Previously Offered

Winter 2014 

ENG 624: Modern and Contemporary Drama
M 6:00-8:50

Rachel Anderson

This course will focus on dramatic works from the late nineteenth century to the present. We will begin by examining the innovative realism of plays by August Strindberg, Henrik Ibsen and Anton Chekhov as a prelude to the rise of several other ‘isms’ – the absurdism, surrealism (epic theatre), and existentialism of mid-twentieth century European playwriting in the works of authors like Luigi Pirandello, Eugene Ionesco, Bertolt Brecht, Samuel Beckett, and Jean-Paul Sartre. We will spend the second half of the semester focusing on contemporary theatrical works in Britain and America; these may include texts by authors such as Edward Albee, Sam Shepard, Tom Stoppard, Caryl Churchill, Harold Pinter, Mike Leigh, Sarah Kane, Suzan-Lori Parks, and Tony Kushner. We will be reading these plays in concert with excerpts from theoretical works on performativity and performance theory, such as Richard Schechner’s Performance Theory, Peggy Phelan’s Unmarked: The Politics of Performance, Judith Butler’s Bodies That Matter, and Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed.


ENG 616: Literatures of Settlement--South Africa and Australia
W 6:00-8:50

Brian Deyo

This course is a seminar in Postcolonial Literature and Theory. We will focus primarily on postcolonial texts that attempt to imaginatively rewrite and reconstruct colonial encounters between European settlers and the indigenous peoples of South Africa and Australia during the late eighteenth century and the nineteenth century. We will also focus on texts that, while set in the twentieth century, emphasize the continuities between colonial and postcolonial histories. Given the similarities between the encounters that took place in these regions, coupled with the close affinities between their respective environments and ecologies, the pairing of South Africa and Australia offers an unusually rich basis for comparative analysis. Furthermore, the stark differences between the two regions and Europe posed significant challenges to settlers. We will focus on literature that dramatizes the struggle of settlers to adapt to new, formidable environments and recreate European social, political, economic and cultural institutions.

As we will see, the literature of settlement analyzes the unique difficulties that attend the process of orienting the self with respect to novelty, foreignness, and difference. For the historical phenomenon of settler colonialism was a profoundly ‘unsettling’ experience, both for Europeans and indigenous peoples. The colonial encounter unsettles European identity, along with notions of race, sexuality, gender and class, even the conceptual category of civilization itself. Thus we will analyze the creative process through which twentieth century South African and Australian writers attempt to imagine and come to grips with the histories of their ancestors, not to mention the legacies of settler colonialism as they are thought to impinge upon the contemporary, postcolonial moment.


ENG 651: Romantic Gothic
Th 6:00-8:50

Ashley Shannon

In this course we will explore Gothic poems and prose of the British Romantic Period (roughly construed as 1776-1837). We will ask why the Gothic had such appeal for the writers of the period, and consider how the Gothic deploys its ghosts, vampires and monsters in the service of discussing the essential political questions of the period. Primary texts will include Austen, Northanger Abbey, Byron, "Manfred," Coleridge, "Christabel," Godwin, Caleb Williams, Hogg, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, Polidori, "The Vampyre," Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho, Wollstonecraft, Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman


ENG 661: E. E. Cummings
T 6:00-8:50

Michael Webster

The poetry and prose of E. E. Cummings (1894-1962) is both a part of and apart from modernist and avant-garde trends in Anglo-American literature of the first half of the twentieth century. This course will explore how Cummings came to write his funny, lyrical, tender, satirical, idiosyncratic, genre-bending, and typographically-challenging works, placing them in the context of avant-garde and modernist experiments of the time. Close reading of Cummings’ prose and poetry will be supplemented with examples of analogous or influential avant-garde and modernist texts from authors like Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, and Marianne Moore.


Cummings, E. E. Complete Poems, 1904-1962. Ed George J. Firmage. New York: Liveright, 1994.
---. The Enormous Room: A typescript edition with drawings by the author. 1922. Ed. George James Firmage. New York: Liveright, 1978.
—. The Theatre of E. E. Cummings. Ed. George J. Firmage. Afterword Norman Friedman. New York: Liveright, 2013. [Contains the plays HimAnthroposSanta Claus, and the ballet Tom.]
---. EIMI. 1933. Ed. George James Firmage. New York: Liveright, 2007.
---. i: six nonlectures. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1953.
Friedman, Norman. (Re) Valuing Cummings: further essays on the poet, 1962-1993. Gainesville: University P of Florida, 1996. [Recommended only]
Kennedy, Richard S. Dreams in the Mirror: A Biography of E. E. Cummings. New York: Liveright, 1980.


Fall 2013 

ENG 600: Graduate Literary Studies Seminar

Ben Lockerd

This course is an introduction to the field of literary studies, examining the history of the discipline and the history of literary theories, as well as current trends and issues in the field. Students in the course will also work on research projects of their own, with assistance from the professor and from library staff. We will also study the history of manuscript and book production and visit the rare books collection. Emphasis will be placed on close reading of literary texts, historical and intellectual contextualizing of literary texts, and research in primary sources.

