Courses

Courses for the following academic year are announced by the end of January: click on the button to the left, 'Next Year: Courses by Distribution Requirement.' Courses from previous semesters are available on the Registrar's website, and the department also maintains a master list of all courses, in any year, by distribution requirement.

Undergraduate Courses

Fall 2017

AAS 212/ENG 212 What's So Funny? Forms of African American Humor What's so funny? is a question that could be turned around to ask: Who's laughing? Comedian Dave Chappelle might say it's a question about who gets the joke, and who doesn't. This survey of African American humor is an introduction to getting the joke. We study the technical artistry of black humorists and comedians and reflect on the audiences for whom they write and perform. We examine a range of cultural expression, from the dozens to stand-up comedy. In our critical and creative work, we assess how past forms and strategies can be adapted to the project of African American humor today. Instructor(s): Kinohi Nishikawa
AAS 353/ENG 352 African American Literature: Origins to 1910 This introductory course focuses on black literature and literary culture from the mid-18th century to the early 20th; it will cover the poetry of Phillis Wheatley and Paul L. Dunbar; the political oratory of Sojourner Truth and David Walker; slave narratives by Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs; non-fiction prose by W. E. B. Du Bois and Anna Julia Cooper; and Frances Harper's and James Weldon Johnson's novels. In readings, assignments, and discussions, we will explore the unique cultural contexts, aesthetic debates, and socio-political forces that surround the production of an early African American literary tradition. Instructor(s): Autumn M. Womack
COM 351/TRA 351/ENG 361 Great Books from Little Languages For historical reasons most books that come into English are translated from just a few languages, creating a misleading impression of the spread of literature itself. This course provides an opportunity to discover literary works from languages with small reading populations which rarely attract academic attention in the USA. It also offers tools to reflect critically on the networks of selection that determine which books reach English-language readers; the role of literature in the maintenance of national identities; the role of translation; and the concept of "world literature" in Comparative Literary Studies. Instructor(s): David Michael Bellos
ENG 206 Reading Literature: Fiction The making and interpretation of fictions are among our everyday activities, whether or not we realize it; however, we don't always consider what "fiction" is, or what it means. This course will introduce students to the diverse and specific forms fiction takes in literature, with emphasis on the novel and film. We will interrogate the act of creating fictions, and the impact a fictional world can make on a reader. Along the way, we will continually consider two deceptively simple questions: what does fiction do to us? What can fiction do for us? Instructor(s): Sarah A. Chihaya
ENG 207 Reading Literature: Drama This course is designed to teach students how to read plays as literature written for performance. Key assumptions are that every act of reading is an act of interpretation, that a good reader of dramatic literature engages in an activity nearly identical to that of a good director or actor or designer, and that a reader might learn from theater practitioners how to make critical choices based on close reading and a knowledge of theatre history. Instructor(s): Robert Neil Sandberg
ENG 215 Introduction to Science Fiction An exploration of the ideas, issues, and aesthetic values that mark the development of science fiction from the 18th century to the present, with particular attention to the ways specific texts confront the philosophical questions underlying scientific inquiry and invention, travel in time and space, the creation of life, robots and robotics. The ways in which this genre reframes the basic question of what it means to be human will be the foundation of our analysis of contemporary short stories and representative novels. Instructor(s): Alfred Bendixen
ENG 300 Junior Seminar in Critical Writing Students learn to write clear and persuasive criticism in a workshop setting while becoming familiar with a variety of critical practices and research methods. The course culminates in the writing of a junior paper. Each section will pursue its own topic: students are assigned according to choices made during sophomore sign-ins. Required of all English majors.
