James Berg
Office
Axinn Center 314
Tel
(802) 443-5709
Email
berg@middlebury.edu
Office Hours
Fall 2022: Tues 9-11am, Weds, 2:45-3:45pm

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).

Courses Taught

Course Description

Special Project: Creative Writing
Approval Required.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023

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Course Description

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

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023

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Course Description

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

Terms Taught

Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2022

Requirements

CW, LIT

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Course Description

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, as well as our political, social, and familial environment. We will study texts by such authors as Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Thucydides, Aristotle, Seneca, Shakespeare, Webster, Chikamatsu, Goethe, Nietzsche, O'Neill, Beckett, and Soyinka. (Pre-1800) 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2021

Requirements

EUR, LIT

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Course Description

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.

Terms Taught

Spring 2020

Requirements

EUR, LIT

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Course Description

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.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2020

Requirements

LIT

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Course Description

Poetry and Performance
Most poems are meant to be performed. In this course we will explore many short poems and a few long poems, spanning three-quarters of a millennium, with performance in mind. We will memorize poems, perform poems out loud for each other, and interpret poems with tone foremost in mind, on the theory that everything about a poem, from its form to its diction to its imagery to its historical or social context, instructs its reader as to its voice. Texts will include diverse poems in English, from Middle English tales or lyrics to slam poetry, from Renaissance and Romantic lyrics to postcolonial poetry, from modernist experiments to indigenous poetry. Formal assignments will include recitations, presentations, a paper or two, and a poem, to be created, memorized, and performed by the student. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Fall 2021

Requirements

LIT

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Course Description

Foundations of English Literature (Pre-1800)
Students will study Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Milton's Paradise Lost, as well as other foundational works of English literature that may include Shakespeare, non-Shakespearean Elizabethan drama, the poetry of Donne, and other 16th- and 17th-century poetry. 3 hrs. lect./disc.

Terms Taught

Spring 2021, Spring 2022

Requirements

EUR, LIT

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Course Description

Special Project: Literature
Approval Required.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022

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Course Description

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.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

View in Course Catalog

Course Description

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. (Formerly ENAM 0123)

Terms Taught

Fall 2022

Requirements

LIT

View in Course Catalog

Course Description

Special Project: Literature
Approval Required. (Formerly ENAM 0500)

Terms Taught

Fall 2022, Spring 2023

View in Course Catalog

Course Description

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. (Formerly ENAM 0700)

Terms Taught

Fall 2022, Spring 2023

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Course Description

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.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

Requirements

CW, EUR, LIT

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