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

Brooklyn College ImageSpring 2014 Courses

(*) Indicates permission from graduate deputy required

English 7010: Children’s & Adolescents’ Literature (50898)
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 (50902)
Prof. Steel, Mon 6:30-8:10
For MA English Teacher only.  Obtain permission to register from the Graduate Deputy.

When academic literary theory studies writers and words, when it uses interpretative techniques that date back to ancient commentary traditions, and when it tries to figure out what characteristics make language literary, it seems especially like literary theory. When literary theory investigates how literature comes to be recognized as literature or how literature reproduces or challenges our ways of understanding the world, then literary theory seems to muddle itself with everything, literature included. Theory's “heroic age,” when literary theory just became “theory,” used feminism, Marxism, psychoanalysis, and philosophical linguistics to discover how gender, race, class, facts, nature itself, are all products of culture, so far as we're concerned. Contemporary literary criticism goes even further in what it uses. It draws on and develops ideas from biology, quantum physics, cognitive science, and ecology; it uses computers to chart enormous textual networks or how writers work to convince us of the centrality of their main characters. The chief characteristic of literary theory is therefore not that it's about literature but rather that it's used on or with literature. Whatever that is. It's used to produce “readings,” that is, interpretations of literary works, to correct misconceptions about the work, to help us see something new about it, or, increasingly, to help us see ourselves or the world in a new way. And because it's designed to shake us up, it's often very, very difficult.  Our class will begin with the “New Criticism,” the dominant method of Anglophone academic literary criticism for several decades after the first world war, and then will move into the major movements of the era of high theory, roughly the 1970s through the early '90s. In the final weeks of the class, we will turn to ecocritisim and “new materialisms,” which are your instructor's current favorite schools of criticism.  Throughout the class, we will read short literary works to test out as a kind of “laboratory” of theory. We will culminate by reading some recent speculative fiction.  The first half of the course is designed to help students pass the English comprehensive exam. Students will be evaluated on their active participation in class discussions, an exam, a short paper, a presentation (combined with a second paper), in-class writing, and a roughly 3,000-word final research paper.

English 7103: Literature of the Middle Ages (50904)
Prof. Masciandaro, Thu 6:30-8:10 [area 1]

“Nothing is more favorable to the inspiration of the muses than this place of purification . . . Purgatory surpasses heaven and hell in poetry, in that it offers a future” (Chateaubriand). Or as the great troubadour poet sings, via Dante’s purgatorial verses, from the terrace of the lustful, “‘I am Arnaut, who weep and go singing; / with sorrow I see my past folly, / and joyously I see the joy I wait for, before me . . .’ Then he hid himself in the fire that refines.” Purgatory—a time between damnation and blessedness, a place between time and eternity, an afterlife intersecting this one—is among the more wonderful inventions of the premodern world, a monument to the metaphysical creativity of the medieval imagination, all the more so because the concept of purgatory inherently concerns the reality of the imaginal and the virtual—the whole subtle world and ‘stuff of dreams’ wherein the visible and invisible substantially meet. The relation between purgatory and the virtual is originally evident in 1 Corinthians 3:15 (one of the Biblical passages on which the medieval doctrine rests), in which the post-mortem purification of some sinners is described as occurring as if by fire (quasi per ignem). This relation means, as the literary history of the religious doctrine attests, that purgatory also holds a special relation to fictive literature, to the imaginative work of textually figuring the truth, the world, and/or whatever else finds its way through the human pen. And it is precisely an open idea of literary representation, one for which literature itself represents a real openness of things, to which the purgatorial imagination speaks. For example: the polysemy of the angelic penne (wings, pens) which in Dante’s Purgatorio mark the process of self-purifying ascent, washing away one by one the seven letters of sin written with a sword on the pilgrim’s forehead, shadows forth the immanent fact of poetry, the scripting of its word, as that which cleanses one of the past and creatively writes the future. The correlative aim of this course, therefore, will be to study medieval literature through the lens of purgatory in an open way, attending not only to literary works about purgatory, but to the purgatoriality of medieval literature, especially with respect to related issues and contexts: theories of imagination, visionary poetics, concepts of time and work, penitential and confessional practices, the boundary between the living and the dead, etc. Above all we will focus on the fiery continuities between literary and spiritual labor, exploring how, if poetic imagination indeed holds before us an authentic future and promise of real friendship with the world, it is then as now a friendship made only, as William Blake wrote, “By severe contentions of friendship & the burning fire of thought.” Works to be read include: Dante’s Purgatorio; Langland’s Piers Plowman; Bonaventure’s Journey of the Mind into God; Chaucer’s House of Fame; Julian of Norwich’s Revelation of Love; and The Ghast of Gy; Pearl. Requirements: class presentation, final exam, research paper.