ENG 308 American Cinema This film genre course addresses the cultural heritage of our national cinema. How has cinema shaped American culture, and how has American culture shaped cinema? We will focus on iconic figures in American film: robbers, tycoons, immigrants, cowboys, gangsters, detectives, lovers, monsters, cyborgs, survivors. Each week will pair an early film with a later one to trace a given genre's evolution; for example, the week on westerns might pair John Ford's "The Searchers" (1956) with Ang Lee's "Brokeback Mountain" (2005). The course studies commercial Hollywood films that serve as important barometers of their times. Instructor(s): Diana Jean Fuss
ENG 312 Chaucer Look up Geoffrey Chaucer in the <i>Urban Dictionary</i>, and you will find an entry describing him as the original urban dictionary, a "medieval poet" whose <i>Canterbury Tales</i> "is a collection of stories filled with plenty of swearing, slang, and fart jokes." In this course we will read and discuss <i>that</i> Chaucer--the brilliant, hilarious, dirty poet of the <i>Canterbury Tales</i>. We will enjoy this fun, often moving text while learning about the poet's artistry, both the literary traditions he so deftly works over, and the sexual, political, and religious issues he so astutely figures and, as is so often the case, perverts. Instructor(s): Andrew Cole
ENG 319/AMS 322 About Faces: Case Studies in the History of Reading Faces What aspects of your identity does your face carry? Why do we form attachments not only to our own face, but to the faces of those we love? This course explores theories about human faces, in terms of race, gender and class, and in relation to animal faces. We consider the ethical hold of the human face alongside the long history of studies--aesthetic, scientific, philosophical--of faces. We will also consider case studies of faces in specific contexts (e.g. in early film, in racial science, as emoji). Instructor(s): Monica Huerta
ENG 320 Shakespeare I The first half of Shakespeare's career, with a focus on the great comedies and histories of the 1590s. Instructor(s): Bradin T. Cormack
ENG 324 James Joyce's <i>Ulysses</i> Participants in the seminar will read James Joyce's <I>Ulysses</I> (1922) closely and carefully, episode by episode, over the twelve-week semester. Our aim will be to develop a deep understanding of the novel--its significance, and its historical and political context. In the first week of the seminar, we will read Joyce's <I>Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man</I> (1916); in the remaining weeks, we will read <I>Ulysses,</I> as well as a selection of the most influential <I>Ulysses</I> criticism. Instructor(s): Joshua Isaac Kotin
ENG 339 Topics in 18th-Century Literature: Jane Austen Then and Now This class will consider Jane Austen not only the inventor of the classic novel but also as an inspiring author who is--thanks to a steady stream of adaptations spinoffs and sequels--our contemporary. Pairing each novel with recent movies, vlogs or tv shows, we will show how Austen is perpetually current in her treatment of love, violence, sisterhood, sex and gender, and we will also ponder how modern texts speak back to her. Exploring Austen's modernity and her difference, we will learn as much about ourselves as about her novels. Instructor(s): Claudia L. Johnson
ENG 345 19th-Century Fiction This course will acquaint students with the distinctive features of the nineteenth century novel, from Austen to Hardy. Lectures will seek to illuminate relations between social and aesthetic dimensions of the texts we read. We will consider how these fictional imaginings of things like love, sex, money, class, and race help shape the ways we live now. Instructor(s): Jeff Nunokawa
ENG 354/AMS 454/LAO 354 An Introduction to Latino Literature and Culture: Latina/o Literary Worlds Latina/os have long been present in the story of the United States. Yet, contemporary media headlines often report an increasing, and often alarmist, "browning" of America. These headlines often rely upon stereotypes of Latina/os--morphing them into a static and falsely unified identity category. We will examine to Latina/o literature and art to note how such headlines leave out many stories. Looking at Latina/o narratives, we will consider the uniqueness of each piece in relation to place, history, and gender. Attention will be paid to how these aesthetic pieces perform modes of resistance.
