New York University Department of English Spring 2013 Course Lists and Descriptions

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xENGL-UA 724.001

Italian American life in Literature

TR, 11:00-12:15

Instructor: Hendin

Satisfies advanced elective requirement

Italian American writers have expressed their heritage and their engagement in American life in vivid fiction or poetry that reflects their changing status and concerns. From narratives of immigration to current work by "assimilated" writers, the course explores the depiction of Italian American identity. Addressing and challenging stereotypes, the course explores depictions in film and television as well as the changing family relationships, sexual mores, and political and social concerns evident in fiction and poetry.  Situating the field of Italian American Studies in the context of contemporary ethnic studies, this course highlights its contribution to American literature.

ENGL-UA 735.001

Reading in Contemporary Lit Theory:

Reading Derrida

MW, 9:30-10:45AM

Instructor: Fleming

Satisfies the Critical Theory requirement

This course will assume no prior knowledge of Derrida's thought: its aim is to provide students with the experience of reading Derrida’s writing in a close and sustained manner.  The first half of the course will

focus on two early works, 'Of Grammatology' and 'Writing and Difference,' which we will study in conjunction with the texts (by Rousseau, Levi-Strauss, Foucault, Freud, Levinas, Hegel and others) that
Derrida addresses there.  The second half of the course will be concerned with Derrida’s later writings as these address the topics of literature, politics, and psychoanalysis.  Requirements are engaged and
informed participation in class discussion (which is to say it will be necessary to do the reading for each class), one short paper, and one long final paper.

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Readings in Contemporary Lit Theory:

Planetary Criticism/Death Drive/Aesthetics of Catastrophe
R, 2:00-4:45PM
Instructor: Apter
Satisfies the Critical Theory requirement

This course will examine theories of the death drive in the aesthetics of catastrophism drawing on classic texts by Freud, Italo Svevo, Melanie Klein, Lacan, Georges Bataille and Marguerite Duras, as well as recent work on worlds as places of catastrophe, dystopia, planetary dysphoria (depression), and earthly extinction (Ray Brassier’s “nihil unbound,” Eugene Thacker’s “dark pantheism”). The aim will be to emphasize psychical processes in diagnoses of planetarity, while trying to avoid a heavy-handed reliance on allegories of World System or the Planet or Capital that impute subjective personalities to political entities and geographic phantasms. We will experiment with an “ecology” of what Melanie Klein called “the depressive position,” as it suffuses every aspect of everyday life.

Sample Critical Readings:

Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, and Why War?

Lacan on Freudian Death Drive (sections: Book II, Seminar of JL and Ethics, Sem. VII)

Melanie Klein, on the depressive position

Georges Bataille, Erotism: Death and Sensuality

Selection, Alain Badiou’s Logics of Worlds

Selection, Ray Brassier, Nihil Unbound

Selection, Eugene Thacker, Dark Pantheism

Selection from Peter Sloterdijk, Critique of Cynical Reason and Rage and Time

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Death of a Discipline

Fredric Jameson on “Dystopia”

Jane Bennett, “The Force of Things: Steps Toward an Ecology of Matter”


Italo Svevo, Zeno’s Conscience

Marguerite Duras, The Malady of Death

Kathy Acker, Blood and Guts in High School

Christophe Ransmayr, The Last World

Samuel Delany, Dhalgren

Reza Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia


Jean-Luc Godard, Alphaville

Terrence Malick, Badlands

Lars von Trier, Melancholia

ENGL-UA 749.001

Queer Literature: JAMES BALDWIN: Race, Sexuality, and American Culture

TR, 3:30-4:45PM

Instructor: Boggs

Satisfies the Advanced Elective Requirement

James Baldwin is widely remembered today as a prose stylist whose language is infused with the sermonic cadences of the Harlem church, a civil rights activist, a black American expatriate in Paris, a friend to celebrities from Nina Simone to Marlon Brando as well as a celebrity of significant proportions himself. He is also increasingly regarded as one of the most important queer writers of the last century. This colloquium explores Baldwin’s life and work with particular attention to the ways his fiction and essays at once critique and reimagine the politics of race, sexuality, and nation in postwar America. While the focus will be on Baldwin, we will pair his writings with a consideration of the work of a number of writers and artists who influenced him or were influenced by him, including Richard Wright, Beauford Delaney, Jean Genet, Norman Mailer, Gayl Jones, and Toni Morrison. Along the way, we will also consider how Baldwin’s work anticipated many of the key insights of queer theory and provided the foundational texts for what is now called black queer studies.