Some potential texts:
--The Critical Tradition, ed. David Richter
--Peter Barry, Beginning Theory
--Gerald Graff, Professing Literature: An Institutional History
--G. B. Harrison, Profession of English
--Norton Anthology of English Literature


ENG 603: Early Modern Drama

Jo Miller

In the wildly popular London theatre scene from the late 1580's through Elizabeth's death and James I's ascension to the throne in 1603, and well into the 17th Century, Shakespeare was only one playwright among many. In this course, we will read several of the best plays of Shakespeare's contemporaries, including those of his most important rivals and successors, Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, John Webster, Thomas Middleton, and Thomas Dekker. Thomas Kyd, Robert Greene, Masters Beaumont and Fletcher and the rest of this company will entertain and enlighten us as we explore the immensely varied and richly textured world of the early modern theatre.


ENG 624: Medieval Epic and Romance

Kathleen Blumreich

This semester we will read and discuss texts ranging from The Heliand to Malory's Morte d'Arthur. Our aim will be two-fold: first, to explore the characteristic features of each genre; and second, to gain a better understanding of why romance came to displace epic as the preferred literary form during the Middle Ages.


ENG 661: Melville, Whitman, and Dickinson

Kelly Ross

Although unappreciated in their time, these three authors are now revered as iconoclasts and innovators. Not only is their work crucial to understanding the mid-nineteenth century, but any study of modern US poetry must begin with them, as Ezra Pound churlishly noted in his “Pact” with Whitman: “I have detested you long enough./… I am old enough now to make friends./ It was you who broke the new wood.”

In this course, we will study Melville, Whitman, and Dickinson’s poetry both in its nineteenth-century context and in its legacy on US literature. Their verse registers and explores the transformative effect of the most significant rupture in US society, the Civil War, and we will investigate the formal strategies these poets developed to represent the unimaginable horrors of war—what Melville calls “battle’s unknown mysteries.”

We will also devote significant class time to sharpening and expanding our knowledge of poetics, engaging with classic and contemporary lyric theory and formalist criticism. If you are anxious about your ability to read and/or teach poetry, this course will give you the skills and practice you need to become confident. By the end of the course, students will be authorities on three of the most important US poets.


Spring/Summer 2013


ENG 651: English Renaissance

Ben Lockerd

This course will offer a broad survey of the English Renaissance engaging a wide variety of texts and authors, including a number of minor writers (such as Daniel, Drayton, Davies, Elyot, Googe, Raleigh, Waller) along with the greats: More, Marlowe, Sidney, Spenser, Jonson, Donne, Marvell, Herbert, Milton. We will read Lewis's Discarded Image for intellectual background and Smith's This Realm of England for historical background.

Stephen Greenblatt, ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 9th ed., vol. B: The Sixteenth Century; The Early Seventeenth Century
C. S. Lewis, The Discarded Image
Lacey Baldwin Smith, This Realm of England: 1399-1688, 8th ed.


ENG 661: Philip Larkin

James Persoon

The great topic for the British poet Philip Larkin was losing, and his typical stance was that of the loser. He turned down the Laureateship late in life (it would have made him a winner), but he is generally acknowledged as the best poet England produced after Auden. He wrote two early novels, one of which we’ll read, and some excellent criticism, but he is known for his slim output of masterful poems.

The Chicago-born poet Edward Hirsch says it well: “His carefully honed style combined a self-deprecating, razor-like wit with an unshakeable sense of worldly disappointment, of desires unfulfilled and dreams thwarted. His famous remark to an interviewer that ‘deprivation is for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth’ is both funny and acute since the misery of diminished and unfulfilled experience is his enduring subject.”

And he is wickedly funny.

Reading List:
Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim (NYRB Classics, 2012) 978-1590175750
Philip Larkin, A Girl in Winter (Overlook TP, 1985) 978-0879512170
-----, Required Writing (U of Michigan Press, 1999) 978-0472085842
-----, The Complete Poems (FSG, 2012) , hardcover, 978-0374126964
Richard Bradford, First Boredom, Then Fear: The Life of Philip Larkin (Peter Owen Ltd, 2009)978-0720613254


ENG 605: Desiring Bodies and Souls in American Literary Life

Avis Hewitt

This course will take up the framing of the embodied lives with which we navigate the world, seeking connection to and nourishment for both the self and others. In 1960, Leslie Fiedler complained in Love and Death in the American Novel that American writers cannot and do not write love stories. The work of this course will be to argue that the American experience is replete with desiring. We will engage a number of texts from the last sixty years that focus on food, flesh, and eros in some combination. We will contextualize eros with Julia Kristeva’s master work, Tales of Love (1987) and supplement our historical, cultural, and theoretical framework with segments from Roy Porter’s Flesh in the Age of Reason: The Modern Foundations of Body and Soul (2003), Dennis Patrick Slattery’s The Wounded Body: Remembering the Markings of Flesh (2000), Ron Hansen’s A Stay Against Confusion (2001), and Lorna Piatti-Farnell’s Food and Culture in Contemporary American Fiction (201).

