Graduate Schedules & Description Archive: Fall '06

ENG 500—Textual Practices I

(Open Only to English MA Students) Permission of Department is Required
course number: 2190
meets: Th 7:15-10:05 p.m. HU 111
G.Griffith

In this course we will examine some of the significant ways, within what we have come to think of as the Western literary tradition, in which texts have been constituted, read and interpreted. We will take a roughly historical and genealogical approach as we consider, inter alia, the differences between literary criticism and literary theory and between theory and praxis. Beginning with Plato’s less than welcoming attitude to the poet in the republic, we will read our way through a literary and material history of conflict, conquest, resistance and liberation to arrive at our own learned conclusions about textual practices/textual praxes. The “anchor” text in the course will be The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, but when we have gained our critical “sea legs” we will weigh anchor and set our hermeneutic sights on prose fiction by authors as varied as Jamaica Kincaid, Chinua Achebe, Roger Mais, Toni Morrison, Caryl Phillips, and Joseph Conrad.

ENG 516—Workshop in Fiction

(Permission of Instructor is Required – Submit Writing Sample to Humanities 336)
course number: 2191
meets: T 7:15-10:05 p.m. HU 114
L. Schreiber

Intensive practice in writing fiction. Emphasis on development of fictional technique and individual styles. Students' work is discussed and criticized by all participants in the workshop. Instructors may bring to bear on the criticism of student work a discussion of writings by pertinent authors.

ENG 517—Workshop in Non-Fiction Prose

course number: 7149
meets: T 4:15-7:05 p.m. SS 117
C.Yalkut

Nonfiction Writing: The Fourth Genre. A workshop in which students will write different kinds of essays, exploring a variety of techniques and approaches to nonfiction. Students will revise their work after discussing and editing each other’s copy, and get a sense of market realities by reviewing current print and online magazines. Three short essays, reader reports, queries, and a final paper, a magazine article intended for publication. Readings for this course are drawn from a constantly-changing roster of contemporary and late twentieth-century essayists, and may include nonfiction by (among others), Joan Acocella, Nicholson Baker, Jimmy Breslin, James Baldwin, Truman Capote, Arthur Danto, Joan Didion, Gerald Early, Adam Gopnik, Molly Ivins, Stuart Klawans, Seth Kugel, Anthony Lane, John Leonard, Mark Leyner, Bruce McCall, Louis Menand, Mark O’Donnell, Katha Pollitt, Calvin Trillin, Hunter Thompson, Jon Wiener, Patricia Williams.

ENG 542—Ghosts of Theory--Teletechnics and Memory Regimes

course number: 5840
meets: M 7:15-10:05 p.m. HU 111
T.Cohen

Today, the project of "theory" may appear less an intellectual episode that is dead than an ongoing biopolitical project involving the mutation of memory regimes. The course will selectively examine the present horizon of "theory" by exploring the role of technics in 20th Century critical thinking. Among the problems we will explore are: the politics of memory and the relation of text to media and image culture; historical re-inscription; anthropomorphism; alternative temporalities, and the problematic of war. In doing so, we will selectively examine precursor texts (Nietzsche, Benjamin, Freud, Heidegger) together with a series of critical projects (writers may include Derrida, Butler, Ronell, S. Weber, Stiegler, Zizek, Agamben, Badiou). Throughout, we will use active readings of exemplary work in the literary and cinematic canon to develop discussion (Melville, Hitchcock, Faulkner).

ENG 580—The Ethics Of Leaving in American Literature: Emerson and Thoreau

course number: 7153
meets: T 7:15-10:05 p.m. HU 113
B.Arsic

By “the ethics of leaving” I refer to a system of practices – of both thinking and acting – that organized “the art of living” in mid-19th Century America. Both Emerson’s and Thoreau’s ideas about thinking were based on one fundamental injunction: “leave your theory”; one has to be able to leave one’s thoughts and system of values. Such an injunction led to very complex theories about self-abandonment and self-identity. In Emerson’s case it was the basis of an ecstatic ontology or a theory of becoming, whereas in Thoreau’s case it required a practice of perceiving, paying attention, tactics of remaining focused, etc., that was possible only on condition that it was accompanied by certain motions of the body. This theory of thinking was the basis for their practical philosophy that comprised topics from self-crafting, the care of the self, the art of daily living (writing letters, eating, cooking, the ways of sleeping), and ideas of living with others (plants, animals, the Earth, with a special emphasis of the question of the Ocean), to the question of loving (which always requires the gesture of leaving another), and friendship. In terms of the ethical, the theory of compensation based on a certain idea of leaving introduced a particular theory of celebratory mourning, an ethics of burials, etc. Furthermore, it was the basis for an opposition to identity politics (hence Emerson’s imperative: leave your nation).
Even though the class will be focused primarily on Emerson’s and Thoreau’s thinking we will try to make broader theoretical claims and to relate the “ethics of leaving” to contemporary theoretical and ethical issues. There will be a somewhat challenging reading load. Assignments: mid-term take-home exam; final paper (MA students can do three shorter 6-8 page papers). Readings: Emerson (Essays, First and Second Series, The Conduct of Life, Later Lectures: The Powers and Laws of Thought; The Relation of Intellect to Natural Science; Natural Method of Mental Philosophy), Thoreau (Walden, A Week, Essays). Cavell (Emerson’s Transcendental Etudes, The Senses of Walden); Sharon Cameron, Writing Nature; Jane Bennett, Thoreau’s Nature; Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life; Michel Foucault, The Hermeneutics of the Subject; Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Nature, Course Notes from the College the France. In preparation for the first class students should read Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust, A History of Walking.

