For undergraduate courses, the distribution requirements that a course fulfills will appear in parenthesis at the end of the description. For courses offered prior to 2018-19, distribution requirements are flagged using the following system: (A) gateway, (B) fiction, (C) poetry, (D) drama, (E) pre-1650, (F) 1650–1830, (G) 1830–1940, and (H) literary or critical theory.

Provisional syllabi for some English courses can be found here. Please note that all syllabi are subject to change.

Students should consult the following list of courses that have been approved to fulfill the new literature in translation option for the undergraduate Foreign Language Requirement. Courses taken prior to 2019-20 or otherwise not on this list must be approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies (Benjamin Morgan).

London Program: London’s Water Stories: Representations of the Thames in Literature, Art and Film

Autumn 2019-2020


Josephine McDonagh

This course will consider representations of urban experience in 19th, 20th and 21st-century London through focusing on the river. As one of the main points of entry to Britain for people and goods throughout the 19th and much of the 20th century, the river and especially the London docks, loom large in many of the mythologies of London as an imperial center, a destination for immigrants, and, with the redevelopment of Canary Wharf in the 1980s, a center of global finance. We will think about the licit and illicit traffic of the river, the various cultures and counter cultures that have emerged along it, and the ways in which it figures in literary and other texts. Students will travel on the river, visit relevant museums and exhibitions, including the Docklands Museum and the Tates, and they may have a guided walking tour on the Isle of Sheppey. Texts may include works by Dickens, Oscar Wilde, Woolf, Conrad, and James Berry, and films by Derek Jarman and John Mackenzie. (Fiction, 1830-1940)

London Program: Postcolonial England: Migration, Race, Nation

Autumn 2019-2020


Sonali Thakkar

This course will examine how ideas of English identity and nationhood have been transformed by postwar migration and diaspora, as well as by political and cultural contestations over race, racial representation, and the legacies of the British Empire. We will ask how the decline and overthrow of Britain’s influence and rule in the colonies after WWII gave rise to not just postcolonial nation-states overseas, but also to a postcolonial England. Our focus will be on the discourses and cultural production of migrant and diasporic communities. But we will also consider the historical context in which our authors and artists worked, and the various forms of imperial amnesia and nostalgia, as well as nativist and xenophobic political currents, against which they struggled. We will examine literary texts, cultural criticism, and film, music and visual culture from the early postwar period (Windrush Generation and the Suez Crisis) up to the present. Authors we might study include Sam Selvon, Kazuo Ishiguro, Salman Rushdie, Bhanu Kapil, and Kamila Shamsie, with films by Isaac Julien and Hanif Kureishi. We will also make use of London’s historical and cultural offerings, with a possible trip to the Black Cultural Archives, among other outings. (Fiction)

London Program: The Country and the City

Autumn 2019-2020


James Chandler

Following loosely in the track of Raymond Williams’s 1973 book of the same title, this course will consider the interplay of urban and rustic life in literary productions of the early British Industrial Revolution. Writers we read will include William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Jane Austen, and possibly Charles Dickens. We will take advantage of the major exhibition of William Blake that will be on offer at London’s spectacular Tate Britain gallery (the first there in two decades), and we will probably make an excursion to Chawton, about 40 miles outside of London, to see Jane Austen’s village, including the 16th-century country house where her brother Edward presided.

London Program: Surveilling London: Sexuality, Race, and Power

Autumn 2019-2020


Madison Chapman

This course investigates the experience of watching and being watched in London while giving students the opportunity to pursue a quarter-long individual research project. Through texts ranging in genre, medium and period, we will explore explicit and implicit surveillance in London: the formal modes of observing and regulating people in public (government CCTV, private security technology), and informal instances of overseeing and overhearing. How has London's literature, history, and culture registered its status as a site of particularly intense surveillance? We begin the quarter with theoretical (Lauren Berlant, Michael Warner, Jeremy Bentham) and imaginative texts (Daniel Defoe, Oscar Wilde) alongside film and television (Francis Ford Coppola, Bodyguard) which illuminate the key paradox of how surveillance blatantly regulates public identities while, paradoxically, encouraging voyeurism of bodies labeled other or perverse. Fieldtrips to related historical and cultural sites will contextualize student research aims as we shift to independent projects in the second half of the course. Students will pursue archival and fieldwork opportunities in London with freedom to select topics under the umbrella of surveillance. Through rigorous engagement with course texts and individual research, students will strengthen textual analysis skills, become better acquainted with the city, and develop a reflexive relationship to their embodied and intellectual journeys through London.