English 7206: Eighteenth Century Novel (50906)
Prof. Acosta, Mon 4:30-6:10 [area 2]

The genre of the novel as we know it today was formed in the eighteenth century.  But in this early period, the novel was not yet the stable and recognizable category that it became thereafter.  The instability of the eighteenth-century novel makes these texts unusual, experimental and fun; they allow us to reconsider questions of form and entertainment, gender, and the place of popular literature as a commodity in the market place.  During the semester we will read both canonical and recently rediscovered works—what most of them have in common is that they were popular successes when published.  We will study what characterizes the novel as a popular genre, how this affected its critical reception, and the crucial role played by women as writers, protagonists, and readers in the development of the novel. We will also survey current critical approaches to the eighteenth-century novel. Class work will focus on close reading and discussion.  Additionally, you will be required to write an annotated bibliography, a final paper, and take a final examination. We will read works by Jane Austen, Aphra Behn, Fanny Burney, Daniel Defoe, Maria Edgeworth, Henry Fielding, John Cleland, James Hogg, Samuel Richardson, and Laurence Sterne.

English 7301: Nineteenth Century Literature I (51048)
Prof. Brownstein, Wed 4:30-6:10 [area 3]

In this course we read and discuss literary works that epitomize or evoke the high style of the Regency era (1811-1820) in England, when George III was deemed mad and the Prince of Wales replaced him.  We begin with two satirical retrospective looks at the period, W.M. Thackeray’s Vanity Fair (1847-48) and the “English cantos” of Lord Byron’s Don Juan (1822-23).  Before going on to read three novels by Jane Austen—Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), and Persuasion (1818)—we study some graphic satires by James Gillray (1756-1815).  From Austen’s last novel we turn to Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander (1969), which it inspired.  Students also read some literary and cultural criticism, and write three short papers, including one that analyzes a film adaptation of a novel.

English 7320: Seminar: Charles Dickens (51055)
Prof. Reeves, Tue 6:30-8:10 [area 3]

Charles Dickens called himself “The Inimitable.” This course examines that cocky claim by analyzing an excoriation of Victorian society, a Freudian tale, and a bildungsroman: Bleak House, A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations.  Four areas will be studied: Dickens’ core belief that he had a tortured youth; his self-appointed role as social crusader; the organization of his middle life into public posture and randy privacy; finally, his obsession to maintain his vast audience, an activity which hastened his death.  Expect a heavy reading and writing load.  Previous coursework in 19th C. British literature and literary criticism is recommended.  Primarily, we will close read these intriguing volumes in order to establish Dickens’ style and substance and to consider his enduring popularity.  Requirements include research paper, oral reports, responses, final exam.  Students read Hard Times and David Copperfield for research paper.