We will read from among a surveyor’s feast of canonical American writers. We will study in particular some combination of the following works: Eudora Welty’s Delta Wedding (1946), Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in a Castle (1962), Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior (1976), Andre Dubus’s Adultery and Other Choices (1977), John Updike’s Too Far to Go / The Maples Stories (1977, 2009), Ernest Hemingway’s The Garden of Eden (1986), Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1988), Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine (rev. 1993), Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies (1999), and / or Don DeLillo’s The Body Artist (2001), as well as selected stories of Flannery O’Connor .

Active research, as well as presentations that summarize criticism, will be a part of the preparation for each class meeting. A final examination and a seminar project—both the revised draft of your analysis and an oral report of its highlights—will conclude the course. Short papers throughout the six weeks will augment class discussion. Three personal narratives—“My Embodied Life,” “The Best Thing I Have Ever Tasted,” and “Crazy ‘bout Ya, Baby”--will diversify the work of the course and afford venues apart from the usual academic routes for presenting and publishing your prose.


Winter 2013 

ENG 605: Jewish-American Literature


Rob Franciosi

Jews have been part of American history since the mid-seventeenth century. Yet only with the massive emigration from Eastern Europe at the turn of the twentieth century, when between 1880 and 1920 the Jewish population in the United States grew from 250,000 to nearly four million, did Jewish writers emerge as a significant force within our literary history. Beginning with Emma Lazarus’s often-quoted 1883 verses for the Statue of Liberty—“Give me your tired, your poor, the huddled masses yearning to breath free”—we will trace the origins and development of Jewish American literature, in all of its genres, over the last 130 years. Besides reading a host of fascinating writers—from Abraham Cahan and Anzia Yezierska to Philip Roth and Allegra Goodman, from Emma Lazarus to Allen Ginsberg, from Clifford Odets to David Mamet—we will consider some of the larger cultural issues which they engaged: immigration, assimilation, urbanization, devastation, suburbanization, and secularization.


ENG 614: Traditional and Contemporary Slave Narratives

Sherry Johnson

The slave narrative is recognized as one of the founding genres in the African-American literary tradition. It is a genre that was principally meant to speak to the horrors of slavery in the US, and thus aid in the abolition movement. Still, in the 20thand 21st centuries, even in the absence of American chattel slavery, the genre persists. This course will look at foundational slave narratives, as well as the significations made upon the slave narrative in contemporary literature from the US and Canada. It is designed for students to begin investigating the following question: what function(s) does the neo-slave narrative serve at our contemporary moment in history?

Required texts*:
Kindred by Octavia Butler.
The Polished Hoe by Austin Clarke.
Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill.
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs.
Middle Passage by Charles Johnson
Property by Valerie Martin.
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Dessa Rose by Sherley Anne Williams.

* All these, along with secondary readings


ENG 651: Caribbean Literature

Corinna McLeod


This graduate seminar will focus on reading and analyzing works of Caribbean literature in English or English translation. Topics will include women's writing, colonial and postcolonial discourse, travel narratives, exile and performances of identity. A central consideration of the course will be the critical analysis of how the Caribbean identity has been constructed and continually reconstructed through migration, exile, and political nation development as well as through economics, tourism, and cross-cultural influences. Our readings will focus on writers from the Windrush Generation (post WWII) through to modern day. We will also incorporate elements of music (Calypso and Reggae), in order to investigate the dynamic relationship between music and literature. By the end of the course, students should have a greater appreciation for how literature constructs regional and national identities and how writers engage in issues of political, aesthetic and social discourse. Authors may include Jamaica Kincaid, Jean Rhys, Kwame Dawes, Samuel Selvon, Maryse Conde, Kamau Brathwaite and more.



ENG 661: Chaucer


Kathleen Blumreich


This semester, our primary focus will be on Chaucer’s best known text, The Canterbury Tales. We will begin by acquainting ourselves with Chaucer’s life, times, work, and language (Middle English); then we will move to analysis of the tales. Although we will concentrate on the ways in which Chaucer’s masterpiece reflects its historical context, we will also consider how the stories can be (and have been) read through a variety of critical lenses.



Fall 2012 


ENG 655: History of Literary Criticism and Theory

Dean Frederick Antczak

In this course we will examine changing ideas about literature—what it is, what it means and how to read it—from ancient times to the present, and in the recursive and reactive cycles in between. The course supports the M.A. program’s commitment to deepen your knowledge, sharpen your critical skills and strengthen your writing. It aims to equip the reader and especially the teacher of English with a variety of approaches to opening up and exploring literary texts, so it seeks to locate various modes of thinking about literature in the history of human thought. While in the course of just one semester, we can’t hope even to sample every useful critical point of view, it’s an aspiration of our course, in the comparison and collision of literary ideas, to equip each of us more fully to encounter and engage further critical perspectives.

Required Texts:

The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends, David Richter, editor, third edition (other editions are fine, but the pagination in the assignments below may not be accurate).

