Timothy Billings
Office
Axinn Center 300
Tel
(802) 443-2550
Email
tbilling@middlebury.edu
Office Hours
Fall 2022: MWF 12-2 over Zoom and by appointment

Timothy Billings is Professor of English and American Literatures, and a Member of the Comparative Literature Program at Middlebury College, where he offers a range of courses including early modern English theater and poetry, Chinese poetry, slam poetry, and translation studies. He holds advanced degrees in Fine Arts (M.F.A. 1992) and English Literature (M.A. 1994, Ph.D. 1997) from Cornell University, and in Sinology from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London (M.A. 2007). He is also an alumnus of the Stanford Center Inter-University Program in Chinese Language and Literature (now ICLP) in Taipei. He has translated and annotated three bilingual critical editions all using research on original manuscripts: Victor Segalen’s 1914 collection of French and Chinese poems Stèles / 古今碑錄 (Wesleyan UP, 2007), with Christopher Bush, which received the Modern Language Association’s Prize for Best Translation of a Literary Work; Matteo Ricci’s 1596 treatise Jiaoyou lun 交友論, the first work written in Chinese by a European, translated as On Friendship: One Hundred Maxims for a Chinese Prince (Columbia UP, 2009); and Ezra Pound’s 1915 collection of Chinese translations Cathay: A Critical Edition (Fordham UP, 2018), which has received a finalist prize for Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism from the Poetry Foundation. He has also collaborated with Yan Zinan 顏子南 on the translation and annotation of a selection of poetry by the late Ming philosopher Li Zhi 李贄 (1527-1602) in A Book to Burn and a Book to Keep (Hidden): Selected Writings (Columbia UP, 2016). He has received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and is currently writing a book on the Tang dynasty lüshi 律詩 (regulated verse poem) and modes of translation.    

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 2021

Requirements

CW, LIT

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Course Description

Introduction to Contemporary Literary Theory
In this course we will introduce several major schools of contemporary literary theory. By reading theoretical texts in close conjunction with works of literature, we will illuminate the ways in which these theoretical stances can produce multiple interpretations of a given literary work. The approaches covered may include New Criticism, Psychoanalysis, Marxism and Cultural Criticism, Race Theory and Multicultural Criticism, Feminism, Post-Colonial Criticism, Queer Studies, Eco-Criticism, Post-Structuralism, and others. These theories will be applied to various works of fiction, poetry, and drama. The goal will be to make students critically aware of the fundamental literary, cultural, political, and moral assumptions underlying every act of interpretation they perform. 3 hrs. lect/disc.

Terms Taught

Spring 2021

Requirements

EUR, LIT

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Course Description

Shakespeare’s Rivals (I)
In this course we will read a selection of the best plays by Shakespeare’s fellow playwrights who helped define the “Golden Age” of English dramatic literature. Variously heroic and comic, eloquent and grandiloquent, witty and outrageous, dignified and obscene, and sometimes tragically bloody, these plays at their best are every bit as good as Shakespeare’s, and they give us a much better picture of the full theatrical and cultural contexts of Shakespeare’s plays than his alone can do. We will use all the tools of literary analysis to appreciate the problematics of these texts in terms of social politics, historical determinants, theatrical practice, and canon formation. Authors include Thomas Middleton, Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, Elizabeth Carey, John Fletcher, Francis Beaumont, Thomas Dekker, John Webster, and Thomas Kyd. (Pre-1800) 3 hrs. lect./disc

Terms Taught

Spring 2021

Requirements

AMR, LIT, NOR

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Course Description

Slam Poetry: Artistry and Politics
In this course, we will examine the artistry, politics, and history of slam poetry through a wide range of spoken word performances on video. In addition to writing short critiques, students will develop drafts for two new (3-minute) spoken word poems for performance, working in small groups and also individually with the professor over Zoom. Poets include the likes of Denice Frohman, Danez Smith, Portia O., Andrea Gibson, Rudy Francisco, Emi Mahmoud, Safia Elhillo, G. Yamazawa, Amir Safi, Rachel Rostad, Hieu Minh Nguyen, Yesika Salgado, Glori B., and Samantha Peterson, among others. Warning: some of the material in this course is explicit, emotionally intense, and disturbing. Weather permitting, some meetings may take place outside in person. 3 hrs. lect

Terms Taught

Fall 2020, Winter 2021

Requirements

ART, LIT

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Course Description

Poetics of Translation
In this course we will explore the philosophical and linguistic questions raised by translingual discourse [with an emphasis on poetic writing] by surveying the most important theoretical writings on translation as we compare selections of poetry in multiple translations. Selections will include both “classic” texts such as the Psalms, the Illiad, Catullus, Li Bo, Rumi, Clément Marot, and/ Eugene Onenin/ as well as new experimental translingual poetry. We will discuss such questions as: How does language shape thought? How does culture shape language? Is poetry “untranslatable” by definition? What are the challenges of translating sacred or “exotic” poetry? 3 hrs. lect/disc.

