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).

Richer and Poorer: Income Inequality

Spring 2019-2020


Elaine Hadley

Current political and recent academic debate has centered on income or wealth inequality. Data suggests a rapidly growing divergence between those earners at the bottom and those at the top. This course seeks to place that current concern in conversation with a range of moments in nineteenth and twentieth century history when literature and economics converged on questions of economic inequality. In keeping with recent political economic scholarship by Thomas Piketty, we will be adopting a long historic view and a somewhat wide geographic scale as we explore how economic inequality is represented, measured, assessed and addressed. Readings will include some of the following literature, Hard Times, Le Pere Goriot, The Jungle, The Time Machine, Native Son, Landscape for a Good Woman, White Tiger, and some of the following economic and political texts Principles of Political Economy, The Acquisitive Society, The Theory of the Leisure Class, Capital (Marx and Piketty), The Price of Inequality and Inequality Re-examined. (Fiction, 1830-1940, Theory)

Postwar U.S. Literature

Spring 2019-2020


Deborah L. Nelson

Ranging across genres and media platforms, this survey course covers the major aesthetic innovations of the late 20th century in their historical context. Beginning with the end of World War II and ending at 9/11, each week will contain one major reading and several smaller ones as well as samplings of other arts (photography, film, performance art, etc.) relevant or analogous to the readings.


Spring 2019-2020


Nicolette Bruner

In this course, we examine how people move within and between categories of identity, with particular attention to boundary crossings of race and gender in U.S. law and literature from the nineteenth century to the present. Law provides a venue and a language through which forces of authority police categories of identity that, at Jean Stefancic and Richard Delgado observe, “society invents, manipulates, or retires when convenient.” Readings will include theoretical texts as well as court rulings, cultural ephemera, and literary texts.

Intoxication and Dispossession in Colonialism

Spring 2019-2020


Matt Boulette

Manhattan, according to one folk etymology, means “the place at which we were drunk.” Supposedly the Lenape (Delaware) people named the island after their “general intoxication,” in 1609, on wine and aqua vitae offered by the English explorer Henry Hudson. That derivation, though false, nonetheless puts drunkenness intriguingly close to the center of an originary colonial encounter. In this course, students will examine how such scenes were reiterated, transformed, and exploited throughout the 19th century. As we move along these historical itineraries, we will ask how toxic ideology distills and reinforces logics of racial dispossession. But we will also ask how intoxication opens onto altered states, draws out chronic conditions, and expands repertoires of conviviality. Our readings will weave between multiple genres in pursuit of these questions. Juxtaposing antiquarian files and execution sermons, medical inquiries and autobiographies, bureaucratic reports and romantic episodes, we will retrace scenes of intoxication through the texts, images, and institutions that configured them over time.

Fugitive Poetics: Slaves, Runaways, Exiles, and Nineteenth-Century American Poetry

Spring 2019-2020


Jake Fournier

This course considers late-eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American poetry from the perspective of the disprized. One central point of discussion will be how slavery and indentured servitude—and the attendant urge for escape and freedom from these and other carceral institutions—shaped the American poetic imaginary. We will take up both the poetry and poetic theory written by fugitives and explore poetry itself as a form of fugitivity for the enslaved, politically exiled, or ideologically confined. Central figures in the traditional canon of nineteenth-century U.S. poetry—Poe, Whitman, and Dickinson—will be considered from this vantage alongside figures like Harriet Jacobs, Frances E. W. Harper, José María Heredia y Heredia, and José Martí, among others. In the process, we will explore the potential connections and collisions between these nineteenth-century literary texts and contemporary lyric and critical race theory. This course is as interested in the nineteenth-century construction of a national American poetics as it is in American poetry itself; equal weight will be given to poetry and prose. Topics will include the poetic imaginary in early American statecraft, prosody and the carceral condition (what Max Cavitch calls “Slavery and its Metrics”), blackface lyrics and class mobility, abolitionism, and inter-American literary exchange.

