Fall 2018 Graduate Courses
This course introduces a major Irish (post)modernist writer, arguably the most important playwright of the twentieth century. Reading a range of Beckett’s fiction and drama, and with the help of various critical essays, we will place Beckett in his biographical, geographical, theatrical, and historical contexts. Texts will include Waiting for Godot, Endgame, short fictions early and late, and several plays for television. Work will include a class presentation, a short project, and a final long essay for which original archival research in Burns Library is an option. No previous familiarity with Beckett is required.
Desire, for this course on the history of the novel, will lead to formal questions: the construction of plot, the creation of character and calibration of sympathy, the genre’s complex modalities of narration and perspective. Does the tradition offer a progressive elaboration of techniques for representing psychology or interiority? What possibilities does its mapping of social relations adumbrate for how such relations might change? Developing a critical vocabulary for the careful reading of fiction, and focusing especially on free indirect style (represented thought), we will move between a series of 18th- through 20th-century novels and theoretical accounts of the genre.
The current growing interest in environmental issues is reflected in contemporary literature across genres, including fiction, journalism, life-writing, poetry, and film. This course examines this literature, and connects it to contemporary scholarship exploring what the humanities can offer to debates surrounding urgent ecological concerns. Race in particular will remain an important feature of the course’s discussions.
We read five canonical texts from the 18th century—Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s Travels, The Rape of the Lock, She Stoops to Conquer, and Sense and Sensibility—with critical essays from a range of literary and cultural perspectives, including Formalism, Marxism, Feminism, New Historicism, and Postcolonialism. Focusing on characteristic questions and critical moves that can result in very different readings, we ask “What is at stake for each perspective? How do we turn critical understandings into pedagogy? What do we teach when we ask students to read critically? What are the best strategies for getting them to do so?” Written assignments include short analytic essays and lesson plans.
Department permission is required
Designed for students whose first language is not English, this course will emphasize the oral/aural language skills required for success in graduate work. It will provide students the opportunity to hone their speaking and listening skills through group discussions, presentations, and targeted practice in pronunciation, stress, and intonation through the reading of poetry and tongue twisters. The course may be particularly beneficial to those with teaching responsibilities at BC. Non-credit and offered free of charge by GSAS to its students during the fall semester. Students who enroll in the course are expected to attend all classes throughout the semester.
Fulfills the Theory requirement
This course is an in-depth introduction to key figures and movements in Contemporary Theory, with an emphasis on live theorists working today. We will read essays (some from The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism) and books by theorists such as Freud, Lacan, Kristeva, and Žižek (psychoanalysis); Derrida (deconstruction); Barthes, Foucault (cultural theory); Benjamin (Marxist theory); Deleuze; Said (post-colonial theory); Cixous, Butler (feminism/gender theory); along with Badiou, Nancy, Ranciere, and Agamben. No prior experience with Theory is necessary. One required mid-term paper (6 pages) and a final paper (12 pages).
This course promotes broad and deep familiarity with poems by Shakespeare, Donne, Herbert, and Marvell. It will afford some attention to the transition from manuscript circulation to print and from print to digital publication: the access that we have to Shakespeare’s sonnets uniquely through print; some implications of Donne’s eschewing print for his poems and yet preparing his sermons to be printed; the making of Herbert’s manuscript into a book by the Little Gidding community; the erratic history of disseminating Marvell’s lyrics. The phase of the course given to Donne will explore emerging digital resources that are creating unprecedented opportunities for readers and for scholars.
This course will explore Yeats’s major works, with a special emphasis on his poetry. We will examine issues of form and poetics; we will also engage with his work’s social, political, and historical contexts and concerns. We will engage with a wide range of contemporary scholarship on Yeats, as well as Yeats’s own formulations and theorizations of his work.
Fulfills the pre-1900 requirement for undergraduates
This course “Romantic Texts and Contexts” provides graduate students with an advanced introduction to the scholarly and critical study of poetry published in the British Romantic era (1780-1834). It is appropriate both for students who have had some undergraduate course work in the field and those who are relatively new to British Romanticism. We will read novels and poems in various genres (lyric, narrative, and dramatic) and in relation to various ways of contextualizing literary works. Authors will probably include Wollstonecraft and Austen, Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, and Keats, and selected women poets (Smith, Hemans, Robinson).
We consider how American literature and culture have responded to the formal, social, and conceptual challenges posed by cities. We also consider approaches to the interdisciplinary task of relating our interpretations of novels, films, and works of nonfiction to the historical facts of city life in particular places and times. Primary texts on the syllabus may include Howells' The Rise of Silas Lapham, Dreiser's Sister Carrie, Petry's The Street, Simon and Burns's The Corner, Chinatown, and Blade Runner. Students' options for written work in the course will include traditional scholarship, journalistic or essayistic alternatives, or a teaching portfolio.
This course will acquaint you with the essential resources to carry out the central tasks of literary scholarship. Bibliography (broadly defined as the investigation of the production, dissemination, collection, location, and identification of literary artifacts) is indispensable to scholarship and criticism of all kinds, just as a critical sensibility guides our choice of what books to look for. You will be guided through the reference works and databases available in the Boston College library and others, discuss the goals, purposes, and future of the field of literary studies, and produce an original project based on archival sources.
How does twentieth-century American literature use the human body to map cultural and representational borders? How does the immediacy of the lived body disrupt its deployment as symbol, metaphor or text? How can criticism and theory speak to the urgency and materiality of the body’s experience without ignoring the way in which it is culturally constructed? This course will focus on representations of the body to explore the cultural construction and dissolution of borders between subjectivity and embodiment, life and death, health and illness, whiteness and “color,” individual and national identities. Course topics will include grief, ghosts, wounds, objects, trauma, violence, space, sexuality and technology. In the process of interpretation, we will trouble conventions of literary analysis by introducing other sorts of texts – photographs, music, film, material culture – that highlight the role of visual, tactile and aural epistemologies.
Primary texts may include fiction by William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, Ernest Hemingway, Nella Larsen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Nathanael West, Marilynne Robinson, and Don DeLillo, as well as selected works of poetry and nonfiction. We will explore the critical and theoretical underpinnings of our analysis with selected writings about the body by philosophers, theorists and cultural critics including Elaine Scarry, Julia Kristeva, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Dominick LaCapra, Patricia Yaeger, Bill Brown, Tim Armstrong, Elizabeth Grosz, Iris Young, Cathy Caruth, Judith Butler, and Jean Baudrillard.
This seminar for PhD students in their third or fourth years will be run as a series of workshops structured to provide practical advice about how best to facilitate the successful transition from graduate student life to a professional life in academia. Topics will include the Conference Paper, the Scholarly Article, the Dissertation, Teaching and the Academic Job Market.