Caitlin Horrocks, This is Not Your City


ENG 661: Author Seminar on A. Byatt and John Fowles

David Landrum

A. S. Byatt and John Fowles are two of the most influential and widely read novelists of the last few decades. Their works reflect critical modes that have shaped the direction of contemporary novel; and these same works have been formative of the style and direction contemporary literature has taken in recent years. This class will look at the signature texts of these authors—A. S. Byatt’s highly intertextual and fabulist work,Possession; and John Folwes’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman, the first postmodern novel written in English. It will examine other texts by and explore their techniques of parody, intertextuality, historiographic metafiction, pastiche, fabulism, and other features related to novel and theory—strategies Byatt and Fowles explored and popularized with their best-selling works of fiction and the highly successful film versions of the written works.

Required Texts:

A. S. Byatt:
The Biographer’s Tale
Little Black Book of Stories
John Fowles:
The French Lieutenant’s Woman
The Ebony Tower


ENG 663: Shakespeare

Ben Lockerd

Students in this seminar will read several plays in order to consider the range of Shakespeare’s genius. The focus will be on the romantic comedies and the romances (or tragic-comedies), which Shakespeare wrote at the end of his career. The course will also include two tragedies as well, and the Shakespeare Festival play. Tentative list of plays:

Text: The Pelican Shakespeare, ed. Stephen Orgel

The Comedy of Errors
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Richard III
Much Ado about Nothing
All’s Well That Ends Well
As You Like It
King Lear
The Winter’s Tale
The Tempest


Spring/Summer 2012 


English 624: The Graphic Novel in Contemporary Culture

Robert Rozema

1st 6 Weeks of Summer

Whether you are new to graphic novels or have been collecting them for years, this graduate seminar promises to give you more ways of thinking about this emerging medium.

In its relatively short lifespan, the graphic novel has earned both critical and popular acclaim, addressed a range of serious subjects in a variety of genres, and developed its own visual grammar and narrative practices.

You’ll read both iconic and lesser-known graphic novels, learning to recognize the formal, visual components of graphic novels, explore the possibilities and limitations of this new narrative medium, critique the representation of race, class, and gender within graphic novels, and write critical responses to graphic novels in both print and visual media.


English 661: Author Seminar on Thomas Hardy

James Persoon

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) had three careers in his 88 years, each spanning roughly a third of his life: until his mid-thirties he was an up-and-coming architect and aspiring but unsuccessful poet; in his middle years he became a successful, even eminent, Victorian novelist; and then in the last thirty years of his life he made himself into a major 20th century poet.

From the first period of his life we will look at his rejected poetry, read selections of Claire Tomlin’s biography of Hardy, and watch a film of his second published novel, the delightful Under the Greenwood Tree, published by him anonymously and mistaken by reviewers for the work of George Eliot, high praise indeed for a beginning writer. From the middle period we will read two of his most powerful novels, Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Far From the Madding Crowd. Finally we will look at a modern “translation” of Hardy in the graphic novel Tamara Drewe, by British cartoonist for The Guardian, as well as plunge into as many of the 1000 poems in The Complete Poems as we can manage. If we don’t read all 1000, never fear, as Philip Larkin remarked, “there’s a lifetime ahead to keep Hardy by your bed,” and dipping in at random one will always find something new and interesting.


English 651: Literary Period Seminar: The Age of Decolonization

David Alvarez

2nd 6 Weeks of Summer

This course explores an array of literary texts that emerge from the matrix of one of the most consequential historical experiences of the 20th century: de-colonization, or the attainment of political independence in all continents by peoples who had hitherto been ruled by European colonial powers. This transformation of numerous polities around the world had a significant literary dimension, as it was often writers who articulated the hopes and aspirations of millions of Africans, Asians, and Latin Americans who sought to chart a path for their nations in the aftermath of colonial rule. These writers—such as Nigeria’s Chinua Achebe or Martinique’s Aimé Césaire or Indonesia’s Pramoedya Ananta Toer –also produced texts that articulated the manifold disappointments of the period after independence, when in many instances external neo-colonization interference and homegrown post-colonial autocracy and corruption became the order of the day. In addition to examining a representative cluster of literary writings by such authors, this course will provide you with an overall understanding of the character and significance of decolonization. Furthermore, in addition to treating decolonization as a periodizing label (one that refers to the attainment of independence between the late 1940’s and the late 1980’s), we will regard it as a term that can embrace a wider range of meanings, as for example it does when the Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiongo notes that formerly colonized peoples must “de-colonize” their minds.

What can you expect to encounter and acquire in taking this course?

  • An exciting array of literary texts from around the world that come to us  from contexts in which literary expression has mattered not just to individuals but to whole peoples.
  • A coherent historical framework in which to situate such texts
  • Music and film from the countries whose texts we shall read
  • Exposure to notable currents of post-colonial literature
  • Critical writing on such literature
  • Much else besides!

