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).

Writing the Cosmos: Paradise Lost

Winter 2016-2017


David Simon

The focus of this course is a close reading of Milton’s Paradise Lost. We will seek to understand the poem as an intervention in the political and theological controversies of its time, but special attention will be given to its participation in England’s Scientific Revolution. Thus this course will serve a secondary purpose as an introduction to the study of literature and science (as undertaken by historians of science, sociologists of science, and critical theorists). We will take brief detours into the works of other poets who similarly understand poetic language as a vehicle for the exploration of the cosmos (Lucretius, Guillaume de Salluste Du Bartas, Lucy Hutchinson). (Med/Ren)

Religious Lyric in England and America: from Donne to TS Eliot

Winter 2016-2017

17516 / 37516

Richard Strier

This course will study five major poets, English and American, who wrote about their personal relation to God, religion, and/or the transcendent. Readings are in the poetry of John Donne, George Herbert, Emily Dickinson, G. M. Hopkins, and T. S. Eliot. The last third of the course will focus on The Four Quartets. It will treat the poets as writers and as religious thinkers. The approach will be both internal -- reading selected poems carefully -- and comparative, reading the poets in relation to one another. The course will require a final paper and perhaps a mid-term exercise. Undergraduate: (C, E, G) Graduate: (Med/Ren)

Seventeenth-Century Secular Verse

Spring 2016-2017


Joshua Scodel

A study of the major authors and types of seventeenth-century golden short poetry, with special focus on Donne, Jonson, Herbert, Herrick, Philips, and Marvell. (Med/Ren)

Consent and Coercion

Spring 2016-2017

17818 / 37818

Tristan Schweiger

In American popular culture, the eighteenth century is remembered today (to the extent that it is remembered at all) as a heady time of revolutions and revolutionaries, when towering figures of the Enlightenment established modern democracy.  This, in many ways, reflects the narrative eighteenth-century writers were developing about their own age.  For British Whigs, the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688 had been a watershed moment at which the arbitrary rule of kings had been replaced for all time by constitutionalism; the social contract and the civil polity had triumphed over divine-right ideology, ushering in a new, beneficent era of progress.  And, in the 1790s, the French Revolution fired the political imaginations of British radicals who saw the potential for a world made anew – a world of universal suffrage and gender equality, where slavery was abolished.  Clearly, attaining these goals was a long way off.  The debates over the structures, meanings, and nature of consent had tendrils in multiple areas of society – the law, of course, but also in understandings of sexuality, constructions of gender, economics, and colonization.  Questions of rights, agency, and authority (what those categories meant, who could possess them, and who guaranteed them) were by no means settled, and, indeed, throughout the century, calls to curtail the categories of people who should have access to the sphere of political influence were often as boisterous as those to expand such access.  This course will explore how a range of authors in eighteenth-century Britain figured questions of consent, rights, and authority and how the ideological debates these authors mediated continue to inform contemporary politics, cultures, and identities.  We will read works by literary figures such as Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, Mary Hays, Olaudah Equiano, and Mary Shelley.  We will consider the writings of some of the major political philosophers of the day, as well, including John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Mary Astell, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Paine, and Mary Wollstonecraft.  We will additionally discuss readings in modern criticism and theory to help us better situate our primary texts in the discourses of modernity and better understand their lasting resonances. (B, F, H)

Poetry of the Americas

Autumn 2016-2017

28613 / 38613

Rachel Galvin

This course investigates the long poem or “post-epic” in 20th- and 21st-century North and Latin America. As we test the limits of the term post-epic, we will consider whether it may be applied equally to the heroic tale and the open field poem. How do poets interpret the idea of “the Americas” as lands, nations, and sources of identity in these works, and in what tangled ways do their poetics develop through dialogue across linguistic and geographical distances? Authors may include Pablo Neruda, Derek Walcott, Kamau Brathwaite, Gwendolyn Brooks, Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales, Vicente Huidobro, Aimé Césaire, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Anne Carson, Lisa Robertson, M. NourbeSe Philip, Urayoán Noel, and Jennifer Tamayo. Undergraduate: (C,G) Graduate: (20th/21st)

On Fear and Loathing: Negative Affect and the American Novel

Winter 2016-2017

28710 / 38710

Megan Tusler

Since the “affective turn,” cultural studies has continued to consider how collective feelings like shame, willfulness, envy, and dread penetrate literary and art works. This course serves as an introduction to the structures and unstructures of affect studies through novels concerned with bad feeling. It asks students to consider how vectors of inequality demand fictional explication of negative affects; how authors’ own reading of philosophies of bad feeling might affect our interpretations of their fictions; and how the invocation of particular affects might open up or foreclose particular kinds of interpretation. We will read contemporary affect theorists like Sianne Ngai, Sara Ahmed, Brian Massumi, and Eve Sedgwick, and fiction by authors including Toni Morrison, Jeff Jackson, and Kathy Acker. Undergraduate: (B, H) Graduate: (20th/21st)