Likely texts include Baldwin, The Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction, Go Tell It on the Mountain, Giovanni’s Room, Another Country, If Beale Street Could Talk; Jean Genet, Funeral Rites; Annamarie Jagose, Queer Theory: An Introduction; Gayl Jones, Corregidora; Norman Mailer, Advertisements for Myself; Dwight McBride, ed. James Baldwin Now; Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination; Quincy Troupe, ed. James Baldwin: The Legacy; Richard Wright, Native Son

xENGL-UA 761.001

Topics Irish Lit:Irish Literature and Migration: England, Australia, the US and Ireland

MW, 9:30-10:45AM

Instructor: Almeida

Satisfies advanced elective requirement

For more information, please contact the Irish Studies Department.

xENGL-UA 761.002

Topics Irish Lit: Enlightenment and Ideology:  Ireland in the Digital Archive
MW, 11:00-12:15PM
Instructor: Waters
Satisfies advanced elective requirement

For more information, please contact the Irish Studies Department.

xENGL-UA 761.003

Topics Irish Lit: : Globalization and Irish Drama

TR, 9:30-10:45AM

Instructor: Londe

Satisfies advanced elective requirement

For more information, please contact the Irish Studies Department.

ENGL-UA 800.001

Topics: Critical Theory: Literature and the Life Sciences

W, 3:30-6:10PM

Satisfies the critical theory requirement

Investigates the interplay of “Life” in literature and Literary Theory with the conceptions of life developed in the “Life Sciences” and Human Evolutionary Biology in particular. Literary texts are not only part of a literary history, but they offer also crucial insight into epistemological questions and the history of science; they are paradigmatic instances of Historical Epistemology. The seminar explores necessity and possibility of a new literary history vis-à-vis the challenge of Historical Epistemology.

The seminar proceeds from a presentation of recent theories of life (from Whitehead via Canguilhem and Bachelard to Evelyn Fox Keller, Hans-Jörg Rheinberger and Isabelle Stengers) to the discussion of paradigmatic instances of literary history (Shakespeare via Milton, Keats and Darwin to Eliot, Joyce and Pynchon).

Basic theory texts to begin with:

A.N. Whitehead, Concept of Nature, Cambridge UP 1920.

Georges Canguilhem, Selected Writings, Zone Books 1994.

Erwin Schrödinger, What is Life? Cambridge UP 1967.

Evelyn Fox Keller, Making Sense of Life, Harvard UP 2002.

ENGL-UA 800.002

Topics: Cross Cultural Encounters on the Renaissance Stage

MW, 3:30-4:45PM

Instructor: Forman

Satisfies the pre-1800 Requirement

The Renaissance witnessed both an explosion in theatrical innovation and an increasingly global world--the beginnings of global trade, the “discovery” of the New World, and bouts of both conflict and cooperation among the world’s powers. By reading plays that stage encounters between Europeans from different countries and of different religions, between Europeans and the Ottoman Empire, among natives of “India,” and among Europeans, Native Americans, and African slaves, we will explore how and why the stage became such a significant site for the representation of cross-cultural encounters. Some questions we will explore include:  how do these plays represent conflict—between self and other and over goods and territory—and what possibilities for reconciliation do they imagine? How do these plays understand the differences encountered as a result of travel, trade, and exploration? Why did the theatre develop a fascination with the exotic (for example, with cannibals and pirates)? In what ways did what it means to be European, Christian, or even a good wife or husband get defined and altered by these encounters? In keeping with the theme of encounters, this course will stage a number of creative encounters from the period: between works from different European nations; between plays and the prose works with which they were in dialogue; and between written and visual materials, for example, engravings of the New World and its inhabitants. In the cases where translations exist, we will also read accounts of how non-Europeans viewed Europe. Likely authors include, Shakespeare, Marlowe, Cervantes, Montaigne, Behn, Fletcher, DeBry, and Massinger.

ENGL-UA 0925/0926

Senior Honors Thesis/Colloquium

Restricted to Honors Students Only.

To complete the honors program, the student must write a thesis under the supervision of a faculty director in this individual tutorial course. The student chooses a topic (normally at the beginning of the senior year) and is guided through the research and writing by weekly conferences with the thesis director. Students enrolled in the thesis course are also expected to attend the colloquium for thesis-writers (V41.0926). Consult the director of honors concerning the selection of a topic and a thesis director. Information about the length, format, and due date of the thesis is available on the department’s website.

