Group 2 (British Literature: Beginnings through the 17th Century)

7900 Beowulf and Old English Literature

F. Leneghan/T, Th

This course will introduce students to the weird and wonderful world of Old English literature. Our main focus will be on the first poetic masterpiece in English, the epic Beowulf, but we will also read a selection of shorter poems, including passionate songs of love and loss, intense dream visions, bawdy and obscene riddles, and strange charms contained in manuscripts such as the Exeter Book and the Vercelli Book. In these remarkable, often enigmatic poems, the heroic traditions of the Germanic tribes merge with Christian-Latin learning, pagan kings speak with the wisdom of the Old Testament patriarchs, Woden rubs shoulders with Christ, a lowly cowherd receives the gift of poetry from God, and a talking tree provides an eyewitness account of the Crucifixion. Texts will be studied both in translation and, after some basic training, in the original Old English.

Texts: Old English Poems of Christ and His Saints, Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library 27, trans. Mary Clayton (Harvard); Old English Shorter Poems Volume II: Wisdom and Lyric, Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library 32 (Harvard, 2014), trans. Robert E. Bjork (Harvard); Roy Liuzza, trans. Beowulf: Facing Page Translation: Second Edition (Broadview); Hugh Magennis, The Cambridge Introduction to Anglo-Saxon Literature (Cambridge); The Cambridge Companion to Old English Literature, 2nd ed, ed. Malcolm Godden and Michael Lapidge (Cambridge).

7915 Sex, Gender, and the Body in Early Modern England

C. Bicks/M, W

This seminar explores the fluid conceptions of sex, gender, and the body that were circulating in 16th- and 17th-century England—in everything from medical texts, sermons, and political theory to plays, poems, and travelers’ tales. While institutions and social norms demanded clear and stable divisions between “man” and “woman,” early modern visual and textual discourses reveal a profound flimsiness to the body’s sexed markers, desires, and gendered behaviors. We will explore figures like the Amazons, the hermaphrodite, the cross-dressed heroine, and the lovesick man as we consider the complexities of early modern representations of sex and gender. How may they have impacted the everyday embodied experiences of English people as well as constructions of racial otherness and “new” worlds? In addition to writing a final essay, students will present on supplemental research topics. (Not open to students who have previously enrolled in ENGL 7274.)

Texts: Renaissance Woman: A Sourcebook, ed. Kate Aughterson (Routledge); any edition of the following plays and poems is acceptable: Thomas Middleton and William Rowley, The Changeling; John Lyly, Gallathea; Christopher Marlowe, Edward II; William Shakespeare, Sonnets.

Additional materials will be provided in advance of our first meeting: including excerpts from Jane Sharp, The Midwives Book; Thomas Raynalde, The Birth of Mankynde; Ambrose Paré, On Monsters and Marvels; and Mary Wroth, Pamphilia to Amphilanthus. Also: The Countess of Lincoln’s Nurserie; Margaret Cavendish, The Convent of Pleasure; Thomas Neville, The Isle of Pines; Thomas Nashe, The Choice of Valentines; and scholarly essays.

7921 British Theater: Stage to Page to Stage

S. Berenson/M–Th

Using the resources of the British theater, this course will examine imagery in dramatic literature. We will usually meet four days a week and go to London or Stratford to attend performances on at least one of those days. In addition to theater attendance and travel time, the class will include reading assignments, discussions, lectures, one paper, one project, and collaborative on-your-feet exercises. No previous acting experience is required. This is a class for students who love the theater and understand that the word “image” is the root of the word “imagination.” (This course carries one unit of Group 2 credit and one unit of Group 3 credit.)

Performances are expected to include Life of Pi, The Comedy of Errors, and Hamlet. A final schedule and reading list will be circulated before the summer. Enrolled students will be charged a supplemental fee of $800 to cover the costs of tickets and transportation.

 

Group 3 (British Literature: 18th Century to the Present)

7921 British Theater: Stage to Page to Stage

S. Berenson/M–Th

See description in Group 2 offerings.