Literatures of Eurasia

Autumn 2016-2017

28919 / 38919

Leah Feldman

This course explores the construction of a Eurasian ideology based on the contested geopolitical and poetic imaginary of the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Attending to the conceptions of race and ethnicity that this system produced, the course draws connections between a Eurasianist ideology and disciplinary work in linguistics, geography and biology. Tracing its historical break from imperial Russia after the 1917 revolution and a cultural rupture with a notion of European modernity, we will explore Eurasianism’s ties with orientalist discourses developed during the nineteenth century such as Pan-Slavism, Slavophilism, and Pan-Turkism.   In this course we will examine a diverse archive that includes a selection of primary orientalist ethnological sources, Russian and Turkic literary works and film, as well as contemporary theoretical approaches to empire in the region (particularly centered around the institution of Russian/Soviet Orientalism). Our primary focus will be the development and institutionalization of these concepts in the Soviet metropole and on the periphery during amidst periods of Soviet expansion beginning with a brief discussion of Russian imperial expansion during the nineteenth century, proceeding with the period of Soviet expansion during the 1920s, and ending with a look to transnational connections with the non-aligned movement between the 1950s-1970s. Breaking from dominant theories of the formation of the multinational Soviet empire, which focus on the western republics, this course explores the role of the Caucasus and Central Asia, Muslim cultural identity, and Soviet international diplomacy on the construction of Eurasianism. Undergraduate: (B, G, H)

Greenhouse Romanticism

Autumn 2016-2017


Heather Keenleyside

This course takes its title, and its guiding premise, from Deidre Lynch’s marvelous 2010 article, which suggests that received notions of “green romanticism”—the familiar idea that the romantic era was a foundational moment in the history of ecological consciousness—“might benefit from some pondering of greenhouse romanticism.” Lynch coins this phrase to register the plurality and portability nature to which colonial natural history gave rise, as well as the proximity of this nature (natures) to the artifice, or simply cultivation, of culture. The notion of “greenhouse romanticism,” then, means to “disallow” common polarities: between the organic and the cultural, genuine Nature and figurative language, as well as between the domestic and the exotic, growth and fabrication. It also brings gender and sexuality to the fore of questions about nature, normativity, and development. This class will explore the possibilities for thinking “greenhouse romanticism” in and out of a range of late eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century texts, likely to include poetry by James Thomson, William Cowper, Erasmus Darwin, Anna Seward, Anna Barbauld, Charlotte Smith, and William Wordsworth; novels by Maria Edgeworth, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Jane Austen; and selections from contemporary natural histories, gardening manuals, aesthetic treatises, political polemics, and juvenile fiction. They will be supplemented by secondary readings in the history of sexuality, science, and imperialism, as well as eco-criticism. (18th/19th)

Life and Lives in the Nineteenth Century British Novel

Winter 2016-2017

20504 / 40776

Hilary Strang

Life in the nineteenth century seems to be sometimes the object of political power (population, poverty legislation, sanitation reform, biopower), sometimes the rich and textured subject of the developing realist novel. This class will pursue where and how the concept of life moves between these sites. We will ask questions around the divide between human and non-human life in this period; the right over life, including the right to kill; and how and when nineteenth century novels engage with pluralities, communities or multiple lives. Readings will include novels (Shelley, Dickens, Bronte, Hardy); political and philosophical writing of the period (Malthus, Paine, Mill, Eliot, among others); theoretical texts (Agamben, Foucault, Marx) and literary criticism. Undergraduate: (B, G, H) Graduate: (18th/19th)

The Victorian Unconscious

Spring 2016-2017


Zach Samalin

This course will consider the ways in which Victorian literature and culture can at once explain and be explained by psychoanalytic theory. Taking works by Charlotte and Emily Brontë, Charles Dickens, Henry Mayhew, Thomas Hardy, and Henry James as our principle points of departure, our course will pursue the “Victorian unconscious” through three lines of questioning: First, we will ask how Victorian literature anticipated the development of psychoanalytic concepts, such as the unconscious, repression, infantile sexuality and the symptom. At the same time, we will question whether Freud’s reflections on the psychopathologies of modern culture can in fact help to explain specific structural and social transformations in the 19th century public sphere, like the construction of modern sewer systems, the legal regulation of sexual acts, or the development of obscenity law. Finally, we will interrogate how the unconscious operates as a site of theoretical interest within Marxist and postcolonial critiques of modern imperialism. Our readings of 19th century novels will be complemented by extensive readings in psychoanalytic theory (Freud, Klein, Lacan, Winnicott) and pre-pscyhoanalytic psychiatry (e.g. Esquirol, Tuke, Krafft-Ebing, Charcot, Cotard), as well as relevant works by theorists elaborating and questioning psychoanalytic insights, including George Batailles, Michel Foucault, Jacques Rancière, Frederic Jameson, Edward Said, Kaja Silverman, Lauren Berlant, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. (18th/19th)