Document Actions

 

Advanced Courses

Advanced courses deepen experience in literature; a major goal is depth. Advanced courses build on the foundational and elective courses and prepare students to write a thesis in literature. In these courses, students are asked to problematize ideas, give more detailed analysis of texts, and demonstrate “independent foraging” for critical material. Critical readings are assigned by the professor, but students are also expected to find their own critical material and apply criticism regularly in their papers, presentations, and discussions.

Dante and the Secular Sublime
Literature 303 Filkins
4 credits
After a discussion of Dante’s documented love for Beatrice in the Vita Nuova and a brief re-reading of the Inferno, we will follow Dante’s journey through the twilit realms of Purgatory, followed by his arduous ascent to the ecstatic incandescence of Paradise as set down in The Divine Comedy. Along with the philosophical and religious consequences of the poem, we will also explore the political and historical realities that helped inform its conception and composition, in addition to considering its merits as a literary work. Through critical and biographical readings, we will seek to paint a larger and more detailed picture of Dante the poet and his times in order to think more deeply about what led Dante to compose this most fantastical of poems. Comparative readings of scholarly and poetic translations will also help us to get closer to the original poem, as well as the reasons for its enduring appeal among writers and scholars, and both believers and non-believers alike, to this day. Prerequisite: Sophomore standing and a 200-level literature course or permission of the instructor.
This course is offered every three or four years. Last taught S11.
Kafka and the Kafkan
Literature 304 Filkins
4 credits
Beginning with Kafka’s novels, The Trial, Amerika, and The Castle, the course will explore what is meant by the idea of “The Kafkan,” a term posited by Milan Kundera as a fitting alternative to “The Kafkaesque.” We will then move on to trace this element, as well as Kafka’s influence, in novels ranging across a number of cultures and eras of the last century. Works considered will include Samuel Beckett’s Molloy and Malone Dies; H.G. Adler’s The Journey; Witold Gombrowicz’s Ferdyduke; J.M. Coetzee’s The Life and Times of Michael K.; Jorge Luis Borges’s stories; W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz; Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated; and Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore. Prerequisite: Sophomore standing and a 200-level literature course or permission of the instructor.
This course is generally offered once every three or four years. Last taught S10.
Faithful Thinkers: Emerson, Goethe, Thoreau, Barfield
Literature 305 Hutchinson
4 credits
In proposing the concept of the “faithful thinker” in 1836, Ralph Waldo Emerson addressed what he believed to be the limitations of traditional science and religion as ways of understanding the world. Unfortunately, he never tried to develop the epistemological basis for his concept or found a way to put his theory into practice. Others, however, did. In his botanical studies, as well as his studies of light and color, the German writer and naturalist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe systematically developed a preliminary methodology of faithful thinking, which he called “exact sensorial imagination.” Indebted to both Goethe and Emerson, Henry David Thoreau’s natural history writing illustrates the philosophic, literary, and scientific consequences of looking at the natural world with their ideas and methods in mind. Finally, the work of the 20th-century English philosopher Owen Barfield articulates the historical and epistemological bases for faithful thinking and indicates various practical consequences stemming from its application to contemporary problems. A study of their literary, philosophical, and scientific writings can add a new dimension to our understanding of Romanticism, both past and present. In addition to studying key works by these four writers, we will briefly look at some instances and explorations of “faithful thinking” among contemporary writers and scientists (e.g., Arthur Zajonc, Craig Holdredge, David Seamon, Henri Bortoft). Prerequisite: Sophomore standing and a 200-level literature course or permission of the instructor.
This course is generally offered once every three or four years. Last taught S12.
Poe, Hawthorne, and Melville
Literature 306 Hutchinson
4 credits
Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Herman Melville emerged as distinctive and influential voices in American poetry and prose during the first half of the 19th century. This course examines some of their major works: Poe’s poetry, fiction, and literary theory; Hawthorne’s tales and romances; and Melville’s short stories and novels. In different ways, all three writers engage in a critique of American life and character that is sharply at odds with the more optimistic attitudes expressed by such contemporaries as Emerson, and Whitman. Prerequisite: Sophomore standing and a 200-level literature course or permission of the instructor.
This course is generally offered once every three or four years. Last taught S11.
Modern Poetry: Major Authors
Literature 310 Filkins, Holladay
4 credits
After a brief look at the intellectual and poetic sources of modern poetry, the course focuses on the lives and works of selected 20th-century poets. The writers studied change each time the course is offered. In past years, the course has considered such pairings as Yeats and Eliot or larger groups such as Williams, Stevens, Moore, and Sexton. The roles of convention and innovation in modern verse receive attention, as do the philosophies and poetics manifest in the work of the poets chosen for study. Prerequisite: Sophomore standing and a 200-level literature course or permission of the instructor.
This course is generally offered once every three or four years. Last taught S10.
American Modernism: Making it New
Literature 311 Rodgers
4 credits