7947 The Global 18th Century 1660–1830

C. Gerrard/T, Th

This course invites students to explore the literature of the period often known as the “long 18th century’ (roughly 1660–1830) from a global perspective. We will explore European encounters with other populations throughout the world and think critically about topics such as imperialism, consumption and luxury, trade, slavery, colonialism, the exotic and “otherness,” including sexual and racial intermingling. We will look at a wide range of material, including literary texts (plays, poems, novels), journalism, travel writing, slavery narratives, and economic and political pamphlets. This course will also involve museum visits in Oxford and London.

Texts: Francis Bacon, The New Atlantis, and Henry Neville, The Isle of Pines, in Three Early Modern Utopias, ed. Susan Bruce (Oxford World’s Classics, 2008); Spectator nos. 69, 11, Tatler no. 249, Alexander Pope, Windsor Forest, lines 219–266, Female Tatler, nos. 9 and 67, and “The Story of Inkle and Yarrico,” all in The Commerce of Everyday Life: Selections from the Tatler and the Spectator, ed. Erin Mackie (Bedford St Martin’s 1998, out of print but available used); Aphra Behn, Oroonoko, ed. Paul Salzman (Oxford World’s Classics) or Aphra Behn, Oroonoko and Other Works, ed. Janet Todd (Penguin); Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe (1722, Penguin or Oxford World Classics); Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels (1726, Penguin or Oxford World Classics); Benjamin Franklin, Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-41-02-0280; Joseph Warton, “The Dying Indian,” poetrynook.com/poem/dying-indian; Jean-Jacques Rousseau, A Discourse on Inequality, ed. Maurice Cranston (Penguin, 1984); Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Turkish Embassy Letters, ed. Anita Desai (Virago) or ed. Teresa Hefferman (Broadview); William Beckford, Vathek, ed. Thomas Keymer (Oxford World’s Classics); William Collins, “The Persian Eclogues” luminarium.org/renascence-editions/collins2.html; Fables of the East, ed. Ros Ballaster (Oxford, 2005); Phillis Wheatley, “On Being Brought from Africa to America,” Ann Yearsley, A Poem on the Inhumanity of the Slave Trade, and Hannah More, Slavery, A Poem, all in brycchancarey.com/slavery/; Edward Long, The History of Jamaica (174), vol. 2 ecda.northeastern.edu/item/neu:m04109796/; James Grainger, The Sugar Cane Book 4 in The Poetics of Empire: A Study of James Grainger’s “Sugar Cane,” ed. John Gilmore (Athlone Press, 2000). See also ecda.northeastern.edu/drstk_item_extension/grainger-thesugar-cane-apoem/.

7950 Atlantic Crossings: Anglo-American Literary Relations, 1798–1900

C. Gerrard/T, Th

See description in Group 4 offerings.

7960 How to Be a Critic: Literary and Cultural Engagement from the 19th Century to the Present

D. Russell/T, Th

What does it mean to be critical? What can critical approaches to art, or culture, or politics achieve? This course examines the flourishing of cultural, political, and aesthetic criticism in the 19th and 20th centuries in Britain and the U.S. It will focus on assembling a definition, and a history or genealogy, of critical practices, but it will also seek to ask questions about the usefulness and applicability of these critical practices to our own times. We will begin with Matthew Arnold, who popularized the word criticism in the turbulent 1860s in Britain, and we will trace a critical genealogy to the turbulent American 1960s, and to criticism as practised now. As the “how to” phrasing of the module’s title suggests, participants will produce their own critical essays that will employ techniques from the essayists discussed in class. (This course carries one unit of Group 3 credit and one unit of Group 4 credit.)