Here are some of the texts that we may be delving into together:

  • Césaire, Aimé. A Tempest
  • Soyinka, Wole. Death and the King’s Horseman
  • Djebar, Assia. Children of the New World
  • Cardenal, Ernesto. Flights of Victory
  • Kincaid, Jamaica. A Small Place
  • Amiry, Suad. Sharon and My Mother-in-Law


English 661: Flannery O’Connor Immerson Studies

Avis Hewitt

2nd 6 Weeks of Summer

This course will serve as an in-depth study of the works and environs of Flannery O’Connor, both the bookish and, if you choose, an experiential immersion. For five weeks we will study not only O’Connor’s fiction in Collected Works (1988), but also several signature essays in the vast critical context that surrounds her legacy, especially criticism authored by scholars whom  we will then meet in Milledgeville, Georgia during the 6th weeks of our course. Students interested in focused study of O’Connor are, of course, not obliged to make the trip. We will meet during exam week to make up the hours that class does not meet in Michigan during week six. For those who do choose to make the trip, the following opportunities will be in play:

  • Multiple work sessions in the Georgia College O’Connor archives with an introductory talk by Stephen Driggers, the author of The Manuscripts of Flannery O’Connor at Georgia College (1989).
  • A trolley tour of lovely, historic Milledgeville that includes O’Connor’s home in town, her church, and Memory Hill where she is buried.
  • A visit to Andalusia and talks by Craig Amason, executive director, and Mark Jorgensen of the farm outside of Milledgeville where O’Connor spent most of her writing life and where many of her stories are set.
  • Seminar lunches with several major figures in O’Connor studies whose work on O’Connor we will have read during the five weeks of our course.

We will aim for accommodating both beginning and advanced entry points to O’Connor’s work and contexts.


Winter 2012

English 603: Seminar in British Literature

Mack Smith
The seminar will examine the emergence of the modernist novel in England during the early twentieth century.  The selected novels represent different strands of modernist style and experimentation and, collectively, are some of the masterpieces of the period.  We will begin our study with Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim, often called the first modern novel because of its impressionistic style and textured point of view.  D. H. Lawrence’s Women in Love exhibits the modernist novel ‘s penchant for breaking conventions regarding the treatment of sexuality and social and philosophical themes.  Next, Virginia Wool’s To the Lighthouse illustrates the way in which novelists experimented with representations of consciousness.   E. M. Forester’s Passage to India will serve to show how the period’s belief in liberal humanism conflicts with Great Britain’s imperial power.  Finally, we will study closely James Joyce’s Ulysses, the most influential and highly regarded novel of the period.


English 624: Genre Seminar: Tolkien, Lewis, et. al.

Ben Lockerd

Time: Tuesdays 6:00 – 8:50 p.m. (College of Health Sciences Bldg., Room 113)

In this seminar, we will study various Christian writers of the 20th Century. The course includes the following required works:

All Hallows Eve, Charles Williams; All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy; Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh; Four Quartets, T. S. Eliot; Gaudy Night, Dorothy Sayers; That Hideous Strength, C. S. Lewis; The Bachelors, Muriel Spark;Father Brown: The Essential Tales, G .K. Chesterton; The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene; The Return of the King, J. R .R. Tolkien, The Thanatos Syndrome, Walker Percy; Wise Blood, Flannery O'Connor.


ENG 651: Donne & the Metaphysicals

K. Blumreich

Our focus this semester will be on the so-called Metaphysical Poets, those 17th-century writers whose verse is marked by unusual comparisons and keen philosophical insights. Although he was no fan of this new “race” of poets,  Samuel Johnson aptly observed that the metaphysicals aimed for “a kind of discordia concors; a combination of dissimilar images, or discovery of occult resemblances in things apparently unlike.” In order to understand the utility—and limitation—of  conceits “more ingenious than apt,” we will spend approximately two-thirds of the semester discussing the work of John Donne, the putative “founder” of the Metaphysical School. During the remaining five weeks or so, we will study the poetry of Donne’s “followers,” including Herbert, Vaughan, and Traherne.  Class members will be asked to facilitate discussion on one occasion, either solo, or as part of a small team; additional requirements include a seminar paper and take-home final exam.


ENGLISH 661: Contexts for Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man

Rob Franciosi

During a literary career that spanned five decades Ralph Ellison published only two collections of essays and a single novel—but what a novel. To commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of Invisible Man’s publication, we will study this magnificent work and its many literary/cultural contexts.  Besides considering Ellison’s literary forebears (Melville , Faulkner, Wright) , peers (Baldwin, Bellow), and descendants (Morrison, Wideman), we will examine the artistic and social contexts from which Invisible Man emerged and which it addressed: Southern folk culture, the Jim Crow South, jazz, literary modernism, the Harlem Renaissance, the Communist Party. We will also read a biography of Ellison, some of his uncollected stories and perhaps Juneteenth, the posthumous “novel” pieced together by his literary executor.


Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)

___________, Shadow and Act (1964)

___________, Going to the Territory (1986)

Arnold Rampersad, Ralph Ellison (2007)

Eric Sundquist, Cultural Contexts for Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1995)


Fall 2011

English 600: Graduate Literary Studies Seminar

Jo Miller

This course is an introduction to graduate literary studies. We will explore some of the most important issues, statements, and debates in contemporary critical theory, noting the ways in which the discipline of English Studies has changed over time. Students will produce a seminar paper, most likely dealing with a text of their own choosing, with the overt goal of sharpening their critical, methodological, research, and writing skills in preparation for future literary study at the graduate level.

