Graduate Schedules & Description Archive: Spring '07

ENG 500 – Textual Practices I

section:6722
meets: W 4:15-7:05 p.m., PH 123
instructor: M. Pryse

(Open Only to English MA Students)
Permission of Department is Required

Students will work in this course primarily to slow down your own textual practices in order to develop the conceptual skills and ability to focus that will sustain you in thinking and writing about literature. We will read theory primarily in conjunction with fiction and poetry, the literature itself will require close reading, and the course will allow time for you to practice reading slowly and carefully. Theory selections will include short works by literary and cultural theorists Robert Scholes, Jonathan Culler, Jacques Derrida, Melanie Klein, Jacques Lacan, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Eve Sedgwick, Toni Morrison, and Judith Butler. Fiction selections will be drawn from the American canon and include the following writers: Henry James, Nella Larsen, and Toni Morrison. The first several weeks of the course will focus on selections from American poetry. Therefore the course is not simply “about” deconstruction, psychoanalysis, African American literary theory, or queer theory—terms that denote various “textual practices” in English studies—although we will of necessity talk about all of these because your own textual practices will require you to enter a larger conversation in order to move beyond the limitations of your private reading. Students will take turns bringing in and presenting a poem of your choice that allows the class to engage in some regular moments of collective reading practice. Two papers, essay final exam.

ENG 515 – Workshop In Poetry

section: 7109M
meets: 4:15 -7:05 p.m., ES 140
instructor: J. Johnson

Permission of Instructor is Required – Submit Writing Sample to Professor Johnson

The central text of this course is your own writing, and the exercises you do as part of your creative process. Please set up a notebook containing a section for each member of the group.

This workshop will explore three interrelated elements of writing poetry. The first is the development of each individual poet’s voice and visionary imagination. The second is the practical poetics and immediate technical concerns arising out of the work you bring to class. The third is the state of the art, both past and present, across time and across space and cultures, with which your own work interacts.

Accordingly, each writer will explore various techniques of vision and imagination, both those you already know and can share with the group, those others in the group know, and those of other writers and other cultures. Each writer will be expected to revise extensively, not for the purpose of making any single work better, but in order to find other poems and other possibilities in your work as it now stands, to explore the full range of what you can do with a given poetic idea. Each writer will be expected to provide supportive and inventive peer response in class, both at the workshop, and in written comments brought to class for return to the writers whose work is scheduled for discussion. And each writer will be expected to interact inventively with the state of the art as it now is: other poets, other texts, work, ideas and techniques (including those in multimedia performance and in digital media)that excite you or show you new possibilities in your own work.

To help us create a strong community of writers, this course will, by the 4th week of classes, have a website on WEBCT to which people can post questions, comments, work in progress, and finished texts to download.

Required work:

  1. Attendance: careful reading and response, both written and oral, to the work of your peers.
  2. 1 new poem or revision per week.
  3. Weekly exercise: not distributed to the group, unless you are particularly pleased with it and it becomes a poem.
  4. Contribution to our ongoing in-class poetics anthology of poetry you admire for its techniques or visions.
  5. A poetic manifesto or statement of your poetics and in what contexts you place yourself as a poet.
  6. A final group reading in which each poet presents about 10-15 minutes of material,

Contact information: Judy Johnson, jej84@mindspring.com, 518/442-4066

We will discuss as much work as we have time for, each week, on an ad hoc basis. But, in order to make preparation and written easier, we will have at least 4 people’s work formally scheduled for discussion each week, Please be sure that, when your work is scheduled for discussion, you have made it available both in class and on the website at least one week in advance.

