Spring 2021 Graduate Courses

Complete course descriptions for all our spring 2020 PhD seminars can be found below.

ENG 620 Shakespeare and Science: Matter, Climate, Contagion

Jessica Rosenberg Section 41, Mon., 9:30-12:00

During Shakespeare’s lifetime, the word “scientist” did not exist. Nonetheless, the plays and poems of Shakespeare and his contemporaries grapple in complex ways with what it means to understand, inhabit, and utilize the natural world. This course explores the productive relation of literary art and early modern “science” through the examination of several of Shakespeare’s works, the prose and drama of his contemporaries, and an immersion in their critical and historical context. Our challenge will be to bring together two archives derived, on the one hand, from our close readings of early modern texts that treat the natural and physical world, and, on the other, through theoretical and methodological questions raised by recent work in science studies and the history of science.

In the first part of the seminar, we will consider the political and aesthetic conditions shaping discussions of the physical world in early modern England – in particular, asking who had access to this kind of knowledge, and what were the forms and genres in which it was disseminated. To explore these questions, we will read a broad interdisciplinary range of materials that focus on three central, but interrelated, issues: understandings of matter, experience of climate, and the imagination of contagion. What did the plague, for example, have to do with the air, and why were certain kinds of material and human bodies seen as especially susceptible to it? Further, while interest in science and the environment has spurred much recent literary research, we will ask what it means to bring contemporary concerns (often of urgent modern-day import) to bear on a very different historical and cultural context. Might the anachronism of “science” give us any conceptual leverage on the literature of early modern England? Might early moderns’ distant and disruptive conceptions of matter, climate, and contagion offer us any insight into the composition of our current troubled environment?

ENG 652 Studies in Irish Literature: Representations of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1853

Catherine Nealy Judd Section 44, Wed., 12:30-3:00

Distribution Requirement: 1700-1900

Centered around the topic of Ireland’s Great Famine (1845-1853), this course brings works of a variety of genres together, as well as multiple theoretical perspectives.  In addition, there will be an emphasis on the subgenre of English-language travel narratives generated by visitors to Ireland during the Famine years.

Authors read during my course will include British, American, and Irish writers writing in a variety of genres (novels, poetry, essays, travel narratives, diaries, journals, letters, newspaper articles).

Requirements: short presentations; annotated bibliography; 18-20 pp. term paper

I am asking all students to make a 20 to 30 minute oral presentation; the presentation could be the germ for your final research paper.

Texts (tentative list):

The Writers of the Nation Newspaper. The Spirit of the Nation. (1844).

William Carleton. The Black Prophet: A Tale of Irish Famine. (1846).  

Anthony Trollope. The MacDermots of Ballycloran. (1847).

Theresa Cornwallis West. A Summer Visit to Ireland in 1846. (1847).

Anthony Trollope. The Kellys and O’Kellys. (1848).

Alexis Benoit Soyer. Soyer’s Charitable Cookery. (1848).

Asenath Nicholson. Annals of the Famine 1845, 1846, 1847. (1851).

William Robert Wilde. Irish Popular Superstitions. (1852).

John Mitchel. Jail Journal. (1854).

Aubrey de Vere. The Sisters and other Poems. (1861)

James Clarence Mangan. Selected Poems. (1897).


Blackboard: Supplementary texts and critical essays.

ENG 667 What is This "Black" in Black Popular Culture? : Representation, Performance & Visual Culture