ENG 357 Topics in American Literature: Henry James and William Faulkner This course examines the careers of two of America's most accomplished novelists. Manifest differences aside, both authors were obsessed with the ensnaring effects of plot, prompting both to imagine fictional realms that are as much "designs" on the reader as on characters. Instructor(s): Lee Clark Mitchell
ENG 364/COM 321/THR 364 Modern Drama I A study of major plays by Ibsen, Strindberg, Chekov, Pirandello, Brecht, Beckett and others. Artists who revolutionized the stage by transforming it into a venue for avant-garde social, political, psychological, artistic and metaphysical thought, creating the theatre we know today. Instructor(s): Robert Neil Sandberg
ENG 377/COM 386 Bollywood Cinema Bollywood generates more films each year than other global film industries, circulating films across Africa, Asia, and beyond. What are the dominant trends and genres of popular South Asian cinema since independence? We will assume a capacious meaning of "Bollywood" as a global phenomenon. Course topics include the recent resurgence of Pakistani film industry as well as "Third Cinema," against which the popular is often defined in studies of postcolonial cinema. Course topics include melodrama, the popular, translation, diaspora, migration, nationalism and affect. Some background in film or media theory will be helpful but not required. Instructor(s): Zahid Rafiq Chaudhary
ENG 379/AAS 379/AMS 389/ART 380 Black Aesthetics: Art, Literature, and Politics in the African Diaspora This course introduces students to black aesthetics as a historically grounded concept that stages questions of the social, cultural, political and philosophical meaning of blackness. We'll explore various 'flashpoints' during the 20th century where black art serves both as a site of contestation and a platform for interrogating topics of race, gender, sexuality, the body, objecthood, slavery and colonialism. We'll consider how various generations of black artists/intellectuals across the African diaspora turned to the aesthetic realm to imagine new political possibilities and generate different ways of seeing, feeling, sensing, and thinking. Instructor(s): Nijah Cunningham
ENG 381 Laughter, Vice and Delusion: Satire and Satirists, 1500-1700 This seminar considers a part of English literary history that is often overlooked: the surge in satirical writing from 1500 to 1700. In it, we will discuss a range of texts--prose, poetry, and drama--that are funny, clever, angry, culturally omniverous, and often foul mouthed. In addition to enjoying ourselves, we will see that satire involves far more than calling out corruption in high places, or mocking the pretensions of snobs, lovers, bad writers, and those trying to make it big. It is also a provocation to laugh, and sometimes to wince, our way to a better understanding of what life and literature are supposed to be about.
ENG 390/COM 207/HUM 207 The Bible as Literature This course will study what it means to read the Bible in a literary way: what literary devices does it contain, and how has it influenced the way we read literature today? What new patterns and meanings emerge? This course will examine the structures and modes of the Biblical books; the formation of the canon and the history of the apocryphal or deuterocanonical books; questions authorship; its literary genres; histories of exegesis, interpretation, and commentary; the redaction, division, and ordering of biblical texts; the cultural, political, and intellectual worlds within which these texts were written. Instructor(s): Donald Vance Smith
ENG 405 Topics in Poetry: Contemporary Poetry This seminar focuses exclusively on books of poetry published in 2017. We will read work by established and emerging poets, and attend poetry readings in Princeton (and possibly New York and Philadelphia). Poets will also visit the class to discuss their work and/or the work of writers they admire. Students will write reviews, rather than essays, and, in the process, learn about (and contribute to) the institutions that support and promote contemporary writing. Instructor(s): Joshua Isaac Kotin
ENG 416/COM 431 Topics in Literature and Ethics: Modern Evil This is a course on the problem of evil in the modern world as it is represented in works of literature and film. What is the nature of evil and how is it imagined? How can the noble ideas that define the modern world--justice and human rights, for example--be reconciled with the terrible events of the twentieth century: genocide, racial violence, and war? Why do good people do terrible things to others? What can reading books on evil in distant places teach us about ourselves? The course will explore how evil functions as a form of deep ethical violation and challenges how we understand the world and our relationship to others. Instructor(s): Simon Eliud Gikandi
