Recent Seminar Descriptions

Fall 2018

English 5190 -- Bodies of Work:  Dickinson and Whitman (Dr. Andrew Knighton, Mondays, 6:00-8:45)

This seminar explores the work of the two most prominent practitioners of nineteenth-century American poetry:  Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. We will situate their work within the traditional narratives of American literary history, framing it within various cultural, political, economic, generic, and formal contexts.  Students will gain familiarity with these critical discourses as well as with the conventions of various types of professional practice (a research paper, a formal presentation, and poetic recitation and explication).  We will also consider how bodies themselves are thematized in the work of these two poets – whether they are represented as laboring bodies, as sites of pleasure and desire, as embodiments of political identity, or as expressions of the natural world. Here, too, assumptions about the unity or totality of these bodies cannot be sustained, as Dickinson and Whitman depict bodies as fragmentary, as collective, as incomplete – the body is understood as a relay through which non-individuated affects and intensities pass.  We will seek to understand such accounts of the body with reference to the economic and social context of the late nineteenth century (which was replete with this social fascination with the unstable meanings of corporeality).  Just as the work of Dickinson and Whitman insists that we think of poetry as process and not merely product, so too does it insist that we forge a theory of selfhood and the body that privileges becoming rather than being. 

English 5400 – The Orient and the Oriental Tale (Dr. Nicole Horejsi, Wednesdays 6PM – 8:45PM)

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the French translator and Orientalist Antoine Galland brought the Arabian Nights’ Entertainments to Europe. Soon translated into English, the Nights continued to enthrall audiences throughout the century, competing even with the epics of Homer and Virgil: indeed, Horace Walpole exhorted a female correspondent, “read Sindbad the Sailor’s voyages, and you will be sick of Aeneas’s.” This seminar will examine the powerful vogue for Oriental tales in eighteenth-century British literature, beginning with the Arabian Nights and tracing its influence especially through drama (Dryden, Manley, Pix) and the developing novel (Haywood, Johnson, Sheridan, Beckford), on to the birth of “Romantic” Orientalism often marked by the publication of Walter Savage Landor’s Gebir. What does the Orient—or rather Orients—come to symbolize and evoke for writers and audiences in the long eighteenth century? How might we begin to explain its popularity and appeal? Questions of gender and alterity will also take center stage as we consider how British writers used the Orient to engage with various cultural “others” in the popular imagination.

English 5700 – Charting Empires and Re-iterations of Geopolitical Historiography, Human Rights and the Literary Imagination (Dr. Hema Chari, Mondays 3:05PM – 5:50PM)

In this seminar, we will study selected works of modern and contemporary world literature written in English or translated into English from other languages. We will look at narratives of imperial conquest and colonial resistance, rebellion and independence, national and transnational identities. The course will cover diverse geopolitical regions and cultures, colonized or otherwise affected by the political economy of imperialism and neo-imperialism. The writers we will be reading express a range of apprehensions and anxieties about dominations, collaborationist ideologies, loss of independent identities, isolation as well as connections between cultures, subjectivities and historiographies. Students will analyze the complex ways in which writers, representative of modernist and contemporary world literature, portray transnational and globalized cultures and societies. The comparative literary framework of this course will help enrich the students’ literary landscape, enhance their capacity for critical thinking, and deepen their understanding of world literature. Through this seminar, not only will students become conversant with a variety of literary trends and cultural traditions from around the world, but they will also be cognizant of the increasingly cosmopolitan and globalized nature of contemporary society. In addition, the course will also take into consideration the ways in which these writers question and portray the complexities of human rights to provide a deeper understanding of key concepts of human rights such as “freedom of expression,” “dignity,” “the individual” and “empathy.” The course pays particular attention to the numerous portrayals of human rights and of the different ways in which literary representations question and promote such concepts as “human rights” and “humanitarianism.”


Spring 2018

English 5400 Culture and Society in 14th Century England through William Langland’s Piers Plowman, from the A to the B to the C version. 

Dr. Michael Calabrese


This class will study the A Version of William Langland’s great Middle English poem, Piers Plowman, and will explore his revisions in the B and C texts, as a way of introducing the students to medieval English culture and society in the 14th century, through the second most prominent author of the period (after Chaucer) William Langland.  The poem is in Middle English, in alliterative long lines, and we will read one to two chapters per week (the chapters are called in the poem passūs [L. steps]). Students will give oral presentations on critical issues in Langland studies, leading to the composition of a 15 page essay, which should employ, just as a rough guideline, 8-10 secondary sources, most of which should post-date 1990.   Students taking this class will become deeply familiar with the literary, religious, and political culture of medieval England and will be able to read, pronounce, understand and recite Middle English Alliterative poetry. Piers Plowman, an encyclopedic document, full of references to contemporary ideological controversies, and full of Biblical and liturgical allusions, is the most important poem of the English Middle Ages, after the Canterbury Tales. To study it is to become literate in medieval language, literature, and culture—the goals of our course. Required texts: 1. Vaughan Míceál F, ed. Piers Plowman: The A Version. John Hopkins University Press, 2011.

