Graduate Seminar Listings 2019-20

Below are the Graduate Seminars being offered throughout the 2021-2022 academic year. 

Fall 2021

INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Richard Douglass-Chin

TOPIC: African American Literature Course Description: This course will examine African American literature in its modern and postmodern developments. Beginning with the crucial influence of African visual art and African philosophies upon European/American modernism in general, as well as the work of early postcolonial African-Caribbean writers Frantz Fanon and Aimé Césaire, we will investigate African American literature in particular—WEB DuBois’ Souls of Black Folk (1903), the complex relationship of writers such as Alain Locke, Nella Larsen and Zora Neale Hurston to “primitivism”; the influence of jazz and blues aesthetics upon African American writers; the significance to African American literature of Negritude, the New Negro Movement, the Harlem Renaissance, the queer writing of James Baldwin, and the Black Arts Movement; how postmodern African American writing has emerged out of earlier modern literary forms. Finally, we will examine how and why the very parameters of African American literature have come into question, through the development of diasporic and transnational studies that stipulate what Paul Gilroy has termed the “Black Atlantic” rather than area studies based upon North American and European geopolitically-defined nations. In considering the work of Zora Neale Hurston, Ishmael Reed, Langston Hughes, and African Canadian poet NourbeSe Philip (whose Zong! was published by an American press) in conjunction with the petition of “Belinda” to the Legislature of Massachusetts in 1783, we will explore the ways in which America (in not only its Southern, but also its Northern states) has been powerfully shaped by its entanglements in the slave trade in the Caribbean, and how crucial connections have always existed among writers of what we might call, in terms of the Black Atlantic, African-diasporic literature of the Americas.

Tentative Assignments:

Insight papers 15%

Conference-style Seminar & moderation of class discussion 25%

Paper proposal 15%

Final Journal-style Paper 25%

In-class participation 20%

Primary Texts: Nella Larsen, Quicksand (1928) Penguin 2002 Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1934) Harper 2006 Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952), Vintage 1995 Ishmael Reed, Mumbo Jumbo (1972) Scribner 1996 Toni Morrison, Jazz (1992) Vintage 2004 Belinda, “The Cruelty of Men Whose Faces Were Like the Moon: Petition of an African Slave to the Legislature of Massachusetts,” The American Museum or Repository of Ancient and Modern Fugitive Pieces, Prose and Poetical (1783) NourbeSe Philip, Zong! (2008) Wesleyan 2011

INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Dale Jacobs

TOPIC: 21st Century Irish

Course Description: Irish writers have long chronicled what it means to be Irish, both individually and collectively, using fiction as a way to interrogate the state of the nation and the self. How do Irish writers working in the 21st century respond to the question of what it means to be Irish now? How do they examine the relationship between tradition and social change? How do they chronicle what it means to live in rural Ireland now? In urban Ireland? How do they think through issues like the Celtic Tiger and the financial collapse of 2008? How do they respond to issues of emigration? To the ongoing tensions in Northern Ireland? How do these writers confront their collective and individual pasts? How do they use formal innovation as a way to confront complex issues? In this seminar, we will examine these and other questions as we think through Irish fiction in the 21st century.

Tentative Assignments:

Reading Journal 30%

Seminar Presentation 20%

Class Participation 20%

Final Project 30%

Primary Texts: Barrett, Colin. Young Skins. Barry, Kevin. Beatlebone. Burns, Anna. Milkman. Costello, Mary. Academy Street. Enright, Anne. Actress. Healy, Dermot. Long Time, No See. McCormack, Mike. Solar Bones. McInerney, Lisa. The Glorious Heresies. Rooney, Sally. Normal People. Ryan, Donal. The Spinning Heart.

Winter 2022

INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Mark Johnson

TOPIC: Queer Children/Childhood in Shakespearean Drama

Course Description: This course will first consider the role of the Child and constructions of childhood in modern queer theoretical debates, and then (through deliberate anachronism) will apply those theoretical models and critiques to representations of children and childhood in selected dramatic works of Shakespeare in order to both elaborate the distinctions between modern and early modern constructions of children/childhood, and also to interrogate the relative cultural functions of those representations. Although we will use the Queering Childhood essay collection and its critical Introduction as a starting point for our enterprise, the course will study drama not considered in that text.