ENG 580 —Transatlantic Romanticism, Transatlantic Revolution, 1750-1850 (SEMINAR)

course number: 7154
meets: W 7:15-10:05 p.m. HU 111
J.Greiman

This course will approach the study of literary romanticism through four revolutionary moments – American independence, the French Revolution, the Haitian Revolution, and the revolutions of 1848. In this, the course will take up the intersection of two frequently linked (though highly contested) moments – the Romantic period and the era of democratic revolutions – but with a particular attention to the transatlanticism of both. Our readings will seek to move between the historicist and the literary, the material and the aesthetic, in order to explore the relationship of radicalism and writing in the transatlantic world. Rather than assuming a monolithic “Romanticism,” we will begin the class with readings in the various romanticisms that emerge from theoretical approaches to the figures and problems of the “high” romantic tradition in Europe. These will likely include: the literary absolute and the fragment (Lacoue-Labarthes & Nancy on the Schlegels), the rhetoric of defacement and disfigurement (DeMan on Rousseau and Wordsworth), the absence of a “people” (Deleuze & Guattari), and the idea of population in British romanticism (Ferguson on Malthus and Wordsworth). With a grounding in several theoretical approaches to “high” European romanticism, we will then explore possibilities for thinking another romanticism, one which develops around the radical politics and revolutionary failures of the transatlantic world. Moving into the American and French revolutionary period, our readings will address theories of rights, formations of sovereignty and the subject, and models of anarchy and resistance through readings in Jefferson, Paine, and Brown in America and Godwin, Wollstonecraft, and Burke in Britain. From the tremendous body of writing produced around the American and French revolutions, we will then consider the problem of a revolution that did not write itself in this way – the Haitian Revolution. We will end the course with readings in Marx, Melville, Douglass, Emerson, and Thoreau to consider the continuation of revolutionary thought and politics into 19th-century America, as well as their defeat in the “American 1848.” Throughout the course, we will be both attentive and resistant to the split that tends to erupt between the “literary” romantic and the transatlantic as a historicized category, seeking instead ways to think these critical constructs together through forms of writing that stage anarchy, terror, break, repetition. Masters students will be expected to write two papers (10-15 pages); doctoral students will be expected to write a seminar paper (25-30 pages) and present to the class.

In addition to the following texts, there will be an extensive course reader:
Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France
Thomas Paine, Common Sense and Rights of Man
Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Man and A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
William Godwin, Caleb Williams and Political Justice
Charles Brockden Brown, Wieland
Joan Dayan, Haiti, History, and the Gods
CLR James, The Black Jacobins
Karl Marx, The 18th Brumaire of Louis-Bonaparte
Herman Melville, Pierre; or, the Ambiguities and “Benito Cereno”

ENG 581—17th Century British Literature - Fictive Salvations in the 17th Century Now (SEMINAR)

course number: 15209
meets: W 4:15-7:05 p.m. PH 116
L.Cable

In an era renowned for new world exploration, technological advances and new individualism, Renaissance humanist optimism also had a dark side: deep anxiety over the ethical import of the ever-expanding human enterprise. Rapid change in political and economic spheres rendered social structures and cultural institutions newly insecure, and religious conflict continued to upset received ideas of cosmic order. Writers seeking to restore a credible sense of moral purpose to human activity used fictive modes of allegory, epic and romance to carry out philosophical inquiry into existential problems and their potential solutions. In this course we will read major humanist works of fictive salvation from the late 16th and 17th century in the context of critical perspectives on, and reading of, a contemporary literary masterpiece–one directly inspired by these early modern classics, yet written for children.

We will begin by reading critical studies of Philip Pullman’s contemporary classic for young people His Dark Materials to identify some useful perspectives on fictive salvation. But before taking up Pullman’s text, we will shift our historical attention to Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, followed by John Milton’s Paradise Lost – the title source and primary inspiration for Pullman’s trilogy. From Paradise Lost we will move on to two other 17th century works of fictive salvation: one religious–John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress; one secular–Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World. We will conclude with a return to the present by reading the Pullman trilogy itself, which comprises fantasy adventure novels The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. Although written for young people, Pullman’s His Dark Materials transcends age barriers by daring to treat young readers as fully capable of serious intellectual engagement with the same philosophical conundrums as had challenged his early modern literary forebears. Pullman’s iconoclastic demolition of the solutions proffered by his artistic inspirers, and his recasting of the problems themselves into a redemptive vision for humanity, seeks nothing less than what his predecessors had sought: to save humanity from itself by transforming human consciousness.