Texts: Editions below are suggested, but any edition will be fine. Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy (Oxford); Walter Pater, The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry (Oxford); Oscar Wilde, The Decay of Lying and Other Essays (Penguin); Virginia Woolf, The Death of the Moth and Other Essays (Harvest); T. S. Eliot, The Sacred Wood (Faber); Lionel Trilling, The Liberal Imagination (NYRB); James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (Penguin); Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation (Picador); Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem (FSG); John Berger, Portraits (Verso); Hilton Als, White Girls (McSweeney’s).

7974 Exploring Oxford: Representation and Reality

D. Russell, M. Turner/T, Th

This course explores British literature, culture, and art through the prism of Oxford—a city which has always been loved and hated, idealized, and distorted, a site for aspiration and exclusion. Combining seminar meetings with walks and visits to sites around Oxford, the course moves chronologically, from the 19th century to the present, to give us an understanding of how different periods and concerns in British culture may have played out through the city in different times. The structure of the course oscillates between representations of fantasy—“a city of dreaming spires,” as Matthew Arnold called it—and representations of hard realities—a city of walls, privilege, and exclusion. In what ways do image and reality overlap or clash? Who is Oxford “for”? What did Malcolm X have to say in his speech to the Oxford Union? In our interdisciplinary journey through Oxford, we will read and then discuss some of the most famous depictions of the city, look at art by the Pre-Raphaelites and by contemporary artists, and think about the cultural geography and politics of this unique city.

Texts: Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure (1895, any edition); Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited (Penguin, or any edition); Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night (Harper, or any edition); Edmund Crispin, The Moving Toyshop (Bloomsbury Reader, or any edition); Philip Pullman, Northern Lights: His Dark Materials, Vol. 1 [published as The Golden Compass (Yearling) in North America]; Laura Wade, Posh (Oberon).

7975 James Joyce

J. Johnson/T, Th

Students will engage in intensive study of Ulysses in its Hiberno-European, Modernist, and Joycean contexts. We will begin by reading both Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (and Joyce’s poetry, critical essays, Stephen Hero, Exiles, Giacomo Joyce, and Finnegans Wake will all be incorporated into discussions), but the course will be primarily devoted to the reading and study of Ulysses. This work’s centrality to, yet deviation from, the aesthetic and political preoccupations of modernism will be explored. (Class hours TBA; may fall occasionally on days other than T/Th.)

Primary texts: James Joyce, Dubliners (any ed.), A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (any ed.), and Ulysses, ed. H. W. Gabler (Vintage). Supplementary texts: Stephen Hero, Exiles, Giacomo Joyce, Finnegans Wake, and Poems and Shorter Writings, ed. Richard Ellmann, A. Walton Litz, and John Whittier-Ferguson (Faber). (Students are not expected to buy the supplementary texts.)

7981 Queer and Now: A Generation of Queer Thinking, Writing, Living

M. Turner/M, W
See description in Group 4 offerings.

7986 Memoir at the Millennium: A Genre without Borders

C. Kaplan/T, Th

This course explores the changing nature of memoir since the 1980s. Increasingly experimental, modern memoir challenges more traditional literary forms of life writing, provocatively rivaling the novel in its popular appeal. It has become a favored genre for the construction and exploration of new identities: political, personal, racial, spiritual, and sexual, questioning our everyday understanding of time and memory. In other cultural modes (graphic narrative and contemporary film), memoir’s innovations are especially striking. Through work by an international selection of writers, filmmakers, and graphic artists, we will investigate memoir’s creative hybridity, its fluid, shape-shifting accommodation of a variety of discourses. How does modern memoir redraw the relationship between personal/family history and public, political memory? How are time and feeling experienced and remembered? What is the status of “truth” or of authorship in avant-garde memoir? These questions and themes will be among those central to the course. Any editions of the texts are acceptable. Films and additional critical reading will be available at Oxford. There will be one or two visiting memoirist speakers. Times for film viewing and speakers will be arranged to suit student schedules. There will be ample scope in the course for independent work on related texts and topics. (This course carries one unit of Group 3 credit and one unit of Group 4 credit.)

