James Berg

Associate Professor of English and American Literatures

Director of the First Year Seminar Program

 work(802) 443-5709
 Fall 2019 Term: Monday & Friday 2:00-4:00, and by appointment
 Axinn Center at Starr Library 314

James E. Berg received his PhD at Columbia University in 1998.  Since then he has taught Shakespeare, Renaissance Literature, literary criticism and history at Iowa State University and in the Harvard University Expository Writing Program, as well as at Middlebury.  His current interest is in literary character, particularly as it developed during the English Renaissance, but also in other eras.  He is currently working on a book, The Character of Shakespeare’s Plays.  His publications include “’This Dear Dear Land’: Dearth and the Fantasy of the Land-Grab in Richard II and Henry IV , in English Literary Renaissance (1999);  “Gorboduc and the Tragic Discovery of Feudalism” in Studies in English Literature (2000); “John Donne’s Holy Sonnets” in vol. 1 of Scribner’s British Classic’s series, ed. Jay Parini (2003); “The Properties of Character in King Lear,” in Shakespeare and Character: Theory, History, Performance, and Theatrical Persons, ed. Paul Yachnin and Jessica Slights (2008); and “Wopsle’s Revenge: Reading Hamlet as Character in Great Expectations" (forthcoming in Shakespeare’s Sense of Character: on the Page and from the Stage, ed. YuJin Ko and Michael Shurgot).



Course List: 

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

CRWR 0560 - Special Project: Writing      

Special Project: Creative Writing
Approval Required.

Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020

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CRWR 0701 - Senior Thesis:Creative Writing      

Senior Thesis: Creative Writing
Discussions, workshops, tutorials for those undertaking one-term projects in the writing of fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction.

Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020

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ENAM 0103 - Reading Literature      

Reading Literature
Please refer to each section for specific course descriptions. CW LIT

Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2020

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ENAM 0107 / CMLT 0107 - The Experience of Tragedy      

The Experience of Tragedy
For over two millennia tragedy has raised ethical questions and represented conflicts between the divine and the mortal, nature and culture, household and polity, individual and society. What is tragedy? What led to its production and what impact did it have, in ancient times? Why was it reborn in Shakespeare's time? How has tragedy shaped, and been shaped by, gender, class, religion, and nationality? We will address these questions and explore how tragedy continues to influence our literary expectations and experience. Authors may include Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Thucydides, Aristotle, Seneca, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Goethe, Nietzsche, O'Neill, Beckett, Kennedy, and Kushner. 3 hrs. lect. EUR LIT

Fall 2016

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ENAM 0109 - Literary "Character"      

Literary “Character”
In this course we will investigate literary character—what it is; what makes it “round,” “flat,” “deep,” “shallow”; its history. In seeking to understand “character,” we will create our own stories, using characters from our readings, or introducing characters we create into plots or settings from those readings. In expository essays and class discussions, we will also consider the following questions: how and why did “fictional person” acquire the name “character” (literally “engraved mark”)? How does “character” relate to representations of body, property, authorship, gender, race? How does theatrical character relate to novelistic and short-story character? Possible authors: Aristotle, Theophrastus, Terence, Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, Laurence Sterne, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Herman Melville, Mark Twain, Virginia Woolf, Richard Wright, Julia Alvarez. 3 hrs. lect. EUR LIT

Spring 2018, Spring 2020

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ENAM 0123 / CMLT 0123 - Adventures in Literary Romance      

Adventures in Literary Romance (Pre-1800)
In this course we will explore the literary genre of romance. Today, “romance” often refers to courtship—only one aspect of this ancient genre. Other aspects include adventure, magic, wonder, multiple plots, multiple authors, an affinity for sequels. Romance’s associations with every genre—tragedy, comedy, epic, novel, lyric poetry—and its reputation for escapism have made it an epitome of the very idea of literature, as conceived by attackers and defenders. Its welcoming of female readers and protagonists and its marketing of the exotic have raised issues of gender and ethnicity. We will discuss all such aspects and implications of romance, and we may also explore how romance has shaped modern television and film. No papers or exams; there will be quizzes daily on the reading, and students will be expected to participate thoughtfully in class discussions. Readings from texts such as: Daphnis and Chloe, Ethiopian Romance, The Gospel of Luke, The Golden Ass, Arthurian romances by various authors, Orlando Inamorato, Orlando Furioso, The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, The Merchant of Venice, The Winter’s Tale, Don Quixote,/ Waverly/, Madame Bovary, Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Time Quintet. 3 hrs. lect. LIT

Fall 2018

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ENAM 0201 - British Lit. and Culture I      

British Literature and Culture (I) (Pre-1800)
Topic is determined by the instructor - refer to section for the course description. EUR LIT

Fall 2015, Fall 2017

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ENAM 0214 - Renaissance Lit and Cult      

Renaissance Literature and Culture (Pre-1800)
In this course we will explore the contribution of various aspects of society to literature and literary self-consciousness during the Renaissance, the "golden age" of English literature. The course will cover literatures of the Court and state, love and sex, city and country, science and discovery, and religion and reformation. We will discuss historical difference, political and social conflict, subjectivity and creativity, ethnic and cultural confrontation, and authorship and ownership. Readings will include prose fiction and non-fiction, lyric and epic, and drama by such authors as More, Wyatt, Sidney, Spenser, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Wroth, Bacon, Jonson, Donne, Marvell, and Milton. EUR LIT

Spring 2016

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ENAM 0500 - Special Project: Lit      

Special Project: Literature
Approval Required.

Fall 2015, Winter 2016, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020

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ENAM 0700 - Senior Thesis:Critical Writing      

Senior Thesis: Critical Writing
Individual guidance and seminar (discussions, workshops, tutorials) for those undertaking one-term projects in literary criticism or analysis. All critical thesis writers also take the Senior Thesis Workshop (ENAM 700Z) in either Fall or Spring Term.

Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020

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FYSE 1167 - Shakespeare's Characters      

Shakespeare's Characters
Shakespeare’s reputation owes much to his characters; yet well-known as they are, they remain mysterious. What did they mean in Shakespeare’s time? How do they still succeed as characters? What explains idiotic Bottom’s charisma? What does Henry V’s flirtation with Princess Katherine or Othello’s jealousy about Desdemona reveal about Elizabethan—and our own—understandings of gender and race? Such questions will help us develop skills in speaking, writing, and critical inquiry. Texts will include at most three plays from among the following: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, Merchant of Venice, Henry V, Measure for Measure, Hamlet, Othello, Lear, as well as contextual readings. We will also study a film of one of the plays. 3 hrs. sem. CW EUR LIT

Fall 2015, Spring 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019

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INTD 0210 / EDST 0210 - Sophomore Seminar/Liberal Arts      

Sophomore Seminar in the Liberal Arts
This course is designed for sophomores who are interested in exploring the meaning and the purpose of a liberal arts education. To frame this investigation, we will use the question "What is the good life and how shall I live it?" Through an interdisciplinary and multicultural array of readings and films we will engage our course question through intellectual discussion, written reflection, and personal practice. There will be significant opportunities for public speaking and oral presentation, as well as regular writing assignments, including a formal poster presentation. Readings will include reflections on a liberal arts education in the U.S. (Emerson, Brann, Nussbaum, Oakeshott, Ladsen-Billings, bell hooks); on "the good life" (excerpts from Aristotle, sacred texts of different traditions); on social science analyses of contemporary life; texts on the neuroscience of happiness; as well as literary and cinematic representations of lives well-lived. CMP

Spring 2018

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Department of English & American Literatures

Axinn Center at Starr Library
15 Old Chapel Road
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753