ENG 516 – Workshop in Narrative and Short Story

section:2243
meets: W 7:15-10:05 p.m., HU 115
instructor: E. Schwarzschild

Permission of Instructor is required – Submit Writing Sample to Professor Schwarzschild (5-10 pages of fiction, Humanities 339)

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 521 – Composition Theory: Writing Across the Curriculum

section: 8502
meets: W 7:15-10:05 p.m. HU 132
instructor: L. Wilder

In the past two decades, the pedagogical program known as “Writing across the Curriculum” has influenced profound changes in the nature of undergraduate degree requirements that deserve the attention of scholars in English. Initiated with the intention of increasing opportunities for writing, ironically the designation of “writing intensive” courses that fulfill the new requirements has sometimes produced a perception among students and faculty that writing instruction and assignments should only occur in such courses. Additionally, there exists a highly unsettled debate over the informing theory of WAC programs and practice with expressivist “writing to learn” pedagogies situated against rhetorical approaches to the conventions of academic discourse (or “Writing in the Disciplines”). Furthermore, scholars of rhetoric and writing who investigate the role of writing in learning and the acquisition of disciplinary rhetorical knowledge often (and again ironically) experience difficulty bridging communication barriers and sharing their research with instructors assigned to teach WAC-designated courses. This course will explore these and other issues through an examination of WAC pedagogical theories and histories and WAC/WID research. While this course should be of particular interest to graduate students in English who increasingly are called upon to discuss their pedagogy in WAC terms when on the job market and who may go on to be asked to not only teach in but administer WAC programs or initiatives, graduate students in Education may also find this course valuable as should graduate students of any discipline interested in sustained reflection and research.

ENG 580 (1) – Models of History: 18th Century British Literature: Institutions of Enlightenment: Race/Writing/War

section:5874
meets: T 4:15-7:05 p.m. HU 134
instructor: M. Hill

This course explores the historical relationship between representation and social conflict--that is, between the idea of a peaceful communicative sphere known around 1740 as "civil society," and "war," a modality of social conflict placed outside the socius about the same time by republican configurations of "state." Between the time of the proto-communist Diggers and the bourgeois transformations leading to the French Revolution, war and peace were re-oriented in line with the idea, itself overflowing with "imperialist" contradiction, of representative government.

In what ways does "literary" representation, specifically the novel, presume to domesticate and make peaceable the subject of warfare? In what ways do certain practices of reading, new to the Enlightenment, address the persistence of a not-long-forgotten Hobbesian drift?

This course will look at the historical abandonment of war in favor of civilian forms of social organization--the domestic sphere, the middle class, "whiteness"--such that these forms ever actually existed. We will reconsider the episodes of disorder that found their way into the Enlightenment; and we will do so with an eye on the current historical moment where warfare is expanding to include what is today barely recognizable as the "civilian" way of life.

ENG 580(2) – Models of History: American Literature

section: 7110
meets: TH 4:15-7:05 p.m. BA 211
instructor: D. Byrd

The emergence of the American Empire after World War II was a formal and historical upheaval of a previously unknown order. Its founding tale was not a myth of origin but a myth of destruction. Its hero was not a culture bringer but an observer and an accursed story teller, who tells of a world in which distinction—even the difference between black and white—fails, leaving the story telling without even the most primitive element of narration. A new measure and a new address to information are, thus, required. Students who enroll in the course, if they do not know the instructor’s Poetics of the Common Knowledge, should perhaps give it at least a cursory look over the intercession. The readings for the course will include Alfred North Whitehead’s Science and the Modern World, Jean Piaget’s Structuralism, Charles Olson’s essay on Shakespeare and relevant late Shakespeare plays. Olson’s writings on Melville and history. Paul Metcalf’s Genoa. Louis Zukofsky’s Bottom: On Shakespeare; Melville’s Moby Dick; and Olson’s Maximus Poems. Music and painting of the period will also be given some consideration.

The Poetics of the Common Knowledge is available from Amazon.com and other book outlets. It is possible to find used copies on Abebooks.com. The Piaget and Metcalf books are out of print, and students should, before the beginning of the semester, find them used on Amazon.com or Abebooks.com. Genoa is included in Metcalf’s Collected Writing, V. 1, which can often be found at bargain prices.