ENG 421/MED 421 Beowulf How does <i>Beowulf</i> work as a poem? In this course, we aim to find out, learning <i>Beowulf</i> through close study of its manuscript context and of its literary and historical milieux. Topics emphasized include the poem's genre; its sources, analogues, and afterlives; its place in theories of oral performance; its aesthetics; and its troubled relationship to the culture(s) that wrote it and to the modern cultural investment in it. Tune up your harp, sharpen your wits, and get set to explore a startling and crucial text. Instructor(s): Sarah M. Anderson
ENV 369/ENG 383 Environmental Imaginings and Global Change This course in the environmental arts and humanities will explore the vital transformative role that narrative and image can play in shifting our imaginative, ethical, and political horizons. Students will have the chance to engage with cutting edge creativity by environmental filmmakers, writers, sculptors and digital artists. Our perspective will be international and interdisciplinary as we consider experimental strategies to change the force fields of environmental perception and thereby impact the emotional life of the body politic. For, as novelist Ruth Ozeki puts it, "The very act of storytelling is itself a form of hope." Instructor(s): Robert Nixon
GSS 345/AAS 355/ENG 399/AMS 373 Pleasure, Power and Profit: Race and Sexualities in a Global Era Pleasure Power and Profit explores the intimate ways that sexualities and race are entwined in contemporary culture, historically, and in our own lives. Why are questions about sexuality and race some of the most controversial, compelling, yet often taboo issues of our time? Exploring films, popular culture, novels, social media, and theory, we engage themes like: race, gender and empire; fetishism, Barbie, vampires and zombies; sex work and pornography; marriage and monogamy; queer sexualities; and strategies for social empowerment such as: Black Lives Matter, the new campus feminism, and global movements against sexual and gender violence. Instructor(s): Anne McClintock
LCA 213/AAS 213/ENG 213/HUM 213 The Lucid Black and Proud Musicology of Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka This class will focus on the career-long writing about jazz, blues, rock and R&B of Amiri Baraka (nee Leroi Jones) and the significant impact it has had on cultural politics, scholarship and esthetics from the early 1960s to the present. Baraka's work as an activist and his gifts as a poet/novelist/playwright/political essayist allowed him to inject considerable lyricism, eloquence, learning and passion into the previously moribund fields of African American music history and journalism. His music writing also affected the tenor of future public advocacy for jazz via the NEA 's Jazz Masters awards and Jazz At Lincoln Center. Instructor(s): Gregory Stephen Tate

Graduate Courses

Fall 2017

CHV 577/COM 577/ENG 535 Crime and Punishment (Ethics of Reading VII) The seminar studies important legal cases in the field of criminal justice and penology, alongside some works of literature that address analogous issues. Focus on reading legal opinions, especially concerning: guilt, search and seizure, interrogation and confession, trial, appeal, and punishment. Attention also to the analysis of narrative and rhetoric in both law and literature. Visiting faculty join the seminar every other week. Instructor(s): Peter P. Brooks
ENG 511 Special Studies in Medieval Literature: Instituting Literature What is it that sets "literature" apart from vernacular writing in general in medieval England? We examine the concept of "institution" in political theory, the philosophy of language, the creation of literary value, and the historiography of secularization and rupture. We discuss texts in which the shaping of institutions is a mode of literary self-constitution, and institutions that contribute to the shaping of texts, including mortuary guilds, mendicant and monastic orders, affinities and "bastard" feudalism, chantry chapels. Instructor(s): Donald Vance Smith