English 612: Women Writers of Cold-War America: The Grotesque, the Gothic, the Mythic

Avis Hewitt

This course will examine in depth the work of Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964), Shirley Jackson (1916-1965), and Eudora Welty (1909-2001)—three major 20th-century forces on the U. S. literary scene in the decades surrounding WWII. The state and fate of women at that time has frequently been judged regressive because they gave up the economic independence the war years had offered out of “Rosie the Riveter” necessity, yielding their places in the work force to the returning veterans and seeking meaning in marriage to their homes (“housewives”). Preeminent Princeton critic Elaine Showalter has likened them to the schizophre­­­nic protagonist of the 1957 film classic, The Three Faces of Eve, in their intimidated attempts to create viable roles for themselves from the kinder, küche, kirche notion of the legitimate realm of women. Facing the unprecedented fright of a post-nuclear world where the now-defeated Axis powers had shockingly been succeeded by the threat of world-wide Communism, people, regardless of gender, found security in prescribed roles—whether “organization man” or “little woman.” Women’s voices were muted in the society, but not at the typewriter.

Eudora Welty, who educated herself at Mississippi State, University of Wisconsin, and Columbia, worked for the WPA as a photographer, capturing the world of the poor along the Mississippi Delta and publishing her first short story collection, A Curtain of Green, in 1941, one of nine collections and six novels and five works of nonfiction to her credit. Shirley Jackson of California, New York, and Vermont, burst dramatically onto the literary scene when The New Yorker published “The Lottery” on 26 June 1948, a success de scandale that occasioned a greater number of letters from its readership than any other story in the magazine’s history. Her relentless production of fiction of psychological suspense and horrific social commentary that “The Lottery” exemplifies resulted in six novels and over a hundred short stories before her death. The sophistication of Jackson’s literary art makes it a mystery as haunting as much of her best fiction that she has been noticeably neglected. Flannery O’Connor of Milledgeville, Georgia, published two story collections and two novels in her fourteen-year career. In 1969 and 1979, her literary executor, Sally Fitzgerald, published O’Connor’s essays and her letters, respectively. Their power, depth, humor, and clarity have garnered O’Connor an almost inviolable control over her reception in the decades since her death. The grotesque in her fiction witnesses to our blind pride as it creates distortions of the whole person that, created in the image of God, we were meant to be.

Our work will entail reading extensively each of these three authors and making use of Elaine Tyler May’s 2008 Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War to discover commonalities while critiquing the perhaps facile categorizing of Jackson’s gothic, O’Connor’s grotesque, and Welty’s mythic ways into the imagined worlds their genius provides us. PRESENTATIONS, SEMINAR PAPER, FINAL EXAM.


ENG 651: The Contemporary American Road Novel
Our course will trace the allure of the road for U.S. novelists following the Second World War up to the present day. We will encounter America as both a spiritual landscape and a society of spectacle, recognizing that one may not always travel far physically yet still cover extensive emotional ground. Our novels will range from the prototypical, autobiographical On the Road by Jack Kerouac to Cormac McCarthy’s apocalyptic nightmare journey, The Road. In between, we will discover the road to be metaphoric in Ishmael Reed’s Flight to Canada, a source of escapist delusion in Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, a longing of the soul in Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, and an entropic expose of the country’s socio-cultural fabric in Don DeLillo’s Americana. Ultimately, the American road can prove to be a journey of mystical revelation, such as in Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, or emotional demise, as in Gilbert Sorrentino’s The Sky Changes. The quest often matters more than the trip itself, and the American landscape – both urban and rural – becomes a shaping influence for these individuals whose personal journey leads them on the road.


ENG 651: American Renaissance Course Description

Michael Webster
The "American Renaissance" is a term coined by F. O.  Matthiessen in his American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman (1941). For Matthiessen, the period from 1850 to 1855 saw the emergence of a distinctly American literature. Matthiessen's list of the period’s great American authors was small and exclusively male: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman. Recently, the list has been widened to include Emily Dickinson and Harriet Beecher Stowe, as well as early African American writers. In addition, most scholars have expanded the dates of the period to 1830-1865. In this class we will re-examine the notion of the American Renaissance, relating it to Transcendentalism and Romanticism, and to the social and political issues that led up to the Civil War. Most of the reading for the course will consist of the essays, novels, stories, and poems that characterize this period. Among the texts we will read are Emerson's essays, Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter (1850), Thoreau's Walden (1854), Whitman's Song of Myself (1855), and Dickinson's poems. 
Work Cited
Matthiessen, F. O. American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman. 1941. New York: Oxford UP, 1968. GVSU: PS201 .M3  c.1
ENG 661: Melville Seminar
Dr. David Ihrman
Largely neglected in his own time, Herman Melville is now recognized as one of the most important American Romantic writers whose work transformed American fiction, and the art of fiction. The seminar will explore Melville's oeuvre, from the early popular novels and short stories, to his masterpiece MOBY DICK, and the brilliant "dark" novels. Join us for an in-depth exploration of one of the greatest American writers.