English 7403: Modern American Novel (51057)
Prof. Entin, Thu 4:30-6:10 [area 4]

What is globalization? How has it shaped American literature, and how have American writers responded to it? This course will explore a range of recent writing that engages with globalization and associated issues, including neoliberalism, economic restructuring, and the rise of massive inequalities; migration, transience, and translation; the “war of terror” and the emergence of new forms of technology and social control; the reshaping of race, labor, ethnicity, and nation in the context of transnational modes of flexible accumulation. We will focus on fiction, and a few films. Likely authors include Russell Banks, Karen Tei Yamashita, Edwidge Danticat, Dave Eggers, William Gibson, Francisco Goldman, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Colum
McCann. We will enhance our readings of the novels with selections of cultural and literary theory from Fredric Jameson, David Harvey, Lauren Berlant, Deluze and Gauttari, Aihwa Ong, Andrea Smith and others.  Assignments include regular response papers, a turn helping facilitate class discussion, and two essays.

English 7420: Seminar: Non-Fiction Writing (51059)
Prof. Traister, Tue 4:30-6:10 [area 4]

This seminar will address the topic of how to write feature stories for magazines, newspapers and web outlets; we’ll examine lengthy reported stories, opinion pieces, first-person memoir and even extended Q/As.  We’ll read everything from social and political analysis (Ta-Nehesi Coates’ “Fear of a Black President” in The Atlantic) to celebrity profiles (a recent New York Magazine profile of Stevie Nicks) and consider how writers integrate themselves into or absent themselves from stories. We’ll read journalists who expose wholly unfamiliar subjects as well as those who find fresh ways to cover well-tread ground, taking on pieces both heavy and light.  We’ll discuss how writers make personal confession professionally powerful (Nora Ephron’s “A Few Words About Breasts”) and how they sometimes turn professional situations uncomfortably personal (a GQ profile of actor Chris Evans) and we’ll discuss the place of voice, viewpoint and opinion within different kinds of reported stories. We’ll look at the way journalists disagree through their published work (exploring back-and-forth stories about “Mommy Wars” and a series of controversial pieces about race, class and marriage). We’ll also analyze some classic feature stories and discuss what made them resonate when they were published and whether their relevance holds up.  This class will offer practical discussions of the media as business and profession. There will be frank conversations about journalistic process, pitching and compensation. In addition to doing critical reading and analysis of the published work of others, students will be asked to craft pitches for feature stories of their own, with an eye to matching tone and subject matter to individual publications, framing pitch letters, checking ideas against previously published material and outlining the kind of reporting, research and structure that they would implement in writing their assignments.

English 7940: Contemporary Poetry (51127)
Prof. Welish, Mon 4:30-6:10 [area 4]
Obtain permission to register from the Graduate Deputy.

We shall approach contemporary poetry as the study of textual strategies.  Working with soundscapes, found materials and intertexts, contemporary poets construct a poetics from principles, rules, and procedures.  We shall consider poetics from OULIPO to L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E and beyond—or, at least, elsewhere.  Constructing a poetics from the critique of received ideas, contemporary poets create linguistic mayhem and assume their right to guerrilla activity within, across and against cultural habit.  Assignments will come from some of the following texts: Oulipo Compendium, edited by and Harry Mathews and Alistair Brotchie, In the Break: Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition, Fred Moten, The Constructivist Moment by Barrett Watten, A Guide to Poetics Journal: Writing in the expanded field 1982-1998, edited by Lyn Hejinian and Barrett Watten, Boundary 2: American Poetry after 1975, edited by Charles Bernstein, Complicities: British Poetry 1945-2007.eds., Robin Purves, Sam Ladkin, et al.  Poems for study will come from the following: The Totality for Kids, by Joshua Clover, Spinoza in Her Youth, by Norma Cole, l.b.; or, catenaries, by Judith Goldman, Implextures, by Karen MacCormack, Demosthenes Legacy, by Jonathan Monroe, My Silver Planet, by Daniel Tiffany, Frame, by Barrett Watten, A Shelf in Woop’s Clothing, by Mac Wellman,  and Howell, by Tyrone Williams. Grades will depend on seminar notebooks, participation, commentaries, and a research paper.

