For planning purposes, please note that we typically offer 3-4 classes each semester, and one graduate course in the summer (usually Summer II).
The 3-4 courses include at least one required course (L501, L502, G660), one Creative Writing course (fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction), and one Literature elective (including L680).
Topic: Film Adaptations of Literature
Books and movies use entirely different formats, yet most Hollywood films are adaptations of literature. How does a narrative change in the adaptation process, and what are the implications of those changes? What effect does the type of source material have on an adaptation? Do low-brow genres translate better to the big screen than high art? This class will consider these questions and others raised by film adaptations. We will examine several versions of texts and consider the strategies, agendas and pleasures of the adaptation process. Texts may include The Talented Mr. Ripley, Brokeback Mountain, and Wonder Woman.
Poetry writing workshop on the study of prosody and form (including formal elements of free verse) in the context of writing by class members. This course will be a workshop and forum for creative student work, in which students will be expected to write new poems and comment on the poems of their peers. Over the course of the semester, we will also read from 19th and 20th century U.S. poets, as a way to give ourselves a grounding in poetic history and the potentialities of poetic style, covering the poetic movements including modernism, The New School, the Chicano Arts and Black Arts Movements, Feminism, and working class or "proletarian" poetry. In addition to short response papers, and comments on fellow students' work, students in this seminar will be expected to produce between 7 and 10 poems over the course of the term in a final portfolio.
Topic: Shakespeare and the Sonnet Tradition
In this seminar, we’ll explore themes of love and problems of argument through a reading and analysis of Shakespeare’s sonnets in the context of the sonnet tradition from Petrarch to the present. We’ll look at how the sonnet tradition has developed and changed over time. Changes occur not only as innovations upon this small, intricate form, but also as thematic revolutions. Traditionally, sonnets were written by men in praise of an ideal woman; but when Edna St. Vincent Millay and other women of the twentieth century write sonnets, the gender perspective is reversed. Women writers reshape the imaginative possibilities of love. Already in the work of Shakespeare, the Petrarchan model undergoes surprising transformations. In the sonnets of Milton and the Romantic poets, love is not the central concern of sonnets. By the nineteenth century, and certainly throughout the twentieth century, the form itself is liberated. The traditional form, with its strict rhyme schemes and standard meter, is loosened in the hands of the Modernists. Our readings will help us to follow an important strand of literary history, as well as to master the knowledge of an intricate form and to appreciate subtle variations.
This course is designed to introduce students to the primary approaches of contemporary literary studies at the graduate level, and we will do so by exploring works from the early- and middle-nineteenth century periods with the following question in mind: How do literary, cultural, and national identities emerge and evolve in the nineteenth-century United States? The methodological “moves” we practice will include performing sustained and focused close readings, researching and incorporating detailed information about the object of study’s cultural moment, narrowing research questions and topics, finding and engaging with recent work in the field, and, as needed, identifying tools from specific theoretical schools to aid in our analyses. And of course, putting all of these together. Lots of work, but very doable, and we will practice and incorporate each element as we also explore the contemporary discipline of American Studies, which is focused on how cultural forms participate in the construction of national (and other) identities. We will read a lot of secondary scholarship, some theory, and primary work from Lydia Maria Child, Herman Melville, and Harriet Jacobs.
In this introduction to scholarship in the field of composition/rhetoric, we will study how literacy is shaped by a variety of culturally determining factors such as ethnicity, class, religion, and geographical location. We will look at examples of literacy experiences from historical texts, from second language learners, from immigrant American groups, and from relatively isolated American communities such as the Amish to see how the standards and values governing literacy shift through time, are re-established from group to group, and are negotiated from location to location. Even as these standards and definitions of literacy provide the basis for a shared community identity, they can also pose formidable obstacles to individuals trying to join a new community or trying to communicate between communities. By studying the cultural mechanisms of literacy across these comparative contexts, we can begin to identify the specific ways in which they determine community relations, shape the education of children, regulate access to knowledge and power, and become tools for progress or obstacles to social change. In this context, we will also consider the impact of technology in reshaping community boundaries and challenging cultural standards of literacy.
In this fiction workshop, students will dedicate the semester to writing a novella -- a fictional form whose length is somewhere between that of a short story and a novel. For our purposes, the target length will be roughly 60 pages. This is a writing workshop, so a significant portion of the course will be devoted to discussing one another’s excerpts as your novellas evolve. We will read published novellas (by Herman Melville, Franz Kafka, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, George Saunders, Clarice Lispector, Flannery O'Connor, Teju Cole, Sandra Cisneros, etc.) for analysis and inspiration. By the end of the semester, you will have written a complete draft of a novella and revised a significant section of it.
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