Patricia Saunders Section 1U, Tues., 6:35-9:05

This graduate seminar will focus on reading/analyzing contemporary popular culture in order to consider how the critical terms that inform our analyses of literary, performance, and visual cultures in the Caribbean diaspora are shifting.  Our considerations will take into account the extent to which South/South cultural dialogues (between U.S. Southern states and Caribbean countries) are still grappling with their “posts” (postcolonial, post-Jim Crow, post-Black Power) in this contemporary moment.  We will map these shifts with an eye (and ear) towards examining what they can tell us about how Caribbean and African American culture circulates in cultural industries, on the whole, and within Afro-diasporic cultural industries.  Some of the questions we will consider include: to what extent does Black diaspora art and culture reflect not only artistic visions but also changes in critical discourses on race, gender sexuality?  Similarly, how do performance and visual cultures reflect in perceptions about materiality and material culture in the Black diaspora? What are some of the implications that attend artistic productions that emerge out of specific political and social movements and later become highly sought after aesthetic objects (and experiences)? Students will also have the opportunity to reflect on these questions in conversations with local and international curators, museum administrators, arts organization founders, and philanthropic foundations dedicated to art as a vital tool for social change. Our readings will include texts from a number of different disciplines including art history, cultural studies, media studies, literary studies and may also include catalogs from exhibits in the United States, Britain, and the Caribbean region.  

ENG 687 Studies in Literature and Culture Since 1950: What Is to Be Done? <Gestures at Everything>

Tim Watson Section 5U, Thurs., 6:35-9:05

If you—like me—have been doomscrolling on social media in this time of permanent emergency, you may have seen the phrase that has become shorthand for the gravity and enormity of, well, <gestures at everything>. In this humanities doctoral seminar, we will ask what a humanities doctoral seminar can do in a time of interlocking, mutually amplifying crises. What kinds of gestures are meaningful and which ones merely empty? In the time of pandemic, global warming, fire tornadoes, systemic racism, transphobia, political corruption, sea-level rise, AI, Venusian microbes, the neoliberal university, capitalist exploitation, and, well, everything, what and how should we read? What can reading do?

I have some ideas, but I don’t have any answers. I encourage you to send me suggestions of texts, cultural objects, activities, assignments, questions, and more ideas to supplement and revise this very provisional list. I envisage this seminar as a form of collaborative reading, thinking, and doing.

Possible readings may include:

Mario Ariza, Disposable City: Miami’s Future on the Shores of Climate Catastrophe

Dionne Brand, “On Narrative, Reckoning, and the Calculus of Living and Dying”

Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower

Daša Drndić, Belladonna

Early Caribbean Digital Archive, Embedded Slave Narratives Collection

Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3, “Some Replies to ‘Philosophers on GPT-3’”

Anjuli Raza Kolb, Epidemic Empire: Colonialism, Contagion, and Terror, 1817-2020

Damon Lindelof/HBO, Watchmen

Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Global Diversity Outlook 5

Christina Sharpe, In the Wake

Jesmyn Ward, “On Witness and Respair”

ENG 692 Graduate Practicum II: Teaching College Literature

Pamela Hammons Section 47, Mon., 3:15-5:45

The main goal of ENG 692 is to prepare you to teach 200-level literature courses. The practicum is an informal, no-credit course in which we will refine our skills as teachers by drawing on the experiences, observations, and expertise of everyone in the class and relevant readings. We will address practical questions such as these: What can you expect on the first day of a literature class? How should you design a sophomore-level literature syllabus? What are some of the options for how to organize the class readings (e.g., chronologically, geographically, thematically, theoretically, etc.), and what is the pedagogical logic behind those options? What kinds of classroom guidelines and policies should be included on a syllabus? What are some strategies for incorporating canonical and non-canonical texts into a syllabus? How will you fashion your classroom persona? What are some techniques for handling difficult moments or conversations in the undergraduate classroom? What kinds of assignments (e.g., various in-class or group exercises, quizzes, different kinds of exams, assignment sequences, oral presentations, different kinds of essays, etc.) best promote student learning? How do you grade a paper, and what kind of feedback is most helpful? What approaches can the instructor take to discourage plagiarism? There will be opportunities to role-play, to visit other people’s 200-level literature classes, to practice grading papers, to review diverse syllabi, and to discuss different kinds of teaching texts (e.g., anthologies). Each student will be required to create a sample syllabus at the 200-level and will be encouraged to develop as many additional course materials as possible (e.g., paper topics, exam questions, a teaching statement for the job market, etc.).