ENG 581—Victorian Literature: Representative Fictions

course number: 5965
meets: M 4:15-7:05 p.m. PC 355
R.Craig

A study of theories of representation in the arts, with a focus on narrative realism in the nineteenth-century novel. In addition to the studying “representative” texts, the class will consider the relation of fictional narratives to other forms of (re)presenting the real, including history, illustrated texts, and photography. In addition to selected readings in period and contemporary theories of narrative, we are likely to read authors such as Dickens, Gaskell, Trollope, Eliot, James, the Brownings, and Hardy.

ENG 681— Texts/Authors and Their Critics – Shakespeare and Marlowe (SEMINAR)

course number: 15389
meets: T 4:15-7:05 p.m. SS 131
M.Rozett

Born in the same year and often compared with one another, Shakespeare and Marlowe have prompted highly imaginative theorizing about the relationship between a writer's life and works. The speculation about Marlowe's political activities and violent death, like the efforts to reconstruct Shakespeare's early life, along with the authorship controversy and, more recently, arguments for Shakespeare's Catholic sympathies, all rely in part on interpretation of the plays and sonnets. This course will explore the relationship between textual criticism and biographical inference through a reading of plays, the sonnets, biographies, early and recent scholarship, and some examples of fiction biography.

Readings will include four plays by each playwright (and I will assume some familiarity with Shakespeare's most frequently taught ones and with the sonnets), Stephen Greenblatt's Will in the World, Charles Nicholl's The Reckoning, and excerpts from other biographies. We will end the course with a couple of innovative fiction biographies. Assignments will consist of two papers and an oral presentation.

ENG 681—Texts/Authors and Their Critics – Contemporary Authors (Institute Series Authors)

course number: 7157
meets: W 4:15-7:05 p.m. HU 127
E. Schwarzschild

This is a course that examines contemporary writers and it will be structured in conjunction with the New York State Writers Institute Fall 2006 Visiting Writers Series. We will study at least eight major writers, whose works range from fiction and nonfiction to poetry, playwriting and screenwriting. One principal work for each writer will be taken up in the context of the writer's corpus, the writer's biography, and the contemporary literary situation. Students will be expected to reflect both critically and creatively on each writer's work.

Since the Visiting Writers Series often has sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays, students will be encouraged whenever possible to be available for the relevant 4:15 p.m. craft talks and 8:00 p.m. readings by the Visiting Writers themselves. The course will also stand in parallel to the undergraduate English 350 course, a course that takes up some of the same material in survey fashion. That parallel will provide an opportunity to examine pedagogy as a part of the critical exploration of the writers studied.

The actual list of authors will be announced as the Visiting Writers Series schedule is confirmed, sometime in May 2006. Updates can be found on the New York State Writers Institute website (www.albany.edu/writers-inst). Recent Visiting Writers have included such authors as Kazuo Ishiguro, Margaret Atwood, Mary Gaitskill, Spike Lee, Horton Foote, and Julian Barnes.

Students will be expected to write one long, and one short critical paper as well as one creative project with a critical introduction. Class sessions will be in seminar/workshop format, and students will be expected to make in-class presentations.

ENG 685—African American Literary and Cultural Criticism

course number: 2192
meets: TH 4:15-7:05 p.m. HU 125
L.Thompson

This seminar explores the major debates and themes in African American literary and cultural criticism from 1900 to the present. We will examine the contributions and influences of selected African American scholars and assess emergent topics in the field. By reading key critical and theoretical essays we will chart the development and formalization of African American literary studies as a discipline. We will discuss such issues as canon formation, the race for theory, black feminism, literary aesthetics, black cultural studies, and black queer studies. Authors include: W. E. B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, Barbara Christian, Larry Neal, Hazel Carby, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Valerie Smith, Dwight A. McBride and Toni Morrison.

ENG 710—Textual Studies I: Survey

course number: 15212
meets: M 4:15-7:05 p.m. ED 022
B.Benjamin

This course offers an introductory exposure to critical terms and problems involved in advanced work in textual, critical, literary, and cultural studies. We will examine the historical emergence and evolution of “English” as a discipline, surveying a range of movements and methodologies that have been influential in shaping the current modes of critical discourse and interpretation being pursued within the field today. Our mapping of the field will pay close attention to the interventions and contestations posed by recent work in, among other areas of scholarship, cultural studies, globalization, feminism, race studies, institutionality and disciplinarity. The aim of this survey will be to provide members of the class with the analytic tools by which to articulate a composite framework for pursuing English studies in intellectual, critical, and professional terms

ENG 771—Practicum in English Studies

course number: 2198
meets: TH 4:15-7:05 p.m. HU 116
H. Elam

This course, entitled the "practicum," will raise questions about pedagogy as one of several problematic modes of communication in the West. From Plato's Socrates to Wordsworth's Nature and its scenes of instruction, or from Hegel to Lacan, the course will focus not merely on the "practice" that fosters communication but more centrally on the problems of thought that impede communication and are constitutive of "teaching." Requirements will include a term paper and seminar presentations.