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Topics: Medieval Literature:

Medieval Women’s Writing

T, 9:30-12:15PM

Instructor: Dinshaw

Satisfies the Senior Seminar Requirement OR Pre-1800 requirement

This course will concern writings by, for, and about women, written in English in the late medieval period. Our goal will be to observe the interrelations between texts and lived lives—or even what we might call the medieval textual production of women. In pursuing such a goal, our central texts will be the exuberant Book of Margery Kempe, a book that is in crucial ways made up of and by other books. We will read works Margery read (listened to) and works that can be argued to have structured her own life, including saints' lives, devotional works, and mystical treatises. Surrounding the Book with other relevant texts, we will also read documents concerning heresy, household letters, and medical treatises on women's problems, among other texts. Expect long readings, in both Middle English and modern English translation.

Some experience in reading the Middle English language (in Brit Lit 1 or equivalent) is a prerequisite for the course. Seminar members in groups of two will be required to choose a major text on the syllabus and become experts on it, particularly on its relation to the Book of Margery Kempe. A seminar presentation on this research will be required, as well as weekly response papers and a final 12-15-page paper on a topic developed in consultation with the instructor.

ENGL-UA 951.001

Topics: Renaissance Literature: Early Modern Women Writers

W, 9:30-12:15PM

Instructor: Feroli

Satisfies the Senior Seminar Requirement

This course will examine the varied contributions women made in print and manuscript to the intellectual life of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England. While traditionally seen as a period devoid of female-authored texts, a growing scholarly canon demonstrates that women’s writings played a significant role in early modern politics and culture. As we will see, a diverse group of women (including members of the aristocracy and the middling sort, spies and prophets, and the Queen of England herself) produced texts in a wide range of poetic and prose genres.

The course will pay close attention to the key developments in intellectual and political history that shaped this body of writing, including: the Reformation, the influence of a female monarch, the English Revolution, the rise of the new science, and colonial expansion. In addition, we will explore the relationships of these women to the material conditions of writing and publication. With respect to early modern literary culture, we will consider the following: the influence of literary circles and religious sects, print versus manuscript publication, collaboratively authored texts, and the roles of transcribers and editors.

The principal authors and genres the course will consider are as follows:

Poetry: Anne Lock, Elizabeth I, Isabella Whitney, Mary Sidney Herbert, Lady Mary Wroth, Aemilia Lanyer, Anne Bradstreet, and Katherine Phillips

Martyr-writing: Anne Askew

Drama: Elizabeth Cary

Prophecy: Eleanor Davies, Grace Carrie, and Anna Trapnel

Quaker Polemic: Martha Simmonds and James Nayler, Priscilla Cotton and Mary Cole, and Katharine Evans and Sarah Chevers

Civil War Memoirs: Anne Halkett and Lucy Hutchinson

Captivity Narrative: Mary Rowlandson

Prose Fiction: Margaret Cavendish and Aphra Behn

ENGL-UA 953.001

Topics: 18th C British Literature:

Satire and Social Commentary in Eighteenth Century British Literature

R, 9:30-12:15PM

Instructor: McDowell

Satisfies the Senior Seminar Requirement

As last year's exhibition Infinite Jest: Caricature and Satire from Leonardo to Levine at the Metropolitan Museum suggests, authors and artists have been using satire to advance personal, political, and social arguments since well before the beginnings of "English literature." This course will give students an opportunity to read, discuss, and write about major texts of the so-called "golden age of English satire." After an introduction to representative theoretical statements and critical truisms about satire, we will focus on the development of this genre or mode and on the sometimes profound disconnect between celebrated theoretical statements (17th to 21st century) and actual social practice. Questions we'll consider include: what is satire, and what is its social function? Is it a moral art, or a rhetorical one? What is and isn't funny? Can satire transcend its historical moment? Should we expect it to? If the goal of satire is reform, does it work? Supplementing our reading of canonical literary texts with our own research into eighteenth-century popular culture and with critical readings from Simon Dickie's Cruelty and Laughter: Forgotten Comic Literature and the Unsentimental Eighteenth Century (2011), we will pay special attention to the unsentimental underside of eighteenth-century "polite" culture and to the ethical dilemmas of laughing at other people. At least one of our class meetings will be held in a local special collections library such as the Fales Library and Special Collections of Bobst Library or the New York Public Library, allowing students an opportunity to view and work with three hundred year-old materials. Requirements: meticulous attendance, seriously engaged participation in discussions, a short digital archives assignment, two formal (i.e. polished) papers, and informal writing via our Blackboard course site throughout the semester. Authors include Horace, Juvenal, Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and Jane Austen.