Spring/Summer 2011 


English 651: Beowulf

Rachel Anderson

Everyone's read it - but this will be your opportunity to really delve into this iconic Anglo-Saxon poem.  Over six weeks this summer we'll read the poem carefully, explore it in multiple contexts (including historical, social, political and manuscript,  to name just a few...), and assess its place in the English canon. We'll pay specific attention to the critical response Beowulf has generated from J.R.R. Tolkien's influential "The Monsters and the Critics" through to the poem's modern representations and recreations in literature, film, and video games.  

For students with some Old English language background, a translation component will be optionally available.  However, no prior knowledge of Old English is necessary, and all texts will be available in Modern English. 


English 651: Pre-colonial Roots, Colonial Routes, and Post-colonial Rewritings: The Tempest and its Travels

David Alvarez

In this course we will first grapple with how the rich particulars of Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest, speak to the historical relationship between the global North and the global South, a theme that recurs in much of the text’s recent critical reception, some of which we also delve into. We will then read two literary engagements with Shakespeare’s drama from the French- and English-speaking Caribbean respectively, namely, A Tempest, by the Martinican poet and playwright Aime Césaire, and Middle Passages, by the Barbadian poet and historian Kamau Brathwaite. The Tempest was written during the early stages of the five hundred year period known to historians as The Age of European Expansion. In contrast, the responses to it by Césaire and Brathwaite hail from the second half of the 20th century when colonized peoples contested the prerogatives of the colonial powers and struggled to achieve freedom from colonialism. In their different ways Césaire and Brathwaite both played crucial roles in the cultural movement for decolonization and in examining their work we will consider why The Tempest exerted such a profound influence on their outlook and on that of many of their peers. Unlike Césaire and Brathwaite, the last author whose work we will read, Ingrid de Kok, does not address The Tempest directly in her writings. Nonetheless, in her poetic reflections on home and exile, on identity and otherness, and on the relationship between colonial trauma and post-colonial reconciliation, she takes up themes that resonate with post-colonial readings of the play. Moreover, in geographical terms her poems will in a sense bring us full circle since after having begun the course with Shakespeare’s imaginative evocation of Renaissance Italians in colonial settings we will conclude with de Kok’s ruminations on settler colonialism in her native (South) Africa and on her relationship both with her ancestral Northern Europe and with Italy, the country in which she has written much of her recent work.

This course will be of especial interest to students who are keen to explore the cross-cultural dialogue between texts from the canon of British literature and texts from the literatures of formerly colonial countries. It will also be of particular interest to students who wish to learn more about some of the core thematic and formal concerns of post-colonial literary studies. More generally, but no less valuably, it will be of distinct interest to students who want to probe the interpenetration between historical experience and literary form.

Here are the main readings for the course:

  • Shakespeare. The Tempest. (Norton Critical Edition, edited by Peter Hulme and William H. Sherman.)
  • Aimé Césaire, A Tempest. (Translation of Une tempête)
  • Kamau Brathwaite. Middle Passages.
  • Ingrid de Kok, Seasonal Fires: New and Selected Poems.


English 661: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, A Literary Marriage

James Persoon

A study of two major voices in 20th-century literature (especially poetry) who happened to be married to each other, the English Ted Hughes and the American Sylvia Plath.  We will examine their work through the creative interaction of their mutual lives, using Diana Middlebrook's wonderful biography of the marriage, Her Husband.


English 661: T. S. Eliot

Ben Lockerd

Time: Tuesdays 6:00 – 9:20, 12-week period

This seminar will study Eliot’s poetry, plays, and also his prose writing (especially literary criticism and cultural essays).


            --T. S. Eliot. The Complete Poems and Plays (1909 – 1950). Harcourt.

            --T. S. Eliot. Selected Prose of T. S. Eliot.  Ed. Frank Kermode. Harcourt.

            --T. S. Eliot. The Waste Land. Ed. Michael North. Norton, 2001.

            --Eliot. The Confidential Clerk.

            --Eliot. The Elder Statesman.

            --Russell Kirk.  Eliot and His Age. 2nd ed. ISI Books, 2008.



 Winter 2011 


ENG 616: World Literatures

Corrina McLeod

This class will negotiate the term "world literature" through the framework of postcolonial studies.  The term "postcolonial" has been assigned to a group of literatures that have in common a history of European colonization.  The theoretical approach examines the impact colonization and decolonization has had on identity (cultural, national, linguistic), migration, issues of exile, diaspora, and contemporary sociopolitical and geopolitical constructions of nation.  We will read a variety of novels, poetry, and critical essays from Africa, the West Indies, Europe, and India.


ENG 614: Literature of American Minorities

S. Johnson

Slave Narratives to Neo-Slave Narratives

The slave narrative is recognized as one of the founding genres in the African-American literary tradition.  Principally a genre meant to speak to the horrors of slavery in the US, and thus aid in the abolition movement.  Still, in the 20th and 21st centuries, even in the absence of American chattel slavery, the genre persists.  This course will look at foundational slave narratives, as well as the significations made upon the slave narrative in contemporary literature from the US and Canada.  It is designed for students to begin investigating the following question: what function(s) does the neo-slave narrative serve at our contemporary moment in history?  