ENG 581(1) – Studies In Literary Criticism: Women Playwrights

section: 8503
meets: M 4:15-7:05 p.m. AS 015
instructor: J. Barlow

The primary texts for this course will be modern and contemporary plays written in English by women from the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Australia. Starting from the assumption that drama reflects the culture that produces it (in all senses of the word "produce"), we will explore the relationship between the plays and the historical moments from which they spring as well as the intricate links between the texts and their critics. Among the issues to be examined are the marginalization of women's dramatic writings, the question of a female dramatic aesthetic, the role of race and class in both the creation and the reception of plays by women, the recent materialist feminist attack on realism, and the even more recent feminist attempts to recuperate realism. Among the questions we will explore are whether there is an identifiable tradition and/or aesthetic that links plays by women across cultures and how we can use various feminist dramatic theories as interpretive tools. Another concern will be the congruencies and dissonances between the "popular" response to individual plays and the academic evaluation. Finally, some attention will be given to the extent to which women's drama is shaped by and/or shapes the audiences for which it is written and performed as well as the different opportunities afforded to female playwrights in these different countries.

Playwrights studied will include some (but not all) of the following: Tina Howe, Wendy Wasserstein, Paula Vogel, Caryl Churchill, Margaret Edson, Sarah Ruhl, Jane Anderson, Lynn Nottage, Suzan-Lori Parks, Sharon Pollock, Pam Gems, Judith Thompson, Eva Johnson, Alma De Groen, Timberlake Wertenbaker,
Sarah Daniels, and Margaret Hollingsworth.

Critical and theoretical texts will include excerpts from most of the following: Sue-Ellen Case's Feminism and Theatre and Performing Feminisms: Feminist Critical Theory and Theatre; Jill Dolan's The Feminist Spectator as Critic; Lynda Hart's Making a Spectacle: Feminist Essays on Contemporary Women's Theatre; Brenda Murphy’s The Cambridge Companion to American Women Playwrights; Elaine Aston and Janelle Reinelt’s The Cambridge Companion to Modern British Women Playwrights; Enoch Brater's Feminine Focus: The New Women Playwrights; and Patricia Schroeder’s The Feminist Possibilities of Dramatic Realism.

ENG 581(2) – Studies In Literary Criticism: Other Speaking: Allegory in Early English Texts

section: 8504
meets: TH 4:15-7:05 p.m. HU 116
instructor: I. Murakami

Allegory has been much maligned in the modern era. Yet, as a figural language and generic mode allegory is crucial to understanding the complex operations texts in the medieval and early modern periods perform. In this course, we will consider allegory’s power to link literary texts to social discourses, assert authorial agency, and mask discussions of its cultures’ most inflammatory ideas—slipping them past the defenses of emergent subjects in denial and censorious political regimes alike. Examining a range of allegorical writing including epic poetry, moral drama, beast fable, tragedy, and city comedy, we will explore the varieties and shifting conceptions of allegory during the historical period framed by Chaucer and Ben Jonson. We will investigate how diverse theoretical paradigms, ancient to postmodern, facilitate or thwart our understanding of allegory, and we will ponder the degree to which the reader is always, as Maureen Quilligan insists, “a definite component of the form.”

ENG 641 – Critical Methods: Genealogy of the Scribe

section: 8505
meets: M 7:15-10:05 p.m. HU 019
instructor: P. Joris

“Physician heal thyself” goes the old Asclepian motto. “Knower know thyself,” would be the quasi-Socratic equivalent applicable to the intellectual, the worker-of-the-symbolic. How much does that worker in fact reflect on herself and on the conditions (social, technological, political) of her work— that is the question we will try to address in this course. We will investigate the figure of the scribe (the writer, the intellectual, the “clerc,” the professor, etc.) & his/her relation to the social/political episteme of his/her time, in & through history — always keeping in mind the question: “What can a public intellectual be, and do, here, today.”

