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).

Gwendolyn Brooks: Poetry and Politics

Winter 2016-2017


Andrew Peart

This course is a comprehensive survey of the work of Chicago writer and activist Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000) and an exploration of the artistic and social movements to which she contributed. Brooks was among the most preeminent African American poets of the twentieth century, and she was celebrated during her career as the voice of the social and political concerns both of Black Chicago and of the African Diaspora. In this course we study Brooks’s poetry, from the social realism of A Street in Bronzeville (1945) to the later political poetry of Riot (1968) and Children Coming Home (1991); her prose fiction, including the autobiographical novella Maude Martha (1953); and her memoirs. Along the way, we use close reading to examine Brooks’s aesthetic transformations from high modernism to what she called “versejournalism” and a late, vatic public poetry; and we situate Brooks’s writing in its historical contexts to study her involvements in anti-Jim Crow social protest, Black Arts Movement race nationalism, and Pan-African transnationalism. As a class we will visit sites of importance to Brooks and her life and work in Chicago (e.g., the South Side Community Art Center), and we will invite several speakers to help us understand how Brooks’s work touched social and political life in and beyond Chicago. (C)

Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance: Issues and Methods

Winter 2016-2017


Kenneth Warren

In this course we will examine that period known as the Harlem Renaissance, partly as an exercise in literary criticism and theory, partly as an exercise in literary and intellectual history. Our objectives will be to critique the primary texts from this period and at the same time to assess the efforts of literary scholars to make sense of this moment in the history of American cultural production. (B, G, H)


Winter 2016-2017


Emily Lord Fransee

Afrofuturist creative and theoretical production has exploded in recent years, emerging as a significant intellectual framework for understanding the history of race and identity, the legacies of colonialism, theories of science and technology, and the making of the modern world. While the term “Afrofuturism” was not coined until the 1990s and remains a controversial label, this course traces the historical roots and contemporary expressions of this diverse global genre (or set of genres). Taking a transdisciplinary approach, we will examine the contexts and debates that shaped and were shaped by works of speculative fiction, science fiction, and futurism from across Africa and the African diaspora. Topics include slavery and emancipation, empire and decolonization, pan-Africanism, theories of modernity and technoculture, the Cold War and the making of the “Third World,” Civil Rights, as well as connections to related genres such as Indigenous Futurism and Silkpunk. We will take an intersectional approach to consider not only race but other categories of identity such as gender, sexuality, class, and ability. Texts include secondary critical analysis as well as global music, film, literature, and visual artforms created from the 19th through the 21st century, including works from Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia and across the global African diaspora, particularly the United States. Students will leave the course with knowledge of major Afrofuturist themes and related works as well as improved critical reading, speaking, research, and writing skills. Evaluation is comprised of a combination of oral discussion, critical reading and response, written assignments, independent research, and in-class presentation. (B, H)

Comparative Methods in the Humanities

Winter 2016-2017


Olga Solovieva

This course introduces the models of comparative analysis across national literatures, genres, and media. The texts to be discussed include Orson Welles’s “Citizen Kane” and Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Khan”; Benjamin’s “The Storyteller,” Kafka’s “Josephine the Mouse Singer,” Deleuze and Guattari, Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, and Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Storyteller; Victor Segalen’s Stèles; Fenollosa and Pound’s “The Chinese Character as a Medium of Poetry” and Eliot Weinberger’s Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei; Mérimée, “Carmen,” Bizet, Carmen, and the film adaptation U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha (South Africa, 2005); Gorky’s and Kurosawa’s “Lower Depths;” Molière, Tartuffe, Dostoevsky, The Village Stepanchikovo and its Inhabitants, and Bakhtin, “Discourse in the Novel”; Gogol, The Overcoat, and Boris Eikhenbaum, “How Gogol’s Overcoat Is Made.” (B, H)

Introduction to Poetry: Elegy

Spring 2016-2017


John Wilkinson

This course will trace the historical course of English poetry through one genre, that of elegy. From Ben Jonson to John Milton, from P.B. Shelley to Frank O’Hara, from Alfred, Lord Tennyson to Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg to Denise Riley and Thomas Hardy to Gwendolyn Brooks, elegy has been central to English and American lyric. Its formal variations, its changing objects and modes of address, and its historically and culturally situated diction, allow students to experience the transhistorical resonance of poetic practice and a range of writing suitable to an Introduction. (A, C)

Approaches to Theater 2: Late 17th Century to the Present

Spring 2016-2017


John Muse

A survey of key concepts and trends in Western and non-Western theater from the late seventeenth century to the present, the course offers its students tools to understand and interpret dramatic literature and theatrical performance. We will read plays and performances closely, taking into account form, character, plot and genre, but also staging, acting, spectatorship, and historical conventions. In the process we will ask how various agents—playwrights, directors, performers, and audiences—generate plays and give them meaning, and students will become agents themselves by devising and performing scenes as a parallel mode of interpretation. No experience making theater required. Approaches to Theater 1 is not a prerequisite. Either term of the course satisfies the English Department's gateway requirement. (A, D, F, G)

Medieval English Literature

Spring 2016-2017


Mark Miller

This course examines the relations among psychology, ethics, and social theory in fourteenth-century English literature. We pay particular attention to three central preoccupations of the period: sex, the human body, and the ambition of ethical perfection. Readings are drawn from Chaucer, Langland, the Gawain-poet, Gower, penitential literature, and saints' lives. There are also some supplementary readings in the social history of late medieval England. (C, E)

Shakespeare I: Histories and Comedies

Spring 2016-2017


David Simon

This course explores Shakespeare’s histories and comedies. Topics for discussion will include: arguments for the social, political, and moral benefits of theater, as well as for its perniciousness; representations of gender, sexuality, family, and friendship; actors’ and spectators’ experiences of performance; and philosophical theories of laughter, pity, and catharsis. Readings are likely to include Richard II, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, Much Ado about Nothing, As You Like It, and Twelfth Night—as well as a play in which comedy veers into tragedy (Othello) and a film adaptation (Orson Welles’s Chimes at Midnight). (D, E)


Spring 2016-2017


Joshua Scodel

A study of Milton’s major writings in lyric, epic, tragedy, and political prose, with emphasis upon his evolving sense of his poetic vocation and career in relation to his vision of literary, political, and cosmic history. (C, E, F)

Framing the Nation in the Long Eighteenth Century

Spring 2016-2017


Lauren Schachter

How do poetry, fiction, and nonfictional prose of the long eighteenth century engage with the pressures of political union in Britain? What are the effects of increasingly dense narrative framing in eighteenth century works of literature? This course asks these questions and ponders the extent to which their answers are intertwined. (B, F)