Required texts*:

Kindred by Octavia Butler. 
The Polished Hoe by Austin Clarke.
Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill.
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs.
Middle Passage by Charles Johnson
Property by Valerie Martin.
Dessa Rose by Sherley Anne Williams.

*All these, along with secondary readings.


ENG 624: Romance

Ben Lockerd

The long medieval narratives of chivalric adventure came to be called “romances” because the most famous of them were written in romance languages, and that term has since been used to identify a rather loosely defined genre, one which actually began long before the Middle Ages. Some of the characteristics or motifs of the genre are as follows:

--Lengthy narratives (either in prose or verse)
--Episodic plots
--Idealistic (as opposed to realistic) point of view
--Clearly defined good and evil characters
--Mysterious and exotic settings (forest or sea)
--Near-death experiences
--Magical or supernatural forces
--Happy endings resulting from providential divine interventions or incredible coincidences
--Expiation and forgiveness of evil acts
--Lost royal children
--Awe and wonder

Some closely-related genres:

--Picaresque novels
--Fairy tales
--Gothic fiction
--Spy novels
--Historical romance
--and, of course, bodice-ripping modern romance novels
This course will study a variety of works in this genre (probably excerpts from some of them, since they tend to be very long). Some possible texts:
--Longus, Daphnis and Chloe (Greek, 2nd c. A.D.)
--Malory, Morte D’Arthur
--Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
--Sidney, Arcadia
--Spenser, Faerie Queene, Book VI
--Shakespeare, Pericles, Cymbeline, Winter’s Tale, Tempest
--Cervantes, Don Quixote
--Walter Scott, Ivanhoe, Heart of Midlothian, Rob Roy
--James Fenimore Cooper, The Deerslayer, The Last of the Mohicans
--Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables, The Blithedale Romance
--Dickens, Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, Little Dorrit, etc.
--Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
--Lewis, That Hideous Strength


ENG 624: Poetry

Michael Webster

This course will focus on the pleasures and intellectual challenges of reading modernist poetry. Specifically, the course will explore the genealogy of some of the numerous ways of writing modernist poetry and of being a modern poet. Since modernist poetry involves re-making or making new a number of traditions that preceded it, the course will focus on the modernist dialogue between tradition and innovation. As we read, enjoy, and interpret these poems, we will explore modernist poets' attitudes towards formal and free verse, spoken and visual poetry, personality (feelings, the self) and impersonality (tradition), as well as the roles of poetry in the modern world (questions of audience, politics, and/or popularity). As readers, we will also grapple with the special qualities of poetry as a genre and the exciting challenges of reading modern poetry.


Ramazani, Jahan, Richard Ellmann, and Robert O'Clair, eds. The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry. Vol. 1
     ISBN: 0-393-97791-9


Levenson, Michael. A Genealogy of Modernism: A Study of English Literary Doctrine
     1908-1922. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 1984.
Longenbach, James. “Modern Poetry” The Cambridge Companion to Modernism. Ed.
     Michael Levenson. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 199. 100-127.
Perloff, Marjorie. “Pound / Stevens: whose era?” New Literary History 13 (1982): 485-514.
     Rpt. In The Dance of the Intellect. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1985. 1-32.
---. “ ‘Pound / Stevens: Whose Era?’ Revisited.” The Wallace Stevens Journal 26.2 (Fall
     2002): 135-142.
---. “ ‘Easter 1916’: Yeats’s First War Poem.” The Oxford Handbook of British and Irish War
     Poetry. Ed. Tim Kendall. New York: Oxford UP, 2009. 227-241.
Scott, Bonnie Kime, ed. Gender in Modernism: New Geographies, Complex Intersections. 
     Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007.


ENG 661: American Literature and the Holocaust

Rob Franciosi

For six decades American writers and filmmakers have faced a representational dilemma: how to depict an event whose significance continues to grow, even being termed a metaphor of our times, yet one which challenges the imagination’s very limits? How to confront the Holocaust?

This course will explore the history of American literary and cinematic engagement with Auschwitz, what has been called the Americanization of the Holocaust. We will study the entire sweep of this response, from the immediate post-war years to the present, giving particular attention to the complex cultural dynamics which have impacted these works and their receptions.

John Hersey, The Wall (1950)
Frances Goodrich & Albert Hackett, The Diary of Anne Frank (1955)
Edward Lewis Wallant, The Pawnbroker (1961)
Norma Rosen, Touching Evil (1969)
Philip Roth, The Ghost Writer (1979)
Cynthia Ozick, The Shawl (1981-83)
Arthur Miller, Broken Glass (1994)
Goodrich and Hackett, The Diary of Anne Frank (revised by Wendy Kesselman) (1995)
Thane Rosenbaum, Elijah Visible (1999)
Hilene Flanzbaum, The Americanization of the Holocaust (1999)
Michael Bernard-Donals, An Introduction to Holocaust Studies (2006)

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