English 398. Experimental Courses
Twenty-first-century digital tools can give us exciting new ways of reading and understanding Victorian literature and culture. Using digital methods of literary criticism, we will explore the Victorian novel as well as Victorian graphics culture – map, cartoons, infographics, and more. In this course, you will work with the best of nineteenth-century British literature, including Oscar Wilde, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Matthew Arnold, and you’ll use the latest digital tools for exploring literature, culture, and the intersections, overlaps, and correlations between what counts as information and what counts as art. The course culminates in a final project of “information artistry” — you’ll turn one of your essays into digital art. Together, we will push the bounds of what it means to be a literary scholar.
This course examines one of English literature’s earliest ecological thinkers: William Shakespeare. Reading Shakespeare’s plays and poetry alongside natural histories of the Renaissance, we will consider how Shakespeare and his contemporaries conceived of ideas of nature, human autonomy, and the nonhuman agencies of the environment. Some of the questions we will consider include: What are the relations between theatre history and environmental history? How might we—as moderns—rethink terms such as nature and ecology through the study of early modern poetry? What specifically literary and aesthetic resources might Shakespeare offer to help us reorient our perceptions about the premodern past and our own postmodern present and future? Readings will be drawn from a variety of sources including plays (Titus Andronicus, The Tempest, Hamlet, King Lear), poetry (Venus and Adonis, The Sonnets) and some literary theory (eco-criticism, animal studies, posthumanism). Students may use this course as a substitute for requirements fulfilled by English 309 and 310.
Young Adult Literature
What is Young Adult (YA) literature? Is it anything written for young people aged 12 to 17—or 10 to 25? Or is it literature not so much written for but appropriated by young readers? Is it characteristically edgy? Can it be too edgy? Is it characteristically hopeful? Or otherwise? Is it defined by its imbrication in structures of power? Or by abjection? Can it be canonical? What counts as a crossover novel, crossing the boundary between YA and literature for adults? . . . In addition to grappling with criticism and theory, we’ll explore a wide range of literature for young adults, broadly defined, including science fiction, fantasy, graphic fiction, poetry, possibly other nonfiction—but primarily fiction. The works address such topics as sex, love, racism, violence, rape, LGBTQ, the media, incest, history, drug abuse, hope, despair. Possible titles might include Catcher in the Rye (do you love it or hate it?), Go Ask Alice (is it true, as it claims to be?), The Chocolate War (can it get any worse?), Push (is it inspiring or racist?), Kissing the Witch (not your usual fairy tales), Speak (why won’t she speak?), Feed (how wired would you like to be?), A Wreath for Emmett Till (sonnets about a lynching?), The Winter People (not your usual Indian war), Fun Home (fun? home? a graphic novel), The Executioness (she does what?), Fangirl (does fandom plagiarize?). If you’re planning to take the class, and you’d particularly like to see one of these listed titles included, please e-mail me to let me know by April 9th. Prerequisite: at least one English course at the 200 level or above or else one Education course.
Beverly Lyon Clark