ENGL 120: Critical Interpretation
The purpose of the course is to encourage the accurate and pleasurable close reading of poems in English, in several genres; and to demonstrate the excitement and intellectual value of discovering significant relationships among these works, through the interpretation of detail and the perception of design. The reading will vary from one section to another, but in all sections five papers will be required.
ENGL 150: First-Year Seminar in English
2011-2012 Topic: Race in the Great American Novel
How to read a novel, and how novels read and have written the narrative of American racial history. This will be primarily a course in the close reading of four great books (Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man), but also and necessarily a course in the complex relationships between black and white Americans, between individual psyches and the almost overwhelming pressures of culture and society, and between fiction and history.
Reading just four novels in 13 weeks, we will have ample time for relevant textual and contextual work, working our way carefully through the novels themselves, but also reading secondary works about their origins in, and impact on, the American history with which they are interwoven. Frequent short writing assignments.
ENGL 224: Shakespeare II - The Jacobean Period
A selective survey of the second half of Shakespeare’s career. We’ll read six plays: Measure for Measure, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, The Tempest. The focus, first and last, will be on the close, careful, and responsive reading of these plays, working out together a sense of the meaningful and memorable experiences that they offer us. Because we are 21st century students and not 16th century playgoers, we necessarily encounter these plays primarily as readers and with a full and respectful consciousness of their status as acknowledged masterpieces of English literature. At the same time, however, because we recognize that these great plays were written originally as scripts for performance, we will seek to learn about and to re-imagine their life on the stage. Students will be expected to read each play at least twice and to watch each play either in live performance or in a filmed version that will be placed on digital reserve. There will be two or three medium-sized essays, a variety of smaller, ungraded homework assignments, and a final examination.
ENGL 387: Authors
2011-2012 Topic: Jane Austen
A survey of Jane Austen’s career in historical and critical context. No canonical author is more widely or justly beloved than Jane Austen. Reading through her six completed novels, as well as a full selection of juvenilia and unfinished or unpublished texts, we will be attempting to re-experience for ourselves the bracing and decidedly un-cozy pleasures of Austen’s writing. We will read through the works in sequence, attempting first to take the measure of each of the six major novels, next to discern the narrative of moral and artistic self-revision and discovery that is constituted by the career as a whole, and finally to engage the major critical disputes in the last half-century of secondary writing about Austen.