British literature from Romanticism through the Moderns. We look at the three major literary and cultural movements that occurred during this time–Romanticism (1789-1832), Victorianism (1832-1914), and Modernism (1914-1945)–as well as make a short foray into Postmodernism (1945-present). While this course aims to show the breadth and depth of these three movements, we cannot, in one semester, come close to “surveying” 200+ years of literature. The texts we read should be thought of as representative examples of a rich and complex literary and cultural tradition.
This course focuses on the British Victorians and Moderns, in order to show how literature can be analyzed in its historical context and how literature sometimes influences historical events and cultural attitudes. In looking at the Victorians (1837-1901), we will examine literature within contexts such as industrialization, work, and poverty; realism and the rise of photography; faith and doubt; empire and race; the politics of gender; and late-Victorian aestheticism. In looking at the Moderns (1901-1941), we will examine literature within contexts such as Irish independence; World War I; the Bloomsbury group; the rise of psychology and stream of consciousness; the modern landscape; and World War II. While this course aims to show the depth of literature in these historical periods, the texts we will read should be thought of as representative examples of a rich and complex literary and cultural tradition.
This course considers literary representations of women from the long-19th century in their historical/cultural context. Beginning with Mary Wollstonecraft’s exposé of the strict legal restrictions placed upon women in the late-18th century and ending Gertrude Colmore’s depiction of the struggle for suffrage in the early-20th century, we will focus on the ways in which these representations reflected but also shaped real-life debates about the status of women in the period. In considering the relationship between literature and history, we will investigate themes such as the confinement of women, attempts by women to assert agency and escape confinement, how class, ethnicity, and other social factors influenced women’s ability to assert agency, and the role of men in women’s struggle for equality. This course puts emphasis on the works of non-canonical women writers, whose work has been overlooked until recently.
This course traces the development of Irish national drama across the twentieth century, in order to better understand the establishment, rise, and current status of one of the most important national dramatic traditions. In order to understand the complexity of Irish drama, we will read plays by William Butler Yeats, Lady Augusta Gregory, John Millington Synge, George Bernard Shaw, Sean O’Casey, Samuel Beckett, Brian Friel, Conor McPherson, and Marina Carr. We will examine the literary elements used by these playwrights as they negotiated how to accurately represent the lives of Irish people, and we will examine how the various political and cultural pressures on Ireland shaped the literary representations produced by these playwrights.
This course considers the literary career of Oscar Wilde in its various contexts in order to discern the importance of Wilde’s work in the literary canon. We will begin with the paradox of spring 1895, the season in which one of Wilde’s most popular plays today, The Importance of Being Earnest, closed as a result of three trials—one civil and two criminal—in which Wilde’s also now very popular novel The Picture of Dorian Gray was used as evidence against him. We then will trace Wilde’s work chronologically, covering the highlights of his career from the early 1880s to the late 1890s and focusing on the key concepts regarding the role of the artist found across the various genres in which he wrote: journalism, poetry, critical prose, fiction, and drama. In thinking about Wilde’s importance in the literary canon, we also will consider pop culture representations of him, including his portrayal in film, interesting adaptations of his plays, and commercial products, such as the Oscar Wilde action figure.
This course covers a diverse group of 19th-, 20th-, and 21st-century journalists, including Horace Greeley (editor of the New York Tribune), W. T. Stead (crusader against child prostitution), Rebecca West (covered the Nuremberg Trials), Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (covered the Watergate scandal), Touré (music/culture critic for Rolling Stone), Dave Zirin (sports critic/blogger), and Riverbend (Iraqi girl blogger). The course focuses on the ways in which their work reflected the unique concerns of society at the time they were writing, shaped how journalism was defined in the period, and contributed to a tradition of journalism that remains important today. Students in the course write essays that will contribute to their own bodies of journalistic work.
This course tracks the historical development of the essay from the late 16th century to the present, from Michel de Montaigne to Annie Dillard, with special emphasis on the ways in which the essay functions as a site for exploring issues of self and identity, while acknowledging how concepts of self change from one historical period to another. This is a writing intensive course and includes the study of different forms of the essay, development of rhetorical strategies for use in own essays, and discussion of drafts of these essays with each other. By the end of the course, students can expect to have a body of work of publishable quality.
This course, which covers the English novel from Austen to Hardy, considers the conditions under which well-known authors of the 19th century wrote their novels and how these conditions influenced their content and style. All of the novels selected are considered “classics” of the English 19th century, books that were literary masterpieces in their own time and have continued to draw the attention of literate readers for more than a century, yet they were also written within a literary marketplace that was driven by commercial concerns, making them as much “commodities” as classics. The course considers how our current understanding of these novels is shaped by the classic/commodity tension; to what degree are these novels marketed to us as classics or commodities? By considering this issue, we can better understand our role in the process of deciding which texts are part of the “literary canon.”
This class focuses on Victorian novels that feature outcasts: criminals, the poor, colonial others, fallen women, and other people who did not fit into middle-class Victorian society. Worried about maintaining their own class status, members of the Victorian middle class had grave concerns about these outcasts. Yet, they also felt a strong impulse to help them, through charitable organizations, government-sponsored legislation, and personal involvement in the lives of individual outcasts. In this class, we examine the contradictory attitudes of Victorians toward outcasts and consider how these attitudes were depicted in novels written by authors who, despite their middle-class status, sometimes felt themselves to be outcasts in Victorian society.
This course will examine women’s issues in Ireland from 1800 to the present from the perspective of Irish women novelists, playwrights, and poets through a discussion of how Irish women have typically been represented in literature, art, and music, as well as how real-life women have reacted to those representations. Over the course of the semester, a diverse range of Irish women writers, and the film and stage adaptations of their work, will examine how representations of women in literature are translated to visual media.
Literature of the 1890s offers a wide range of representations previously considered “taboo” in Victorian culture; we will look closely at Victorians’ attitudes toward sex and gender at the fin de siècle, via literary works that feature an array of “dangerous” people: the New Woman, effeminate men, prostitutes, and hysterics. This course examines the range of representations of gender and sexuality in the 1890s and also considers these representations in relation to race, class, nationality, and other social factors. In addition, it looks at how major literary developments of the late-nineteenth century–aestheticism, decadence, French naturalism, and psychological realism–influenced representations of gender and sexuality in the last decade of the century.
Using Oscar Wilde as a focus, this course examines the literary and cultural aesthetics of the 1890s, a decade in which both excitement and anxiety about the upcoming turn of the century fuelled debates over the increasing “decadence” of fin de siècle England. It begins with the most paradoxical moment of Wilde’s career—the spring of 1895—when Wilde’s success with The Importance of Being Earnest was eclipsed by Wilde’s sodomy trial, in which The Picture of Dorian Gray was used as evidence against Wilde, suggesting an intricate link between literary aesthetics and cultural issues. In this course, we will examine how reactions to the trial pointed to the larger issues of fin de siècle culture. In addition, we will read a variety of other works by Wilde that point to the paradoxes in this period and works by the broader network of writers who contributed to fin de siècle aesthetics, including members of Wilde’s immediate circle, writers with so-called “opposing” literary styles, and the women aesthetes.