Tentative Assignments

Conference paper proposal and submission exercise (1)

Annotated bibliography of five secondary sources

Insight papers on two (2) plays

Two seminars focused on selected secondary readings

One conference-length final paper

Primary Texts

Higginbotham and Johnston, eds. Queering Childhood in Early Modern English

Drama and Culture (Palgrave Macmillan).

Shakespeare, William. Much Ado About Nothing

_____. King John

_____. The Winter’s Tale

 _____. Macbeth

Prerequisites: None, but undergraduate level Shakespeare coursework would be an asset.

INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Carol Davison

TOPIC: The Brontes

Course Description: This seminar will examine six Brontë novels alongside various works of their juvenilia and poetry. The focus will be on the literature they wrote, its critical heritage, and the efficacy and variety of critical and theoretical tools/approaches – interdisciplinary and otherwise – available to assess it. Topics for discussion will include the Brontës’ engagement with Victorian socio-political, religious, and cultural issues, particularly as taken up in the periodical press and in Haworth/Yorkshire; the incredible influence of Patrick Brontë, libraries, and childhood education, reading, writing, and the visual arts; the significance of genre choices; the gender/genre question; the negotiation between self and community; intertextuality; the politics and poetics of constructing “Britishness”, especially in relation to Ireland; contemporary debates about slavery/the slave trade, and the representation of, empire; the writer and ethics/aesthetics; readership and literary production; narrative and character development strategies; poetic techniques; gender, race, and class representations and relations; and the manipulation of myth/folktale/fairy-tale.

Students are well advised to begin their reading in the summer of 2021.

Tentative Assignments:

  1. 4-page critical evaluation of Wuthering Heights, 15%.
  2. 4-page review of a recent critical article/chapter devoted to a Brontë work, 15%.
  3. 30-minute Seminar Presentation with Q&A, 20%.
  4. 12-15-page Final Essay and Annotated Bibliography of 4 related essays, 30%.
  5. Participation, 20%.

Primary Texts

Tales of Glass Town, Angria, and Gondal: Selected Writings – the Brontës (2010, ed.)

Poems by Currer, Acton, and Ellis Bell (1846)

Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey (1847)

Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (1847)

Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (1847)

Anne Brontë, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848)

Charlotte Brontë, Shirley (1849)

 Charlotte Brontë, Villette (1853)

 Prerequisites: While there are no prerequisites for this course, previous courses in Romantic and/or Victorian literature will serve as extremely helpful foundations.

Fall 2021 & Winter 2022

INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Susan Holbrook

Course Description: This two-term Creative Writing Seminar is an advanced writing workshop focussing on process, development and completion of new writing.* The writing may be of any genre, including a mix of genres. The seminar is designed to improve students’ writing skills, including editing skills and skills of reading as a writer. Students are expected to prepare high quality, polished work (revised, not first draft). The seminar operates primarily as a workshop, to which, with instructor guidance and feedback, students submit writing and discuss each other’s work. Students are encouraged to cultivate an exploratory, experimental open-mindedness to writing, in order both to consider the possibilities of what it means to write as a contemporary practice, and to receive as well as make critical yet insightful, constructive commentary on peers’ writing. The seminar engages the theories and practices of writing by contemporary authors. Students will read and respond to assigned readings by published contemporary writers in areas that might include poetry, poetics, theory, fiction, drama, and mixed genre.

Tentative Assignments:

Writing 50%

In-class critique and participation 35%

Presentations 15%

Texts: TBA. Seminar participants will be required to read a number of recently published books and essays. Some of the books will be selected during the term with input from participants themselves.

Prerequisites: Admission by acceptance of portfolio submitted together with application to the Department.

*“New” writing means work that is composed by the student during and for this course. Up to 15% of it may go towards shaping the thesis project (on this subject, see the Department’s General Guidelines for MA thesis writing).