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Brooklyn College English Department
MA English and MA English Teacher Programs
Spring Semester Courses

Brooklyn College ImageSpring 2015 Courses

Permission from graduate deputy may be required as noted. Cunyfirst class numbers appear in parentheses.

English 7010: Children’s & Adolescents’ Literature (18700)
Prof. McKay, Thu 4:30-6:10
Obtain permission to register from the Graduate Deputy.

This class attempts to address a number of very complicated questions. First, what do we really mean when we say that we are teaching students “to read”?  Secondly, why does the acquisition of this skill involve “literature”? Thirdly, what is “literature” in the first place, and what does it mean when attached to the descriptive phrase “Children’s and Adolescents’”? And lastly, how do the answers to these questions impact the style and content of works written specifically for children and adolescents? Complicating these theoretical questions is one more: how does the implementation of Common Core State Standards influence the way we answer, or even approach, these questions?  This course will survey “Children’s and Adolescents’ Literature” in its broadest sense, from picture books through to writing appropriate for high school students. (I am omitting all but a mention of early, developmental picture books intended for pre-schoolers in consideration of time.) Using picture books by Seuss, Sendak, and others, we will begin the semester by attempting to identify what the purpose of “reading” and “language arts” instruction is or claims to be; and to propose criteria for judging the success of a work of children’s/YA literature, particularly in light of the Common Core Standards. A very short survey of traditional and modern folk and fairy tales will follow, including works by Anderson and Wilde; of more importance, we will look at some recent “translations” from the genre. Following a developmental model, we will look at a variety of works that begin to transition from picture book to middle reader. Finally, we will look at recent developments in YA literature. While we will always and primarily be looking at these texts from a literary-critical perspective, we will not overlook the more pragmatic and practical aspects of using these works as tools in real classrooms, especially as these relate to selecting books using the Common Core Standards and to the idea of multiculturalism in a pluralist society.  All picture books assigned will be on reserve in the library. A course pack will be available in early January from Far Better Copy. Other primary readings will include: A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh; Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan; E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web; Gene Leun Yang’s American Born Chinese; Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, and J. C. Lillis’s How to Repair a Mechanical Heart. Additional titles will be added to this list in early January.  Students will be expected to regularly attend class, actively engage with the material under discussion, and complete all short homework assignments; to regularly participate in a class blogging assignment; to participate in a group assignment that evaluates one the assigned books through the lens of the Common Core Standard; and to submit a 10- to 15-page research paper.

English 7011: Literary Texts & Critical Methods (18701)
Prof. Scott, Mon 6:30-8:10
For MA English Teacher only.  Obtain permission to register from the Graduate Deputy.

This class will explore the ways in which the study of critical methodologies and rhetorical devices can provide tools for the teaching and textual analysis of literature.  We will begin with a critical text that might be seen as the end point for structuralism, the beginning of post-structuralism, or both: Roland Barthes’ S/Z (1970).  With an interest in the ramifications of this text for the analysis of Realism in literature (as well as an awareness of the blind spot that such analyses might create for readers of American texts that emerge through specific cultural dynamics of racism), we will then examine a variety of texts by African-American authors, including Paul Laurence Dunbar, Nella Larsen, and James Baldwin.  These texts will be supplemented by critical texts on race and identity from various scholars, including Anne Anlin Cheng, Robert Reid-Pharr, and Judith Butler.  Lastly, we will revisit questions of Realism and structuralism and / or post-structuralism through the work of the postmodern novelist (and former Brooklyn College student) Gilbert Sorrentino, and through the critical scholarship of Fredric Jameson, Jean Baudrillard, and others.  In addition to writing several short essays and giving a presentation, students will have the option of producing a final research, pedagogical, or creative project.

English 7101: The Canterbury Tales (65357)
Prof. Steel, Mon 6:30-8:10 [area 1]

In this course, we will read Chaucer's last masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales, an unfinished collection of stories purportedly told by pilgrims riding the 60 or so miles from London to Canterbury Cathedral.  You will learn to understand Chaucer's fourteenth-century London dialect of Middle English, an ancestor of most forms of Modern English. We will learn a lot about medieval culture in general while working through tales of dignified, tormented knights, tricky scholars, sanctimonious nuns, lascivious priests, and long-suffering wives (and some a great deal less long-suffering). We will think with the tales through the long and varied histories of warrior cultures, sexuality, gender and love, religious piety and religious institutions, and, especially, nature itself.  Course requirements include weekly writing responses, a short paper, a presentation, a final research paper, and a final exam.