Terms Taught

Fall 2019

Requirements

AAL, CMP, LIT, NOA

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Course Description

Tang Poetry / American Poetry
Amy Lowell and Ezra Pound, rival founders of the Imagist poetry movement a century ago, both published influential translations of Tang-dynasty lyrics, even though neither one knew a word of Chinese. In this course, we will not only study their accomplishments in context, but go a step further to begin learning how to read and write the most commonly used characters in Tang poetry so that we can parse a selection of the best poems in the original as we explore such topics as the differences between Chinese and European poetics, theories of translation and intercultural adaptation, and Orientalist fantasies of the ideogram. No knowledge of Chinese is necessary. 3 hrs. lect./disc.

Terms Taught

Spring 2022

Requirements

CMP, LIT

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Course Description

England’s Ovid: Grabbing Back the Myth (I) (Pre-1800)
In this course we will read Ovid’s Latin compendium of foundational mythical stories, the Metamorphoses, in two important early modern English translations: 1) the 16th-century version by Arthur Golding (the very one that Shakespeare read), which Ezra Pound called “the most beautiful book in the English language”; and 2) the 17th-century version by George Sandys, which contains allegorical commentaries and elaborate synoptic engravings. We will discuss these myths with an emphasis on gender politics and oral storytelling, and sometimes discuss how they reemerge in English literature. We will also examine a rare first edition of the Sandys edition (1623) which is owned by Middlebury College’s Special Collections, in addition to a modern annotated edition. The material for the course contains literary and graphic depictions of sexual violence, which will be critiqued from an unapologetically feminist perspective.

Terms Taught

Spring 2022

Requirements

EUR, LIT

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Course Description

Shakespeare’s Career (Pre-1800)
In this course we will study the whole arc of William Shakespeare's literary career from the earliest histories, comedies, and non-dramatic poetry to the more mature tragedies and romances, with an eye to understanding Shakespeare’s development as a writer in his own time. How might the plays have resonated for his first audiences on stage, and how have subsequent readers drawn their own meanings from the published texts? Reading one play a week, we will pay close attention to such dramaturgical issues as Shakespeare’s construction of character and of plot, his adaptation of sources, and his modes of versification, as well as the ethical, political, and commercial implications of Shakespeare’s works during his lifetime, some of which stand in contrast with what we learn from them today. Weather permitting, some meetings may be held outside in person. 3 hrs. lect./1 hr. disc./3 hrs. screen.

Terms Taught

Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

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

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Course Description

Poetry Games: Experimental Poetics and Avant-Garde Aesthetics
Not all poetry is, as William Wordsworth put it, “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.” Some poetry challenges the very nature of language, art, and subjectivity through various self-decentering forms of writing. In this course, we will study a century’s worth of avant-garde experimental poetry, from the Dadaists and Surrealists to the Oulipo group, the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets, and the conceptual and post-conceptual poetry movements of the 21st century, then create our own poetry using the same techniques and principles. The course is thus part survey and part writing workshop, with an emphasis on artistic process, linguistic theory, and the liberating power of constraints. Topics include: aleatory poetry, algorithmic poetry, blackout poetry, concrete poetry, erasure poetry, exquisite corpse, found poetry, homophonic translation, sound poetry, lipograms, S+7, etc.

Terms Taught

Fall 2022

Requirements

ART, LIT

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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 'Nasty' Sonnets
Of the love triangle that structures William Shakespeare’s enigmatic series of sonnets, Stephen Booth has quipped: “Shakespeare was almost certainly homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual.” Of the 154 poems, most people know only one or two of the most innocent (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”), but the series as a whole has scandalized prudish readers for centuries with its confessions of heterosexual lust, homoerotic love, envy, jealousy, misogyny, racism, abjection, pride, and some moping—all in some of the most exquisite verse ever composed in English. In this course we will examine, discuss, and write about the language of Shakespeare's sonnets and their literary historical context as well as the range of critical theories (and sometimes utterly wacky notions) about their mysterious contents, including those from the likes of Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, and William Wordsworth. This is a feminist, queer-friendly, sex-positive course. 3 hrs. sem.

Terms Taught

Fall 2019, Fall 2022

Requirements

CW, LIT

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