The approaches will be manifold (historical, sociological, genealogical, ideological) as there is no single methodology that covers the field. To start we will measure the terrain via Regis Debray’s treatise on “mediology,” the Media Manifestos and study the relationship of the scribe (Debray’s “hommedium,” i.e. intermediary, messenger) to the socio- & techno-sphere of his/her age. From there we will branch out into specific investigations of intellectuals in situ, as individuals or as part of public groups, such as Edward Said, Julia Kristeva, Hannah Arendt, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques Derrida, Jürgen Habermas and others.

Students are expected to find their own specific subject of investigation, on which they will report during the seminars & which does not necessarily have to be an author/era on the reading list.

ENG 681 – Texts/Authors and Their Critics: Chaucer (Seminar)

section: 2244
meets: T 7:15-10:05 p.m. HU 027 H.
instructor: H. Scheck

Chaucer wrote during a time of great cultural flux and tremendous literary and artistic productivity that transcended traditional boundaries of gender and class. This seminar will focus on various texts by Chaucer and the cultural circumstances out of which those texts emerged. We will consider the ways in which Chaucer alternately supports and subverts dominant political and social structures of his day, as well as his various responses to political crises (the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 and the deposition of King Richard II) and religious dissension (the rise of Lollardy and other anti-Catholic movements and expressions). We will also consider why/how Chaucer came to be known as “The Father of English Poetry” and to what degree he still retains that distinction, as well as current conversations in the field of Chaucer studies. Students need not have prior experience with Chaucer’s language or texts. We will begin with the basics of Middle English and some historical background and then move towards developing historically aware, critical/theoretical responses to the texts. Assignments will include short presentations; regular response papers relating to critical and primary texts; and one 20-page seminar paper. For more information, contact Helene Scheck at HScheck@albany.edu.

ENG 685 – Special Topics: Reversions of Technology and Ethics/Politics

section: 6548
meets: TH 7:15-10:05 p.m. SS 255
instructor: D. Wills

The course will address questions relating to technology and ethics/politics from the point of view of a concept of "dorsality," or what comes from/operates behind. In this way we will problematize human relations based on the presumptions of 1) a face-to-face confrontation/interview, and of 2) a technology produced "after the fact" by the human. What does the facial or frontal presume and control by means of its visual field, and what does it exclude in terms of an other that cannot be foreseen? Can we conceive of a technology that, rather than being instrumental to the human, something it invents in full knowledge of what it is producing, instead functions "prior" to the human or animate. Such a rethinking seems to be called for by the impasses of ethical thinking regarding, for example, biotechnology.

A further line of investigation will draw out the implications of a thinking of dorsality for identity and exile, for a non-specific sexuality, and a politics of dissent. What different parameters of recognition or identification would be required if identity were to be conceived of as non-frontal? To what extent is home defined by a return that presupposes a departure? Can we think a dorsal sexuality that is not restricted to such transgressions or "perversions" as, for example, the anal, but instead functions (along the lines of an ethics) in terms of trust and surprise? Can we conceive of a politics other than by means of a rhetoric of refusal or dissent, a type of turning one's back?

Those questions will be investigated via analysis of theoretico-philosophical texts by Heidegger, Althusser, Lévinas, Derrida, Freud, God, Schmitt, Benjamin, and Nietzsche, and literary texts by Homer, Joyce, Broch, Rimbaud, and Sade.

