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).

British Drama, 1660-1830

Spring 2019-2020

20806 / 30806

Timothy Campbell

This survey of British drama during the long eighteenth century ranges from Restoration sexual comedy and civic drama of political virtue and self-sacrifice to popular spectacles of criminal justice and early Gothic theater of passionate hatred. Alongside the plays, we will consider theatrical history (including Shakespearean legacies and significant actors of the period like David Garrick, Mary Robinson, and Sarah Siddons) together with criticism and theory, past and present. (Drama, 1650-1830)

Romantic Poetry

Winter 2019-2020


James Chandler

In the wake of the American and French Revolutions, and still in the early days of the worlds first Industrial Revolution, two British poets—William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge--set out to produce another kind of revolution that they hoped could save their readers from a harsh new world of culture and sensibility brought on by “causes unknown to former times.” Their experiments in poetry were informed by a likewise unprecedented analysis of the problems that they saw besetting their own moment. It was an extraordinary exercise in critical media theory very much avant la lettre. Both the experiments and the analysis had far-reaching on poets of their moment—especially Shelley and Keats—and poets beyond it, and have mattered much to the modern understanding of literature and criticism well into the twentieth century and into our own time. This course will take up the challenge of coming to terms with the Romantic “revolution in taste” in close engagements with both familiar and unfamiliar works. We will read other poets of the period, including Blake, Byron, Charlotte Smith, and Anna Laetitia Barbauld—and also come to terms with the massive legacy of Romantic poetry and poetics ever since, not least in the formation of modern practical criticism. There will be a short paper (3-4 pp.) and a longer one (15 pp.). (18th/19th)

Ecopoetics: Literature and Ecology

Autumn 2019-2020


Jennifer Scappettone

This course will explore a range of literary responses to the period commonly known as the anthropocene, understood as the geological age in which the prevailing economic and social paradigms of humans have conditioned changes in climate and the environment. We will read foundational texts in environmental perception and activism (Ruskin’s “Storm-Cloud of the Nineteenth Century” and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring) in dialogue with modernist work engaging with urban landscapes (William Carlos Williams’s Paterson). We will then open onto a wide range of contemporary texts that engage the natural and constructed environment in crisis. In tandem with our readings, fieldwork throughout Chicago (on the Chicago River, at local Superfund sites, at the Chicago Architecture Biennial) will expand our awareness of how global and regional crises manifest locally, and introduce students to new methods of engaging with ecological challenges. (20th/21st)

Forms of Autobiography in the 20th and 21st Centuries

Spring 2019-2020

24526 / 34526

Christine Fouirnaies

This course examines the innovative, creative forms autobiography has taken in the last one hundred years in literature. We will study closely works written between 1933 and 2013 that are exceptional for the way they challenge, subvert and invigorate the autobiographical genre. From unpublished sketches to magazine essays and full-length books, we will see autobiography take many forms and engage with multiple genres and media. These include biography, memoir, fiction, literary criticism, travel literature, the graphic novel and photography. Producing various mutations of the autobiographical genre, these works address some of the same concerns: the self, truth, memory, authenticity, agency and testimony. We will complement discussions of these universal issues with material and historical considerations, examining how the works first appeared and were received. Autobiography will prove a privileged site for probing constructions of family narratives, identity politics and public personas. The main authors studied are Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein, James Baldwin, Vladimir Nabokov, Roland Barthes, Paul Auster, Doris Lessing, Marjane Satrapi and W.G. Sebald.

Mysticism and Modernity

Spring 2019-2020

24554 / 34554

Kris Trujillo

This course will explore the impact of medieval and early modern mysticism on modern theories of sex, gender, and sexuality. We will begin by examining some of the most highly-cited texts from the Christian mystical tradition and by paying particular attention to the significance of gender, eroticism, and embodiment in these texts. We will then explore the circulation of these texts in modern theoretical projects on sex, gender, and sexuality with particular emphasis on existentialism, psychoanalysis, and deconstruction. Why does Lacan cite Hadewijch in order to articulate his notion of feminine jouissance? Why does Beauvoir hold up Teresa of Ávila as an exemplar of existential authenticity? Why does Derrida follow Pseudo-Dionysius but not Hadewijch in his meditation on negative theology? And how might these intellectual genealogies give rise to contemporary work in queer, feminist, and queer of color critique? Ultimately, by putting premodern and modern texts into dialogue, this course will enable students not only to develop the skill of diachronic analysis but also to challenge the assumption that mysticism and theory are at all apolitical.

Modernist Poetry: Yeats, Eliot, Pound

Winter 2019-2020

26708 / 34620

Maud Ellmann

We will study selected works by Yeats, Eliot, Pound, H.D., Auden, Stevens, Williams, Loy, and others. Some 19th C authors, such as Browning, Tennyson, and Whitman, will also be addressed. (Poetry, 1830-1940; 20th/21st)


Autumn 2019-2020


John Wilkinson

In this course, we will study poetry ‘in the abstract’, through the various efforts on the part of philosophers, literary critics and poets themselves to formulate theories of poetic discourse. We will examine a range of historical attempts to conceptualize poetry as a particular kind of language practice, starting from German Romanticism. We will also question the very project of thinking about “poetics” as opposed to “poetry” or “poems.” Is it possible to theorize the art form without doing violence to the particularity – and peculiarity – of individual poems? Contemporary debates between historical, philosophical and activist poetics will be used as an entryway to our seminars and collective readings. (18th/19th, 20th/21st)

Changing Worlds: J.G. Ballard’s Apocalyptic Quartet

Autumn 2019-2020


Andrei Pop

Between 1961 and 1966, the English novelist and short story writer J.G. Ballard produced four novels (The Wind from Nowhere, The Drowned World, The Burning World, and The Crystal World) that depict, poetically and concretely, global changes to the earth and its human inhabitants, in particular their imaginations. The relation of these lyrical apocalypses to science fiction, visual art, ecology and the philosophy of time, as well as their awkward coordination into a cycle, will concern us. We will conclude the course by reading Anna Kavan’s 1967 Ice, which in a way compliments and completes Ballard’s cycle.

Perfection and Utopia in Late Medieval England

Autumn 2019-2020


Mark Miller

A course on the drive to individual and collective perfection, and its relation to social and psychic conflict. Readings from medieval political theory, theology, mystical, hagiographical, and penitential writing, texts documenting the demographic and political upheavals of the 14th century, and poetry of the period. (Med/Ren)

Feminist and Queer Literary Criticism

Spring 2019-2020


Sianne Ngai

An introduction to classic texts in feminist and queer literary criticism. We will also be reading works by Frank O’Hara, Tennessee Williams, Octavia Butler, Ernest Hemingway, Allen Ginsberg, Gwendolyn Brooks, Adrienne Rich, Sylvia Plath, Harryette Mullen, and Maggie Nelson. (20th/21st)