Texts: Roland Barthes, The Death of the Author (Macat Library); Michel Foucault, What Is an Author? (Macat Library); Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name—A Biomythography (The Crossing Press); Alison Bechdel, Are You My Mother? (Mariner); Denise Riley, Time Lived, Without Its Flow (Picador); Helen MacDonald, H Is for Hawk (Grove); Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking (Vintage); Edward W. Said, Out of Place: A Memoir (Vintage); Marjane Satrapi, The Complete Persepolis (Pantheon); Hilary Mantel, Giving Up the Ghost: A Memoir (Fourth Estate) and Learning to Talk: Short Stories (Harper Perennial); Thi Bui, The Best We Could Do (Abrams).

Films: Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis (2007); Terence Davies, Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988).

 

Group 4 (American Literature)

7950 Atlantic Crossings: Anglo-American Literary Relations, 1798–1900

C. Gerrard/T, Th

This course aims to explore the crosscurrents and interconnections within British and American literary cultures of the 19th century. By looking at key texts across a wide variety of genres and modes, including epic, romance, the Gothic, realism, and naturalism, we will examine the sometimes tense and competitive relationship between American authors and British cultural models. We will explore a variety of themes, including American innocence and European sophistication; landscape and nature; history; self-reliance and community; sin, guilt, and the “double self”; slavery and abolition. We will conduct seminars around key pairings or groupings of pivotal British and American texts, supplemented by other contemporary materials. (This course carries one unit of Group 3 credit and one unit of Group 4 credit.)

Texts: Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (1798 and 1817); Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851) and “Benito Cereno”; William Wordsworth, The Prelude (two-book version of 1799), “Westminster Bridge” (1802), and Preface to Lyrical Ballads, William Wordsworth, ed. Stephen Gill (1984); rpt. (Oxford 1988) 595–615; Henry David Thoreau, Walden (1854); Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself,” “As I Ebb’d with the Ocean of Life,” and “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”; Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818); Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Huntly (1799); Edgar Allan Poe, Selected Tales (1837) (especially “William Wilson,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Black Cat”); selections from brycchancarey.com/slavery/poetry.htm (Phyllis Wheatley, “On Being Brought from Africa to America”; William Cowper, “The Negro’s Complaint” and “Sweet Meat”; Ann Yearsley, “A Poem on the Inhumanity of the Slave Trade”); Wordsworth, “The Thorn” (1798); Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (1850) and “Young Goodman Brown”; George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss (1860); Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth (1905). Most of these texts are readily available in Oxford World’s Classics editions or Penguin editions. There is an Easy Read or a Hackett edition of Edgar Huntly, ed. Philip Barnard.

7960 How to Be a Critic: Literary and Cultural Engagement from the 19th Century to the Present

D. Russell/T, Th

See description in Group 3 offerings.

7981 Queer and Now: A Generation of Queer Thinking, Writing, Living

M. Turner/M, W

Queer Theory emerged in the 1990s, in the throes of the AIDS epidemic, as one of the most vital areas of intellectual inquiry in the humanities, challenging our understandings of identity, gender, and sexuality, in particular. In this interdisciplinary course, we will tease out the multiple directions that the word “queer” takes us in. We will begin to map out the broad and diverse critical discourse of queer thinking over the past generation, while also paying close attention to some of the most pressing debates currently animating the field. Topics and problems we will explore include identities, sexualities, temporalities, homophobia, activism, deviance, and transgression. Key critics include Judith Butler, bell hooks, Beatriz Paul Preciado, Robert McCruer, and Michael Warner. We will read this theoretical material in conjunction with a range of novels, journals, historical documents, online media, film, photography, and painting. How have queer reality and possibility been imagined by artists and writers? Is there such a thing as a queer aesthetics? Is “queer” Anglo-American, or does the concept have global resonance? How queer is queer now? In addition to seminars, there will be a number of film screenings scheduled outside of class. (This course carries one unit of Group 3 credit and one unit of Group 4 credit.)