ENG 720 – Textual Studies II: The Anti-Humanities?

section: 8507
meets: T 4:15-7:05 p.m. ED 021
instructor: E. Keenaghan

(Open Only to English Ph.D. Students)

Increasingly, the humanities--especially English Studies--are identified with what Louis Althusser called antihumanist thought, which challenges the early modern and Enlightenment presumption that the liberal, rational individual is the center of the universe. Because the humanities historically are founded upon the presumption that such an idea of humanity matters, and since literature and the arts are considered the apogee of human accomplishment, are those of us working in literary and cultural studies and subscribing to antihumanist theories merely contradicting ourselves? Or, are there better ways to conceptualize the relationship between humanism, humanitarianism, the humanities and their "anti-" counterpart? The goal of this course is twofold. First, you will develop a critical vocabulary and a genealogical understanding of theory that will help you in whatever period/concentration you pursue. Second, you will be compelled to develop a necessary and valuable critical approach: to treat literature as a theory unto itself. That is, we will not study philosophy and theory for its own sake, rather we will study it to understand how primary literary texts provide us with the means of thinking through the limits and possibilities for antihumanistic criticism and deconstructive approaches today.

We will begin by looking at two key classic texts, from which we will develop our working definitions of modern antihumanism: Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil and Louis Althusser's "Marx and Humanism." Then, we will cover short key works in structuralism and post-structuralism that contributed in different ways to the antihumanistic ethos that is still important to English Studies today (such as Levi-Strauss, Saussure, Barthes, Lacan, Barthes, Foucault, Derrida, de Man). In those weeks, we also will look at accounts that criticize and historically contextualize antihumanist thought (such as Levinas, Ferry and Renaud, Norman, Janicaud, Turkle, Halliwell and Mousley), so that we might put it in dialogue with post-World War II discourses of humanitarianism, human security, and human rights. Once we've established our critical foundations, we will dedicate 5 two- or three-week units reassessing the classic writings, in light of our reading from other theoretical traditions and moments, each paired with a major figure from modern American poetry who is deeply and explicitly vested in a self-described humanist project: (1) American pragmatism and liberal philosophy (Dewey, James, Arendt), with Wallace Stevens; (2) the critical theory of the Frankfurt School (Benjamin, Adorno, Marcuse), with Muriel Rukeyser; (3) the ethical and political turn in late poststructuralism (Foucault, Derrida, Butler), with Frank O'Hara; (4) contemporary postcolonial theory (Said, Spivak, Gilroy), with Derek Walcott. The final unit will be an in-depth study of Robert Duncan's Vietnam-era poetry and poetics, read as a re-theorization of humanism and contemporaneous with the start of French antihumanist thought. How do his work's difficulties and paradoxes force us to rethink the political and ethical potential of both poetry and theory?

Open to M.A. students with permission, as well as to graduate students from other departments. There will be minimal lecturing, so all students are expected to contribute to seminar discussions. Requirements for PhD students: (1) presentation on a theoretical text; (2) abstract and working bibliography for seminar paper; (3) seminar paper on theory and modern poetry (20 - 30 pages, authors studied may differ from those assigned). Requirements for M.A. students and students from outside English: (1) midterm paper on assigned theoretical text (8 - 10 pages); (2) working draft, with bibliography of final paper (5 - 7 pages); (3) final, researched paper on assigned theorist and assigned modern poet (10 - 15 pages). All students must read Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil before the first class meeting.

ENG 770 – Teaching, Writing and Literature

section: 2260
meets: W 4:15-7:05 p.m. AS 013
instructor: J. Berman

We will explore a wide variety of pedagogical issues, including how to tell the difference between a good and bad teacher, how to motivate students to do their best, and how teachers can make a difference in their students’ lives (and how students make a difference in their teachers’ lives). We’ll also be discussing practical issues, such as creating a reading list, encouraging class attendance, grading students, maintaining a strong teacher-student relationship, using reader-response diaries, choosing paper topics, discouraging plagiarism, developing a relationship between teaching and scholarship, commenting on students’ writings, and avoiding burn-out. I’ll be placing special emphasis on the pedagogy of self-disclosure. There will be weekly short papers (the first one being the best teacher you’ve had, the second being the worst teacher), and a long essay that focuses on creating a syllabus for the literature course each member of the class will be teaching next semester. The reading list will include one of my own books, Empathic Teaching: Education for Life, along with several articles.