English 7205: Literature of the Long 18th Century (65359)
Prof. Acosta, Mon 4:30-6:10 [area 2]

Change and volatility are perhaps the two terms that best define the British 18th century.  In this course we will examine the striking cultural and literary contradictions that defined the period that saw a small island become a global military, economic, and cultural empire. This is the century that saw the emergence of London as the largest and most “modern” urban space, a space defined in opposition to what for many was rapidly becoming an threatened countryside.  We will look at both the attractive and the ugly sides of the age.  Some of the themes we will discuss are: reason and irrationality; freedom and slavery; cleanliness and dirt; idealism and cynicism.  We will read poetry, fiction, drama, and non-fictional prose.  Some of the principal authors we will look at include: Mary Astell, Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, Eliza Haywood, John Gay, Henry Fielding, Samuel Johnson, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and William Blake. The class will be centered on a discussion of these texts and therefore there will be a strong focus on class participation.  In addition to the required primary and secondary readings, the students will write discussion questions, a research paper, an annotated bibliography, and sit for a final examination.

English 7305: Nineteenth Century Novel (65362)
Prof. Brownstein, Wed 4:30-6:10 [area 3]

Although very long novels were very popular in the nineteenth century, and the century ran for a full hundred years, we will focus, in this course, on short fictions published in the first six decades of the period: Northanger Abbey and Persuasion by Jane Austen, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Hard Times by Charles Dickens, “Janet’s Repentance” by George Eliot, and Anthony Trollope’s Barchester Towers.  We will discuss issues and themes provoked by those works, such as the nature (or art) of the heroine and the novel; narrative voice and point of view; romance, Romanticism, satire, and sin; social class, social change, and the power of institutions.  Students will write three papers.

English 7420: Seminar: The Labors of American Literature (18713)
Prof. Entin, Tue 5:00-6:40 [area 4]

Location: Graduate Center for Worker Education (25 Broadway, Manhattan)

Recent economic developments, including the on-going recession and the expanding inequality between the 1% and the 99%, have sparked a new awareness of the class conflicts shaping U.S. and world society. This course will examine the long and diverse history of American literature about labor, class conflict, and working-class life. We will pay particular attention to the heterogeneity of working-class writing, and to the intersections of class and economic struggle with a constellation of related terms and conditions: modernity, migration, gender, geography, popular culture, race, ethnicity, colonialism, and sexuality. Some of the questions we will address include: What is the working class, and how has it changed over time, across different phases of capitalist development? What is working-class writing, and how have U.S. writers represented labor and working-class life across various cultural, racial and ethnic traditions? How is working-class writing and class formation being reconceived in our contemporary, globalized era? Our investigation will examine nineteenth-century narratives of slave labor and early industrial work; early twentieth-century century stories about tramps, immigrants and anarchists; the long “proletarian moment” of the 1930s and 40s; Cold War-era writings about race, labor and sexuality; contemporary literature addressing the plight of the multi-ethnic, transnational laboring “multitude” under global capitalism. We will explore a range of literary forms, including novels, short fiction, manifestoes, speeches, poetry, films, documentaries and music. We are likely to read writing by, among others, Walt Whitman, Frederick Douglass, Rebecca Harding Davis, Jack London, Tillie Olsen, Muriel Rukeyser, John Steinbeck, Carlos Bulosan, Alice Childress, Richard Wright, Phillip Levine, Helena Viramontes, and Francisco Goldman, and critical work by Karl Marx, Michael Denning, Sharon Smith, Sylvia Federici, Michael Hardt and Toni Negri, and others. Assignments include two essays, an oral presentation, and regular contributions to a course blog.

English 7420: Seminar: Modern European Novel (72920)
Prof. Moser, Wed 4:30-6:10 [area 4]

The era from the turn of the century to the eve of World War II witnessed, according to the poet Charles Peguy, more changes than had occurred in "all the centuries since Christ." The literature of these times testifies to these dramatic changes, to the sweeping modernization that radically changed the way people travelled, communicated, dressed, interacted with people different from themselves, lived in and saw the world. Discussion of the novels will be extended and enriched by readings and discussions of historical, political, philosophical, social, scientific and artistic currents in early 20th-century Europe. Students will also be introduced to a range of critical lenses through which these works can be viewed. This course includes works by such authors as Proust, Gide, Mann, Hesse, Kafka, Bulgakov, Svevo, Unamuno. Requirements include several short papers, a midterm and final exam, a research paper.