ENGL-UA 961.001

Topics: 19th C American Lit:

Reading Henry James

W, 2:00-4:45PM

Instructor: Crain

Satisfies the senior seminar requirement

This seminar will foreground the experience of reading Henry James--yours, mine, ours; the experience of his first readers, his own re-reading for the 1907-9 New York Edition, the ways in which reading and readers (of texts, but also of people, situations) are constituted and represented in the works. We will combine our close attention to vocabulary and tropes, to sentences and scenes, and to what goes unwritten in James’s deferrals and blanks, his “succession[s] of flights and drops,” with attention to the material conditions that produce our readings. What difference does the book-in-hand make, in varying editions and revisions? What material conditions prompted James’s famous stylistic turns from the early magazine tales to the late novels? Ghost tales will guide our thinking about reading effects and the trope of prosopopoeia (making the absent present, the trope of reading, after all), while James’s late mid-life novel (What Maisie Knew) and tales of childhood will help us think about scenes of instruction.

We’ll meet in Fales Library and make use of editions of tales and novels in book and periodical formats.

Student work: weekly posts about passages for class discussion: one oral presentation; one short essay; final research essay

Works (supplemented by pdfs and online texts):

Tales of Henry James, Norton

What Maisie Knew, Penguin

The Portrait of a Lady, Penguin

The Ambassadors, Penguin

The Turn of the Screw, Norton

ENGL-UA 965.001

Topics: Transatlantic Literature:

Placeless Modernism

T, 9:30-12:15PM

Instructor: Shaw

Satisfies the senior seminar requirement

This class considers case studies in a global history of modernism in relation to two competing models of place: the ethnographic turn toward place that began in the late eighteenth century and continues in a wide array of projects today and, on the other hand, the idea of frictionless internationalism manifest in early twentieth-century modernism, and perhaps most of all in the slightly later concrete poetry movement.  There will be particular emphasis on poetry, much of which we will read closely in class.  Examples will come from Turkey, Lebanon, Morocco, Algeria, Brazil, Scotland, Ireland, England, The United States, Russia, Germany, France, The Francophone Caribbean (Martinique), Switzerland, Greece, Italy, and Iraq.   

ENGL-UA 970.001

Topics: Critical Theory: Working with Archives: Theory and Practice

R, 2:00-4:45

Instructor: Freedgood/Margaret Long

Satisfies the senior seminar requirement

In this interdisciplinary course, team-taught by a literature professor and a visual artist, we will examine archives and the ideas of knowledge that organize them. We will study a series of artists and writers who have used archives to question the power relations embedded in them, including Lisa Robertson, Sam Durant, Walid Ra’ad (The Atlas Group), Ilya Kabokov and Raqs Media Collective. These artists have used existing archives, mined internet data, or invented their own archives to produce new ideas about storing, reading, and retrieving knowledge. We’ll also read major theorists of the archive, including Foucault, Derrida, and Walter Benjamin, as well as specialists like Ann Cvetkovich on queer archives, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak on the colonial archive, Allan Sekula and Akram Zaatari on photographic archives, and Jacqueline Goldsby and Elizabeth McHenry on tracking down African-American archival material. A final project will involve creative archival research on a subject of students’ choosing: a poem, a photograph, a family heirloom, a souvenir, or other subject/object of interest.

ENGL-UA 970.002

Topics: Critical Theory: Reading Freud

M, 12:00-2:15PM

Instructor: Fleming

Satisfies the senior seminar requirement

‘Freud is our prose-poet of the heart’s desire to break’ – Mark Edmundson

‘Freud was never all that keen about being a therapist. He preferred being a writer and writing about why he preferred being a writer’ – Adam Phillips

This seminar will focus on Freud’s writings, with particular attention to those that have proved of enduring interest to students of literature. Our aim is to encounter Freud’s daring and intricate thought in its own terms: no prior knowledge of this thought will be assumed. Texts be read may include The interpretation of Dreams (1900), ‘Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria’ [Dora] (1905), ‘Three Essays on Sexuality’ (1905), ‘Creative Writers and Daydreaming,’ (1907), ‘Analysis of a Phobia in a Fiver Year Old Boy’ [Little Hans] (1909], ‘Family Romances,’ (1909), ‘The Antithetical Meaning of Primal Words,’ (1910), ‘The History of an Infantile Neurosis’ [the Wolf Man] (1910), ‘The Theme of the Three Caskets,’ (1913), ‘The Uncanny,’ (1919), ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle’ (1920), ‘Dreams and Telepathy’ (1920) and ‘Psychoanalysis and Telepathy’ (1921). Where possible we will be using the new English translations edited for Penguin by Adam Phillips. Requirements are one short (5 page) paper, one longer (12 page paper), and regular attendance at and informed participation in the seminar.

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