The American Novel in History and the Historical Novel

Spring 2019-2020


Adam Rowe

We will read several American novels—some canonical, others largely forgotten—to explore the relationship between literature and history from the early Republic to the present. A novel such as Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables is a historical artifact, a rich and suggestive reflection of the world in which it was written, and a profound meditation on history itself, on the narratives by which a culture acknowledges and denies its inheritance from the past. Indeed, many novelists have explored dimensions of our collective past that historians, tethered to the surface of recorded fact, cannot reach and should not ignore. From the creation of the American republic to the unraveling of the American working class, from the experience of slavery to the experience of industrialized warfare, we will examine some of the most significant issues in American history through the art of some of the nation's most gifted novelists.

Intro to Religion and Literature: Dramatic Encounters

Spring 2019-2020


Matthew Creighton

This course will explore some of the major statements from the Western intellectual tradition on religion and literature as categories of thought, forms of human expression and communication, and sources of personal and social meaning. We will pay close attention to the various ways that the relationship between these two concepts has been understood and constructed by artists, philosophers, and theologians alike. Students from all concentrations are welcome; no prior knowledge or foreign language competency is required for enrollment.

Epic Cosmologies

Spring 2019-2020


John Wilkinson

Cosmological epic poetry – how things are, and how they have come to be – challenges the human scale of lyric. In its origin story this course tracks recent English-language cosmological epics through Charles Olson as far back as the pre-Socratics and Gilgamesh, with stopping-off points including Milton, Blake and Shelley, while also encountering Victorian cosmic terror. (Poetry, Pre-1650, 1650-1830, 1830-1940, Theory)

Muses and Saints: Poetry Within the Christian Traditions

Spring 2019-2020


Erin Walsh

This course provides an introduction to the poetic traditions of early Christians and the intersection between poetic literature, theology, and biblical interpretation. Students will gain familiarity with the literary context of the formative centuries of Christianity with a special emphasis on Greek and Syriac Christians in the Eastern Mediterranean from the fourth through the sixth centuries. While theology is often taught through analytical prose, theological reflection in late antiquity and early Byzantium was frequently done in poetic genres. This course introduces students to the major composers and genres of these works as well as the various recurrent themes that occur within this literature. Through reading poetry from liturgical and monastic contexts, students will explore how the biblical imaginations of Christians were formed beyond the confines of canonical scripture. How is poetry a mode of “doing” theology? What habits of biblical interpretation and narration does one encounter in this poetry? This course exposes students to a variety of disciplinary frameworks for studying early Christian texts including history, religious studies, feminist and literary critique, as well as theology. Students will also analyze medieval and modern poetry with religious themes in light of earlier traditions to reflect on the poetry and the religious imagination more broadly. Open to undergraduate and graduate students; Graduate students may choose to attend weekly translation group.

William Blake: Poet, Painter, and Prophet

Winter 2019-2020

20228 / 30228

W.J.T. Mitchell

William Blake is arguably the most unusual figure in the history of English poetry and visual art. Recognized now as an essential part of the canon of Romantic poetry, he was almost completely unknown in his own time. His paintings, poems, and illuminated books were objects of fascination for a small group of admirers, but it was not until the late 19th century that his work began to be collected by William Butler Yeats, and not until the 1960s that he was recognized as a major figure in the history of art and literature. Dismissed as insane in his own time, his prophetic and visionary works are now seen as anticipating some of the most radical strands of modern thought, including Freud, Marx, and Nietzsche. We will study Blake’s work from a variety of perspectives, placing his poetry in relation to the prophetic ambitions of Milton and his visual images in the European iconographic tradition of Michelangelo and Durer, Goya and Fuseli. The course will emphasize close readings of his lyric poems, and attempt to open up the mythic cosmology of his allegorical, epic, and prophetic books. (Poetry, 1650-1830, Theory; 18th/19th)