2. Elizabeth Robertson and Stephen H.A. Shepherd, eds. Piers Plowman. Norton Critical Editions, 2006. 3. Michael Calabrese, An Introduction to Piers Plowman, University Press of Florida, 2016. 


English 5040: Theories in Composition and Rhetoric

Dr. Kathryn Perry


Why and how do we write?


Why and how do we teach writing?


In this course, we will study the diverse approaches to teaching college composition. By reading from a wide range of scholarship, we will gain an understanding of the history, research, theories, and pedagogies arising from the discipline of composition and rhetoric. While some of these texts are aimed at orienting grad students and new teachers, others are research studies that offer revealing insight into what rhet/comp research looks like in action. By the end of the course, you will not only know the arc of key issues and ideas in this discipline, you will also gain an understanding of how rhet/comp scholars do research and engage each other in disciplinary debates. Your final seminar paper will enact the kind of researched exploration we will have read, and your own scholarly voice will fill a specific gap in the field. In other words, while I want you to be invested in learning the content of this course, I also want you to build and assert your own scholarly identity into these ongoing conversations.

The course will include a civic engagement component; you will work with a local literacy nonprofit in order to practice the writing pedagogies we have been studying in class.


Tentative Reading List:

  • Cross-Talk in Comp Theory: A Reader, edited by Victor Villanueva and Kristin Arola. NCTE, 2011. 3rd edition.
  • Rewriting: How to do Things with Texts by Joseph Harris. Utah State UP, 2006.
  • Lives on the Boundary by Mike Rose. Penguin Books, 1989 (or 2005).


ENGL 5190: Nineteenth-Century American Periodical Literatures

Dr. Maria Karafilis

We will examine the rise and influence of periodical culture and magazine writing in the nineteenth-century United States. After theorizing the space and time of journal writing and reading as well as the work of the periodical as a hybrid text (periodicals included fiction, poetry, travelogues, scientific treatises, history, advertisements, sheet music, illustrations, and recipes, among other genres), we will focus on several case studies of popular magazines in the 19th-century US (such as the Atlantic Monthly, Godey’s Lady’s Book, the Southern Literary Messenger, or Frederick Douglass’s Paper). In our study of the periodical, we will analyze attendant issues including shifting conceptualizations of authorship, aesthetics, print culture, commodification and mass production, and the literary marketplace, as well as the ways in which the journals treated significant controversies of the day including Indian relations, slavery and abolition, financial crises, and changing cultural forms and genres.

**There will be readings due the first class session. Registered students will receive an email detailing the assignment or contact the professor for the information at**


ENGL 5190: Theoretical Approaches to Modern Fiction

Dr. Jun Liu


This graduate seminar studies the fictional works of Virginia Wolf (Mrs. Dalloway), William Faulkner (The Sound and the Fury), Joseph Conrad (The Secret Sharer), Ernest Hemingway (In Our Time) and Franz Kafka (The Metamorphosis and two other stories) from various theoretical approaches such as formalism, psychoanalysis, deconstruction and Marxism. While formalism enables us to appreciate the formal experimentations with fiction, its limitations will be critiqued and remedied from the other theoretical perspectives. A useful overview of theories as related to modernism is Astradur Eysteinsson’s The Concept of Modernism, which is required for this seminar.


These fictional texts will also be read in historical and cultural contexts so that we will understand how modern fiction is a force of resistance to oppressions, exploitations and alienation in the modern world. For example, we will gain an understanding of how race, gender and class constitute the sociosymbolic order of power and how modern fiction attempts to change or deconstruct such an order.


Important Announcement: By the time we meet for the first week, Chapter 1 of Eysteinsson’s The Concept of Modernism should be read. Participants should bring this book to class.


Required Textbooks:


Conrad, Josephthe. Secret Sharer and Other Stories. Dover thrift edition. New York: Dover, 1993.

Eysteinsson, Astradur. The Concept of Modernism. Cornell UP, 1990.

Faulkner, William. The Sound and the Fury. Second critical edition. New York: Norton, 1994.

Hemingway, Earnest. In Our Time. New York: Scribner, 1996.

Kafka, Franz. The Penal Colony: Stories and Short Sources. Trans, Willa and Edwin Muir. New York: Touchstone, 2000.

Richter, David H. The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. Third edition. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007.

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, 1925.