ENG 523 Renaissance Drama: Shakespeare's Language A survey of Shakespeare's linguistic resources, from several standpoints: the history of the language, the art of rhetoric, problems of attribution (including the potentials of computational stylometrics), and poetics. Over the course of the semester we study six plays, including Comedy of Errors, Hamlet, and The Winter's Tale. There are weekly exercises in stylistic description and imitation. Our questions: how does Shakespeare sound like himself? (Does he sound like himself?) How does he sound like others, like his age, like his readers? And his characters - can we ask the same questions of them? Instructor(s): Jeff Dolven
ENG 545/COM 544 Special Studies in the 18th Century: Literature and the Early Enlightenment, 1650-1760 What is Enlightenment? And when, if at all, did Enlightenment happen? In this course we approach these familiar and crucial questions with an eye to literary forms and <i>fabulae</i>, tracing how poetry, tragedy, and novels participate in the work of biblical exegesis, theology, natural philosophy, and emancipatory political though--that is, the common terrain of Enlightenment philosophy and administration. We examine inventive investigations of enthusiasm and priestcraft, speculative anthropologies that posit worlds before Adam and Eden, and philosophical works that traverse genres, exacting new and exciting forms of fiction. Instructor(s): Sophie Graham Gee, Russell Joseph Leo III
ENG 550 The Romantic Period: Chameleon Poets: Posture and Imposture in the Romantic Age "What shocks the virtuous philosopher, delights the camelion poet," wrote Keats, while Byron declared that "there's a sure market for imposture." Even as the Romantics cultivated the posture of poetic authenticity, they also invented avatars, disguises, doppelgangers, shape-shifters and shameless frauds. In readings of Wordsworth, Byron, Keats, Hemans, Robinson, Equiano, Hogg, and Scott, we explore the dialectic between posture and imposture in the Romantic age as an allegory of form, a theater of the self, and a triumph of Romantic irony. Discussion frequently focuses on approaches to teaching these texts. Instructor(s): Esther Helen Schor
ENG 553/COM 556 Special Studies in the Nineteenth Century: Realism, Evolution, and the "Natural History of Man" The seminar explores the interaction between nineteenth-century fiction and an ascendant "natural history of man," from late-Enlightenment philosophical anthropology through early transformist biology to Charles Darwin. Topics include: the Romantic invention of new novelistic forms, the <i>Bildungsroman</i> and historical novel, in light of a new form of human subject; the scientific basis (in pre-Darwinian evolutionism) of Dickens's challenge to the codes of realism; reconfiguration of the relation between lyric and narrative in long poetic forms (Tennyson); George Eliot's address to the ongoing revolutions in the natural and human sciences.
ENG 563 Poetics: Poetic Realism: Episodes, 18th Century to the Present The leading ambition is to track a variety of ways in which poetry tries to capture felt and pressing realities. The course starts with Pope at his most sweeping ("Essay on Man," "Essay on Criticism"), and take up the relationship among psalms, metrical psalms, blank verse, Anna Laetitia Barbauld's metrical prose, and hymns before proceeding to georgics and conversation poems. It concludes with a discussion of first-person lyric and memoir. Instructor(s): Frances Cottrell Ferguson
ENG 568 Criticism and Theory: Impunity How is our political moment in line with a series of cultural and political shifts since WWII, in global practices of impunity? How may we reconsider postcolonial texts from the vantage point of questions about accountability, redress, and the production of subjects who can or cannot be punished? We explore economic, legal, psychological, and aesthetic dimensions of impunity, ranging across a series of global sites, from Indonesia to the U.S. Course topics include decolonization, state violence, populism, and aesthetic autonomy. Readings include Adorno, Arendt, Balibar, Brown, Butler, Fanon, Kristeva, Marx, Nietzsche, Spivak. Instructor(s): Zahid Rafiq Chaudhary
ENG 574/AAS 574 Literature and Society: The Present Moment: Contemporary Literature How do critics, writers, and readers approach the work of the present moment? This seminar has two main foci: first, the field of 21st century literature and culture in English, and second, the contemporary role of critique in both academic and popular culture. We read and watch primary texts that undertake their own projects of social, political, and formal critique, alongside experiments in critical and theoretical writing from writers both in and outside of the academy. We take up questions that animate discussions about the role of the humanities in our present moment: who are we writing for? What forms can that writing take? Instructor(s): Sarah A. Chihaya, Kinohi Nishikawa