Victorians are the first moderns and the first prudes. We are drawn to the Victorian period because of its modernity—Victorians faced similar social problems and inhabited similar institutions as ourselves—but we also often actively distance ourselves from Victorian culture and the “image of the imperial prude” it implies (Michel Foucault). Challenging a narrow definition of modernity as a historical period or condition, this course will familiarize students with ongoing debates in Foucauldian, postcolonial, Marxist, and queer theory to consider modernity as an attitude, a relationship, an imperial category.
This course will demystify literary studies by teaching students “the way we argue now.” This phrase suggests that 1) that there is a “we”—a community of people who make, revise, and learn from arguments about literature; 2) that there are different “ways” to argue; and 3) that how we argue about literature (and how we understand literature!) changes over time—“now” differs from “then.”
Whether imagining split personalities (The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) or representing how the past uncannily repeats itself in the present (Wuthering Heights), Victorian literature is interested in the merger, juxtaposition, and collision of opposing pairs. In this class, we will think through a few of these pairs—self and other, women and men, past and present, public and private—as we read novels and poetry from the period.
This class will consider what it means to come of age—to grow up—in Ireland. As we track how characters mature and fail to mature, how readers are treated like innocent children and all-knowing adults, how Irish settings and histories shape characters’ trajectory of growth, we will ask big questions about constructions of childhood and adulthood, literature and place, gender, and development as a social, historical and economic process.
One of the most important aspects of modern Irish literature is Ireland itself. Employing diverse genres and styles, Irish writers helped invent Ireland as they responded to important political and historical events and actively produced a distinctly Irish culture. Ireland emerges as a pastoral ideal but also ghostly and tied to trauma; it is a place of humor and hospitality, but also a site of violence and poverty. This upper-level class works through these contradictory representations by reading a variety of genres—poetry, the national tale, gothic fiction, drama, big house novels, naturalist and modernist fiction—and studying key historical developments such as the Act of Union, agrarian movements like Ribbonism, the Famine, the Irish Literary Revival, the establishment of the Irish Free State, and the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
This upper-level English course on the modern short story considers how death lives on in short fiction as we examine various approaches to the short story: the detective story, the ghost story, vampire tales, gothic stories, as well as realist, naturalist, and modernist stories. It moves from strange deaths that need to be explained to ghostly hauntings that trouble the division between life and death to more commonplace deaths that question our assumptions about reality, memory, and everyday life. The course includes stories from different time periods (the nineteenth-century to the present) that represent different places (America, England, Ireland, South Africa, Haiti, India).
An introduction to Romanticism, this course pays particular attention to the ways that Romantic writing uses sentiment, sensibility, nature, and history to imagine an organic national community. The course readings and discussion focus on the relationship between nature and nations, land and language, and people and places as we study poetry and novels. The course will begin by defining key terms in Romanticism, and then study romantic nationalism in England, Ireland, and Scotland.
This course teaches critical writing about literature, and just as importantly, gives students practice critical writing. Students learn key terms in literary analysis, practice close reading, and acquire strategies for making interesting, convincing, and unified arguments about literary texts. We discuss how to move from particular moments in literature to interpretations of literature; how to study literature in ways that help us better understand culture, history, and politics; as well as how to organize sentences, paragraphs, and essays effectively.
An interdisciplinary seminar that considers crowds, collectivities, mobs, and masses to question how social relationships reflect, re-imagine, and unsettle power arrangements. Takes up crowd psychology (Gustave LeBon, Sigmund Freud), political theory (Ernesto Laclau, Frederich Engels), literature (Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, Ahdaf Soueif) and history (Hippolyte Taine).
At once a metonym for the nation and world onto itself, the city dominated the nineteenth-century literary imagination. By engaging with the city and its spaces, writers reflected on their place within the nation, the British empire—even within history. Reading novels, short stories, and poetry, this class will consider how authors represent Dublin, London, and the complex relationship between them as it introduces students to literary and cultural studies.
This course explores the diverse ways that autobiography and memoir represent the collision between self and world. By studying the relationships—even the contradictions—at the heart of self-writing, the course expands students’ understanding of the genres of memoir and autobiography as well as their understanding of the self in the world.