English 7501: Introduction to Critical Theory (18718)
Prof. Elsky, Tue 6:30-8:10 [area 5]

Where are we now, and how did we get there? This course will present a survey of the ethical and aesthetic impulses that have shaped literary criticism in the twentieth century and set a new stage for literary analysis in the twenty-first century. It will focus on the changing place of literature in personal, social, and political life resulting from new intellectual frameworks that responded to the ever changing cultural scene in the US. We will begin, briefly, with the situation of criticism in mid-century in the wake of Second World War, including the rival schools of New Criticism, historicism, and phenomenology. We will then move to the upheavals resulting from the impact of theory, as reflected in deconstruction and the New Historicism.  The final segment of the course will turn to developments in literary criticism that followed, and in some cases challenged these movements, including material culture, presentism, and eco-criticism, affect theory, and surface reading.

English 7506: Practicum in College-Level Composition (18721)
Prof. Brooks, Tue 4:30-6:10 [area 5]
For MA English and MFA only. Obtain permission to register from the Graduate Deputy.

This course introduces you to scholarship and practice in the field of composition studies to enable you to prepare to teach freshman composition. Students become familiar with scholarly journals, read articles about theoretical concepts as well as gain a sense of changes in practice over time and differences among students. Topics for consideration include textbooks and material available to teachers, approaches to grammar, assessment, uses of technology, and development of assignments and syllabi. A co-requisite for students who are interested in the possibility of teaching is to spend one class session per week in the classroom of an experienced composition instructor over the semester; please contact the 7506 instructor to make the tutor-internship arrangement.

English 7507: Advanced Theories & Practice of Composition (two sections)
Prof. Siegel, Thu 6:30-8:10 (79032); Prof. Jeffery, Thu 6:30-8:10 (79031) [area 5]
For MA English Teacher only.  Obtain permission to register from the Graduate Deputy.

One of the biggest responsibilities of English teachers is the teaching of writing. How can a teacher help his/her students develop their own writing process, enable them to see their own weaknesses and work on them?  How can a teacher both prepare students for the high stakes tests they have to take and at the same time, aim higher, to the level of expertise required in college? How can students learn to use writing to think and learn? How is work on grammar and conventions integrated into work on content and thinking? These are some of the questions that will be dealt with in this class.  Requirements for the class include: a journal, a literacy autobiography, several other writing assignments and a Writing Teacher/Tutor Portfolio, where students will examine their own (or others’) teaching, follow several of their own students throughout the term, and critique their own teaching of writing.

English 7620: Seminar: Wild Children, Talking Animals, and Human Nature (65367)
Prof. Patkowski, Mon 4:30-6:10 [area 6]

This course will examine the long-standing nature-nurture debate, and investigate the line which separates humans from animals, with a particular focus on the role played by language in shaping our humanity. Our inquiries will draw upon a variety of sources including: literary texts such as Coetzee's The Lives of Animals, Wells's Island of Doctor Moreau, Malouf's An Imaginary Life, as well as chapters or short stories from Kipling, Kafka, and Chatwin; the research literature on wild children and chimp communication; and linguistic and philosophical reflections offered by authors such as Whorf, Vygotsky, Skinner, and Chomsky among others.  Course requirements include attendance and active participation in class discussions, short reaction papers, and an 8-10 page paper and presentation.

Comp Lit 7702: Studies in Literary Genres: African Literature (79410)
Prof. King, Wed 6:30-8:10 [area 7]

The predominant images of Africa we see in media and in literature have been created by outsiders.  Yet Africans have been imagining and representing themselves for centuries.  This course will survey the diverse tradition of African literature through texts from regions, countries, and languages.  It presents an introduction to the major themes of the literature, including colonialism, the conflict between “tradition” and “modernity,” and post-independence realities while asking who and what is African?  We will read novels, poems, and short stories and discuss what, other than geographic location, unites African literature. Assignments include: a short essay, in-class oral and written critical reflections, and a final essay or curricululum.

English 7800: Introduction to Literary Research (18726)
Prof. Minter, Wed 6:30-8:10
For MA English only.  Obtain permission to register from the Graduate Deputy.

This course provides an introduction to the theory and practice of scholarly work in literary studies. More specifically, it prepares students for writing the Master's Thesis by guiding them through a series of essential tasks: developing a viable thesis topic, conducting preliminary research and writing, building a bibliography, pursuing an argument, working with an advisor, and writing a polished thesis proposal. Opening weeks will be spent addressing readings in literary criticism and critical theory, analyzing the methods and aims literary study, and (re)acquainting ourselves with the practical elements of literary research. Then students will take turns presenting their research and responding to presentations by their peers.

English 7810: Thesis (72917)
For MA English only.  Obtain permission to register from the Graduate Deputy.

English 7811: Independent Study (18728)
Obtain permission to register from the Graduate Deputy.