Texts: Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (Crossing Press); David Wojnarowicz, Close to the Knives (Vintage); Alison Bechdel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (Mariner); Derek Jarman, Modern Nature (Vintage); Andrea Lawlor, Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl (Vintage).

Films: Wong Kar-wai, Happy Together (1997); Jennie Livingstone, Paris Is Burning (1991); Jim Hubbard and Sarah Schulman, United in Anger: A History of Act Up (2012).

7986 Memoir at the Millennium: A Genre without Borders

C. Kaplan/T, Th
See description in Group 3 offerings.

 

Group 5 (World Literature)

7992 Homer, Odyssey. Epic of Loss, Adventure, and Return

F. Zeitlin/M, W

Sing to me of the man, O Muse, the man of twists and turns
driven time and again off course, once he had plundered
the hallowed heights of Troy.
Many cities of men he saw and learned their minds,
many pains he suffered, heartsick on the open sea,
fighting to save his life and bring his comrades home.

So begins the Odyssey, an epic account of survival and homecoming—the poem that we shall explore in depth throughout this course (24 books in six weeks). Odysseus is the most complex of all Greek heroes, showing courage and endurance on the one hand, but being a master of tricks, disguises, and lies on the other. The poem conveys the most normative ideal—a return to house, land, wife, and kingship. But it also leads outward to adventure, risk taking, encounters with the strange and supernatural, and secret pleasures. Throughout we will be attentive to the characteristics of oral poetry (e.g., traditional epithets, type scenes, formulaic descriptions) along with narrative strategies of storytelling. We will grapple with the larger issues of gendered strategies, family and society, disguise and recognition, death and immortality, the role of the gods, and more, according to contemporary concerns. The Odyssey, it is fair to say, has shaped our imagination and cultural values, whether for imitation, extension, revision, allegory, or even parody. Moreover, as one critic observes, “the Odyssey is a generic shape-shifter, changing from a heroic epic into a quest narrative, a revenge tragedy, a domestic comedy, a romance, Bildungsroman and biography.” Students may, if they wish, pursue any one aspect of the Odyssey’s legacy in their final papers—whether in literature, art, or film. Course outline: We will read four books each week, along with secondary material for each session, which will be posted on Canvas. Students will submit weekly written responses to the reading. A more comprehensive bibliography will also be available. Students are advised to acquaint themselves before the course begins with the first of Homer’s epics, the Iliad, which tells of the Trojan War itself (any translation), and urged to bring any supporting material (ancient to modern) that they like. (Not open to students who have previously enrolled in ENGL 7718.)

Texts: Homer, The Odyssey, trans. Robert Fagles (Penguin). Students may consult other contemporary translations (e.g., Lattimore, Fitzgerald, Lombardo, Wilson), but Fagles is the one we will use.

7993 Global Caribbean, Migratory Texts

C. James/M, W

Travel, migration, and global circulation are indispensable facets of the creation of the modern Caribbean. Understandably, concepts of mobility have also been vital to the production of Caribbean literature in the 20th and 21st centuries. Focusing on London, Paris, Berlin, Toronto, and New York as major conduits through which the migratory flow of Caribbean literary production takes place, this course will explore both foundational and emergent works of fiction from the English, French, and Spanish Caribbean. We will also analyse relevant theoretical texts which address concerns of border crossings, transnational geographies, and the negotiation of diasporic identities. (The French and Spanish texts will be studied in translation.)

Texts: Andrea Levy, Small Island (Picador); Gisèle Pineau, Exile According to Julia, trans. Betty Wilson (Univ. of Virginia); Cristina García, Here in Berlin (Counterpoint); David Chariandy, Brother (Bloomsbury); Angie Cruz, Let It Rain Coffee (Simon & Schuster); Rita Indiana Hernández, Papi, trans. Achy Obejas (Univ. of Chicago). Any edition of these texts will be fine. Additional readings (available during the sessions) will include essays and short stories by Austin Clarke, Dionne Brand, Sonia Rivera-Valdés, and Edwidge Danticat.