This course is a detailed examination of the literature of American modernism in its intellectual and historical contexts. Students read Pound’s “Hugh Selwyn Mauberly,” Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” Stein’s Three Lives, Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Hemingway’s In Our Time, Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, Toomer’s Cane, and Cather’s My Antonia. They also study selected poems by Cullen, Cummings, Eliot, Frost, H.D., Hughes, Amy Lowell, Masters, McKay, Moore, Pound, Robinson, Sandburg, Stevens, W.C. Williams, and others. Topics discussed include the movements (imagism, vorticism, symbolism, cubism, futurism, the Harlem Renaissance), the attitudes (the postwar temper, the revolt against the village), the tenets (the tradition of the new, the impersonality of poetry, the avant-garde role of the artist), the centers (Chicago, Paris, London, New York), and the little magazines and papers (Poetry, Little Review, Blast, Others, The Crisis) that helped to define and shape the writing of the period. Prerequisite: Sophomore standing and a 200-level literature course or permission of the instructor.
This course is generally offered once every three or four years. Last taught S09.
Bellow, Updike, and Roth
Literature 317 Rodgers
4 credits
Saul Bellow (1915–2005), John Updike (1932–2009), and Philip Roth (1933--) have each been awarded every literary prize available to an American novelist, as well as most of the major international prizes, and Bellow received the Nobel Prize in Literature. In this seminar, students will read important works by each of them: Bellow’s The Adventures of Augie March, Herzog, and Mr. Sammler’s Planet; Updike’s Early Stories, Rabbit, Run, Rabbit Is Rich, and The Complete Henry Bech; and Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus, Portnoy’s Complaint, The Ghost Writer, The Counterlife, and American Pastoral. Prerequisite: Sophomore standing and a 200-level literature course or permission of the instructor.
This course is generally offered once every three or four years. Last taught F11.
The Theater of the Absurd
Literature 319 Rodgers
4 credits
This seminar offers an intensive examination of major writers whose work shaped and embodied one of the most important movements in 20th-century drama. The focus will be on close reading of a number of plays by four or five authors in their literary, cultural, and philosophical contexts. Writers and texts will vary each time the course is taught and may include Pirandello, Cocteau, Beckett, Camus, Sartre, Genet, Ionesco, Pinter, Albee, Havel, Mrozek, and Stoppard. Prerequisite: Sophomore standing and a 200-level literature course or permission of the instructor.
This course is generally offered once every three or four years. Last taught S10.
Literary Theory
Literature 321 Fiske
4 credits
This course considers some of the major arguments in modern literary theory. It begins by discussing the advent of English as an academic discipline. Next, students consider some of the major schools of modern literary theory, beginning with Structuralism and concluding with Postmodernism. Texts include works by Saussure, Jakobson, Foucault, Kristeva, and Derrida. Each student’s research project involves a presentation to the class and a term paper. Prerequisite: Sophomore standing and a 200-level literature course or permission of the instructor.
This course is generally offered once every two years. Last taught F10.
Five Books of Moses: Hermeneutics and the Hebrew Bible
Literature 322 Fiske
4 credits
Hermeneutics can be understood as the art of interpretation of sacred scripture. What is the meaning of a text? How can that meaning be illuminated? What is the author’s intent? What are the questions one must ask when the author is divine? This course will center on the Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These five books offer richly textured and intricately woven motifs, powerful inner structures of sound, echoes, allusions, repetitions, and complex narrative and rhetorical force. Further, ideas of primeval history, patriarchy, deliverance, law, sacrifice, ritual, holiness, rebellion, and the covenant find their home here. Over the last 20 years there has been an explosion of literary study of the Hebrew Bible, and we will do both a close reading of the text and an examination of some of the theoretical issues that are fundamental to it. We will read secondary literature by biblical scholars such as Harold Bloom, Leslie Brisman, Martin Buber, Mary Douglas, Everett Fox, Joel Rosenberg, and Gershom Scholem, and by creative writers such as Isaac Bashevis Singer, Bernard Malamud, John Milton, and William Blake. Prerequisite: Sophomore standing and a 200-level literature course or permission of the instructor.
This course is generally offered once every two years. Last taught S12.
The Inklings
Literature 330 Hutchinson
4 credits
C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Owen Barfield are the best known members of the loosely knit group of writers and thinkers known as the Inklings. Along with others, they met in Oxford in the years before and after World War II to discuss literature, philosophy, and religion. Though their writing is not part of the mainstream of modern British fiction, it is increasingly being recognized for its significant contributions to modern literature and philosophy, as well as Christian thought. This course focuses on their lives, their relationships with one another, their religious beliefs, and such major works as Lewis’s deep space trilogy and mythopoeic fantasies, Williams’s novels of theology and the supernatural, Tolkien’s Ring Trilogy, and Barfield’s studies of language and consciousness. Prerequisite: Sophomore standing and a 200-level literature course or permission of the instructor.
This course is generally offered once every three or four years. Last taught S10.
Modern Latin American Novel: The Boom and Beyond
Literature 363 Roe
4 credits
This course will analyze why and how certain novels by 20th-century Latin American writers catapulted to success and an international readership in the 1960s and after. Known as the Latin American Boom, this phenomenon continues to affect publishing, writing, and reading. Students will situate these novels and their writers in a historical-political-cultural context in order to understand their roles at home and abroad. Topics include: Reactions to Modernism, the Cuban Revolution, Magical Realism, innovative narrative strategies, the economics of publishing, and the growth of the media. Authors to be included: Cortázar, Fuentes, García Márquez, and Vargas Llosa, among others. Prerequisite: Sophomore standing and a 200-level literature course or permission of the instructor.
This course is generally offered every three or four years. Last taught F10.
Literature Tutorial
Literature 300/400 Staff
4 credits
Under these course numbers, juniors and seniors design tutorials to meet their interests and programmatic needs, which may be either literary or creative. A student should see the prospective tutor to define an area of mutual interest to pursue either individually or in a small group. A student may register for no more than one tutorial in any semester.