Program Courses

Recent Offerings

Below you'll find course descriptions from some of our department's recent offerings. Please keep in mind that specific seminars will vary each semester, depending on the availability of professors and their specific teaching goals.

Sexuality Before Stonewall with Dr. Bill Albertini: Spring 2024

Popular histories of sexuality—including LGBTQ histories—tend to follow one of three trajectories: one begins with late-1960s liberation in the wake of the sexual revolution and the Stonewall Riots; another, drawing on Michel Foucault, begins with the creation in the late 19th century of the medical definitions of homosexuality and heterosexuality; the third assumes that stable sexual identities have existed across time. Rather than attempting to produce one historical narrative, in this course we'll take a deep dive into two important historical moments: after a brief stop in the later 19th century, we’ll focus on the modernist artistic and sexual experimentation of the Harlem Renaissance and the tense period just after WWII but just before the 1960s birth of contemporary LGBTQ-rights movements.

As we examine literary and cultural works from these periods, we'll uncover surprising encounters, powerful attachments, delightful desires, and odd aesthetics. We'll ask new questions about the ways that sexuality, gender, race, ethnicity, and class intersect in the works and times we explore. Authors might include: Theodore Winthrop, Walt Whitman, Willa Cather, Wallace Thurman, Nella Larsen, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Ann Bannon, Allen Ginsberg, Frank O’Hara, as well as Hollywood and experimental film.

Transatlantic Vampires with Dr. Piya Lapinski: Spring 2024

This course will be structured around a fascinating and enduring trope of the Romantic Gothic tradition, the vampire. Beginning with a look at the vampire tradition in British and European literature and culture, we’ll move to the other side of the Atlantic and look at vampirism in contemporary films and novels in a different context as well. We’ll discuss the “vampire epidemics” in 18th century Europe and look at the way this idea evolved to grip the imagination on both sides of the Atlantic. However, the term vampire is not to be taken completely literally. I am more intrigued by the metaphoric potential of the vampire and its ability to shift and inhabit different literary texts and visual media through a series of transformations—including those of race, gender and sexuality. Therefore, we will be encountering literal as well as figurative vampires here. The course will range from British and European 19th century writers such as Goethe, Keats, Coleridge, Hoffman, LeFanu—to reinventions of the vampire metaphor in 20th century contemporary incarnations such as Anne Rice’s female vampire Akasha, rewrites of Stoker’s Dracula, Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Neil Jordan’s Byzantium (2012), and most recently Isabel Canas’s novel Vampires of El Norte (2023). There will also be a nod to the vampire in popular culture (Buffy, Underworld, etc.). The course will involve some film, and some theoretical essays as well as literary texts.

The 1960s in Contemporary Culture with Dr. Jolie Sheffer:  Fall 2023

Since 9/11, there has been an explosion of narratives set in the long 1960s (ca. 1955 – 1975), particularly those interested in revisiting the politics of the era in order to reckon with present-day concerns like police violence against communities of color, economic inequality, political apathy. This course considers contemporary fascination with the 1960s as a foundational moment for identity politics and coalition-building, as well as for failures of interracial solidarity movements. In novels, memoirs, podcasts, television shows, films, and theater, the era serves as a mirror to our own time and as a reflection of an increasingly distant past. In particular, this course considers how 21st-century authors and creators revisit the past through the trope of the adult child confronting their parents, either literally or figuratively, and of confronting their familial and national legacy(ies). 

Medieval Bodies with Dr. Erin LabbieL Fall 2023

Medieval poetry, prose, vita, and hagiography present bodies that are multiply fantastic, disciplined, metamorphic, complex, and dynamic. These bodies include those of kings and queens, courtiers, ladies, peasants, laborers, monsters, saints, criminals, as well as maps of the political body and psyche. They are alternately and often simultaneously decent and obscene, healthy, diseased, abject, beautiful, magical, tortured and revered. Medieval bodies illustrate how food and medicine, pain and pleasure, truth and beauty, are objects of desire, repulsion, excess, and they function as locations of knowledge in Middle English texts. Medieval bodies are almost always queer and disruptive to ideological systems. They are marked and complicated by language, gender, class, and race.

In this graduate seminar we will focus on the ways that medieval subjects are represented in poetry and prose c. 1066-1475. Our readings will examine many anonymously written poems and Breton Lays, as well as poetry and prose written by authors including but not limited to Marie de France, Geoffrey Chaucer, Dante Alighieri, Margery Kempe, and Julian of Norwich. We will consider these literary texts in the context of literary and critical theories that inform ways that bodies are represented, interpreted, analyzed, and deployed to form an understanding of medieval identities and the politics of aesthetics. We will focus on different ways in which the body signifies, speaks, is read, is presented in poetry, is consumed, is subject to desire and disease, and is mobilized politically. Our readings will include poetry as well as medieval medical texts, images, and we will study cultural artifacts spanning from the Middle Ages to their uses to contemporary literature and culture. We will study a broad range of methodological approaches to reading the medieval body in terms of race, class, gender/sexuality, and different abilities (both physical and psychological). Ultimately, our engagement with texts will help us address questions about the differences among the everyday life of medieval subjects and the fantasies of those subjects that influence our retrospective assumptions about medieval identities, aesthetics, and politics.

Course Offerings

Below you'll find descriptions for the courses offered in the MA in Literary & Textual Studies. For more specific course descriptions, see the recent offerings.

ENG 5800 Seminar in British or American Literature: Intensive study of major authors, literary schools, genres, or themes.

ENG 6010 Introduction to English Studies: This graduate-level seminar is designed to give students the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in graduate study in the humanities and beyond. To that end, ENG 6010 will help you gain an understanding of the current state of the humanities in higher education and develop the core skills necessary for success in the field. Those include learning how to develop a research question, methods for academic research, forms of literary and textual analysis, ways to enter a scholarly conversation in writing, tools for workshopping and revising, and steps to get your ideas into circulation for academic audiences. To plan and position yourself for your future, you will develop your professional identity and research careers available to those who possess graduate degrees in the humanities.

ENG 6070 Theory and Methods of Literary Criticism: Introduction to some of the major modern theories of literary criticism: historicism, formalism, reader-response, structuralism, poststructuralist, etc. Application of theory to selected works.

ENG 6090 Teaching of Literature: Survey of the ways contemporary literary theory informs and can be applied to the teaching of literature. Relevant to the concerns of junior-high, secondary, and college teachers of literature.

ENG 6750 Seminar in American Culture Studies: Interdisciplinary seminar coordinated in rotation by members of departments of History, English, Philosophy, Political Science, Sociology, and School of Art, using lectures, discussion, and papers to study problem, theme, or era.

ENG 6800 Seminar in English Studies: Systematic study of literary genres or topics (poetry, fiction, drama, comparative literature), modes of literary or rhetorical inquiry, or intensive study of special literary, rhetorical, or creative writing topics.

ENG 6820 Topics in English Studies: Individual or group study of some phase of literature, criticism, rhetoric and writing, or creative writing not ordinarily offered in curriculum.

ENG 6900/6910 Directed Research in English Studies: Individual or group research project in specialized topic in literature, rhetoric and writing, or creative writing supervised by instructor.

ENG 6990 Thesis Research: Credit for thesis study. Enrollment in excess of 6 hours acceptable for Plan I master’s degree, but no more than 6 hours creditable toward degree.

Updated: 12/18/2023 12:44PM