The Rise of Prose: Composition, Criticism, and Constitutions

Autumn 2019-2020


Frances Ferguson

This course will focus on writings of the late 18th century and early 19th century that aimed to prepare lawyers, doctors, and ministers to convey information and opinion to others. We’ll look at writings by Adam Smith, Hugh Blair, and Joseph Priestley to consider the challenges of persuading people in writing (instead of in public speeches and sermons) ; and we’ll conclude by considering Jeremy Bentham’s discussions of the principles that someone should take into account in preparing a constitution that would bear a meaningful relation to people’s future behavior. (Theory)

Realism, or Illusions of the Real

Autumn 2019-2020


Amanda Shubert

How do texts create illusions of reality, and what kinds of techniques are involved in making something feel real to the reader? What kinds of reality does realism show? We will explore answers to these questions through readings of a range of literary works from the nineteenth- and twentieth-century realist tradition, from Jane Austen’s Emma and Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads to Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, as well as through analysis of photography and early film. Our assumption will be that the literary texts and visual media we look at contain within them theories of realism and representation for us to uncover. The written assignments for this course will ask you todevelop some of the analytic skills used by literary scholars, namely: close textual analysis of a literary text; arguing an interpretation; and summarizing and evaluating works of literary criticism and theory. (Fiction, 1830-1940)

Literature and Architecture: Between Utopia and Dystopia, Design and Occupation

Autumn 2019-2020


Jennifer Scappettone

This seminar to be taught in conjunction with the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial will allow students to explore the material repercussions of built, neglected, and mythologized environments on those who imagine and inhabit them, and to consider the way the literary arts not only respond to, but contribute to their shape. We will place the literature of the metropolis into dialogue with the writings and plans of architects and urbanists on the one hand, occupant-activists on the other. We will study the creation (and sporadic dismantling) of the city from the perspective of its builders and inhabitants—moving from the nineteenth-century flaneur through Situationism, to the utopian schemes and conceptual architectures of the ‘60s and 70s, and contemporary protest movements. A range of cities, visible and invisible, will be under consideration, with Chicago as our immediate case study. In lieu of a standard research paper, students will be given the opportunity to produce a collaborative atlas of Chicago. They must make time for field trips to the Biennial and to select monuments around the city. (1830-1940, Theory) This is a featured Makers Seminar for English majors, but is open to all students.

Cybernetics and Trans Identities

Autumn 2019-2020


Alexander Wolfson

This course is an examination into the ways in which theorizations of trans identity have been bound to discourses concerning cyborgs and cybernetics. On one hand, we will look into the ways in which medico-technological discourses have inscribed and produced the limits for conceptualizing trans-ness. On the other, we will examine how trans self-narratives have mobilized cybernetic language to parasitically produce autonomous discourses. The over-arching questions of this class will be: how should we engage concepts, such as the cybernetic and the prosthetic, that have been used towards the disenfranchisement of trans identities, while simultaneously have been re-inscribed as emancipatory concepts? How should we tell the histories of these discourses? How do they affect, produce, contain, and enliven contemporary worlds of trans identities and existences? This course will, from its onset, be interdisciplinary in nature, both in terms of the academic disciplines from which we choose our texts (trans theory, queer theory, critical race theory, psychoanalysis, philosophy, new media theory, literary criticism, etc.) and also through an engagement with various genres and media, engaging fiction, film and visual art, as ways to further expand and develop our critical investigations. Readings will include works by figures such as Karen Barad, Jean Baudrillard, Mel Chen, Gilles Deleuze, Donna Haraway, Beatriz Preciado, Jasbir Puar, Gayle Salamon, Sandy Stone, Alexander Weheliye.

Apocalypse Then and Now

Autumn 2019-2020


Lauren Schachter

This course will address literature that imagines the end of the world, from the poetry of William Blake and to the fiction of Mary Shelley and beyond. Galvanized by the American and French Revolutions, a number of later eighteenth writers were optimistic, anticipating the immanent start of a thousand years of peace prior to the Second Coming. However, post-revolutionary disappointment, as well as concerns over population growth and industrialization, fueled apocalyptic visions that cut across literary genres. How do apocalyptic writings intersect with the period’s theories of history, the genre of the gothic, or aesthetic categories like the sublime? Where do theological beliefs map onto and diverge from secular approaches to political events? The coda to the course will reach forward to the turn of the 21st century in order to reflect on a long lineage of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic reckonings in writing, cinema, television, and drama. Readings may include Priestley, Blake, Godwin, Malthus, Mary and Percy Shelley, Byron, Wordsworth, Beddoes, and others. (Poetry, Fiction,1650 - 1830)

Joyce’s Ulysses: An Introduction

Autumn 2019-2020


Maud Ellmann

This course consists of a chapter-by-chapter introduction to Ulysses. We will focus on such themes as the city, aesthetics, politics, sex, food, religion, and the family, while paying close attention to Joyce’s use of multiple narrators and styles. Students are strongly encouraged to read Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Homer’s Odyssey as preparation for this course. Assignments will consist of bi-weekly quizzes, collaborative class presentations, regular contributions to the class blog, and 2-3 papers. (Fiction, 1830-1940)