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.

“The Global Middle Ages” with Dr. Erin Labbie: Fall 2020

In this course, students will become familiar with the ways in which medieval studies inform and relate to contemporary culture and issues of globalization significant to the study of literature and culture today. We will examine and analyze the ways that the trope of medievalism influences contemporary politics of globalization, as well as the ways that current culture parallels or differs from the global Middle Ages.

“Alternative and Global Westerns” with Dr. Khani Begum: Fall 2020

This course explores how the Western genre is employed in both contemporary American contexts and in global and international film cultures to express modern revisionist representations of differing and alternative histories and/or cultures. We will explore how revisionist and often, escapist representations of cultural and historical pasts through the genre of the Western are not just an American phenomenon, but also a global one.  

“Black Protest and Black Joy” with Dr. Jolie Sheffer: Spring 2021

This class takes up very current national issues, such as those of the Black Lives Matter movement, to consider the ways that black novelists, playwrights, poets, and essayists have created new modes of representation and protest against anti-Blackness from the 1960s to the present. We will read a variety of works across multiple genres (essays, novels, poetry, film), seeking to recognize the myriad forms of Black activism and resistance, including anger, sadness, laughter, and joy.

Thinking Beyond Binaries* with Dr. Bill Albertini: Fall 2021

This class draws upon and expertise in 20th and 21st century LGBTQ literature and theory as well as disability studies to explore what role literature (and other creative work) might play with respect to intersecting identities and power relationships. We will investigate how literature might cultivate empathy and appreciation of nuance and shape public thinking and feeling.

* This course includes a service-learning component; we will work on a public-facing project that puts into practice what we discover about the work that literature might accomplish in the public sphere.

“Raging Women” with Dr. Kim Coates: Spring 2022

This course takes an interdisciplinary and intersectional approach to aesthetic, social, historical, and political representations of female aggression, rage, volatility, anger, “hysteria,” and/or “madness” both pre and post the #MeToo Movement. We will examine the cultural anxieties circulating in these texts; explore various forms of female agency, oppression, revolt, and resistance; and construct a genealogy of female rage. The course will think through women’s rage as a cultural trope, as the consequence of lived experience and/or trauma, and as an ongoing tool for political and social change.

“Shakespeare and Adaptation” with Dr. Stephannie Gearhart: Spring 2022

This course will focus on re-imaginings of and responses to William Shakespeare's plays. It will ground its work in recent theoretical debates about the notion of adaptation, broadly writ, and Shakespearean adaptation in particular. The course, thus, enacts a pedagogy that challenges fidelity criticism, and addresses the questions raised by the reality that audiences today often first encounter Shakespeare through adaptation rather than in the so-called “original.”

“Victorian Monsters: Fiction and Film” with Dr. Piya Lapinski

This web-based course on Victorian fiction will explore the idea of “monstrosity” in Victorian culture and contemporary re-incarnations of these figures in 20th/21st century film. Among famous Victorian monsters who continue to fascinate us: mummies, vampires, murderesses, mad scientists, and even Queen Victoria herself. Who were these monsters and why did the 19th century imagination in particular, produce them? What anxieties about gender, racial conflicts and sexuality did they represent—and how might these still be relevant to our post-pandemic reality? We will look at a range of Victorian writers and the way contemporary films have reimagined some of these.

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.

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.

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 Research Methods: Comprehensive introduction to the field of English and the professional study of literature, rhetoric, and language, with special attention to and practice in using the reference and research tools available to the contemporary teacher, researcher, and theorist.

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: 10/03/2023 01:20PM