English 298. Experimental Courses
Kids on the Run: Literary Outcasts and Outsiders
This course focuses on uncertain starts and uneasy transitions from childhood to adulthood in classic and contemporary literature on adolescence. From paupers to punks, we will rethink questions of alienation, gender and sexuality, disability, and maturation through canonical and non-canonical “coming of age” narratives. In addition to foundational stories by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, classic novels by Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens, and Charlotte Brontë, and modern fiction by Mark Haddon and Kazuo Ishiguro, we will work with nineteenth-century historical documents and early scientific treatises, poetry, and popular adaptations of young adult bestsellers.
In From the Cold: The Spy in Fiction and Film
“We are the no men of no man’s land.” So muses a rueful George Smiley in John LeCarré’s Smiley’s People. The spy story is one of the dominant genres of twentieth-century popular culture, but exactly who is this “no man?” The cool, competent James Bond? The alienated anti-hero who believes in nothing and expects to be betrayed? The “everyman” suddenly trapped in a web of larger forces? This course will trace the evolution of the spy story, from its British roots in novels like the Thirty Nine Steps and films like The Third Man, to Cold War thrillers such as the lan Fleming’s James Bond books, LeCarré’s The Spy Who Carne in From the Cold, Frederick Forsythe’s Day of the Jackal and Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, to contemporary revisions of the genre, in television serials such as The Americans and The Honorable Woman. Readings in critical literature will help us identify the evolving conventions of the genre, and ask how the spy story addresses questions of gender, race, politics and ideology. Who, ultimately, is the spy fighting for? ls the feminist or multicultural spy story possible? How has the spy story changed in the post-9/11 era?
Evolution of English
What is English and how did it get this way? This course will trace the development of the English language from its origins as a minor Germanic tongue to its present global status. We will investigate changes in sound and meaning, the interaction of English with other languages, and the dynamics of both standardization and diversification (including American dialects, so we can answer the eternal question of why some people call fizzy water “soda” and others call it “pop”). We will also examine English in the context of the development of writing systems from the earliest alphabets to computerized encoding schemes, and we will study the effects on the language of manuscript and book production, editing, publishing, and mass communication technologies.
This course fulfills one of the pre-1800 requirements for the English major and is highly recommended for students with an interest in English Education (it is a substitute for English 208: Anglo-Saxon Literature).
Victorian Bodies: Gender, Race, and Disability in the Nineteenth Century
Victorian advancements in science and medicine expanded our understanding of the human body, but with this expansion came misunderstandings about embodiment, too. This course investigates how Victorians talked about the body in science, popular culture, and literature. Questions we will ask include: How do historical and material texts like slave narratives, writings on domestic labor, and medical treatises on physiology and disability engage with the body? How are these discourses reinforced and complicated in Victorian poetry and prose? And how do Victorian conceptions and misconceptions of embodied experience continue to inform our understandings of gender, race, and disability today? Authors will likely include Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, and George Eliot.