English 7501: Introduction to Critical Theory (51065)
Prof. Davis, Thu 6:30-8:10 [area 5]

What is literature?  The question has a long, contentious history and subsumes several associated questions: What constitutes literary language and literary value?  What is literature’s social function?  What is the role of the author, reader, or critic?  Although one could begin earlier, this course starts with the 19th century liberal humanism of Matthew Arnold – for whom literature was “the best which has been thought and said” – and proceeds to address key movements in 20th century critical theory.  These include New Criticism, Structuralism and Deconstruction, Psychoanalysis, Feminism and Gender/Sexuality Studies, Marxism, New Historicism and Cultural Studies, Postcolonialism and Ethnic Studies, and Reader Response.  We will treat these approaches not as discrete “isms,” but as part of an ongoing dialogue responsive to cultural and intellectual contexts.  Students will study critical theory as theory but also in practice, reading exemplary works of literary criticism and developing their skills in writing through multiple critical lenses.  Requirements include several informal response papers and two formal essays.

English 7506: Practicum in College-Level Composition (51069)
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 (46182)
Prof. Siegel, Thu 6:30-8:10 [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 7520: Seminar: Queer Theory & Literature (51072)
Prof. Minter, Mon 6:30-8:10 [area 5]

Is “queer” still a vital category in an era of same-sex marriage? In the 1980s (a decade where “gay” sometimes appeared as an acronym for “Got AIDS Yet?”), the Supreme Court upheld the right of states to criminalize gay sex, and academics began to deconstruct cultural understandings of gender through a combination of post-structuralism and feminist theory. “Queer theory” was born of this theoretical marriage, and the 1990s developed into a golden age of queer assessments of literature and culture. By the first decade of the present century, however, arguments for a “post-queer” understanding began to appear, just as the Supreme Court reversed its earlier decision criminalizing gay sex and established an important legal principle that would allow it to uphold same-sex marriage in 2013. • The course will begin with readings from the foundational moment of queer theory – including Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble and Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues – along with recent texts that point in other directions. We will then move to two sets of literary readings. For the first: Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson; The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde; “The Beast in the Jungle,” “The Author of ‘Beltraffio’” and “The Pupil” by Henry James; and Dancer from the Dance by Andrew Holleran. For the second: The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall, Orlando by Virginia Woolf; and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson. There will also be a few recommended films, including Boys Don’t Cry and Blue is the Warmest Color. Assignments will include: leading of class discussion; participation in the course’s online discussion forum; a theory-based midterm paper; a research-based final paper; and random acts of queerness.

English 7603: Introduction to Linguistics (51074)
Prof. Nissenbaum, Wed 6:30-8:10 [area 6]

This course provides an introduction to the various aspects of contemporary linguistics by analyzing how sentences are put together from words (syntax), how words and language sounds are structured (morphology and phonology), and the systematic ways in which these convey meaning (semantics). The course will look at variation across languages and dialects, and students will investigate the extent to which universal principles underlie what appear to be substantial surface differences among languages. Beyond examining these essential mechanics of language, the course will touch on several broader issues such as: child language acquisition, second language acquisition, and the representation of linguistic knowledge in the brain.  Readings from the course text will introduce the general methodology and basic ideas in each of the core areas and will be accompanied in each case by appropriate exercises and problems. The readings will provide the groundwork for doing the problems and we will go over them in class. Participation in class assignments will be especially important. There will be regular problem sets, a final exam, and a short term paper.

Comp Lit 7703: Special Authors: Proust and His Times (49121)
Prof. Moser, Wed 6:30-8:10 [area 7]

Proust’s novel, In Search of Lost Time, rich in references and allusions to both past and contemporary history, literature, society, science, art, will serve as the main resource in this course.  Students will read all of Volume I (Swann’s Way) and parts of Volumes 2-6, depicting the era between 1871-1922, touching on the fin-de-siècle, Belle Epoque, and World War I years, a time that one observer described as having witnessed more changes in thirty years than in “all the centuries since Christ.”  Proust’s novel bears witness to these dramatic changes, to the sweeping modernization that radically changed the way people traveled, communicated, dressed, interacted with people different from themselves, lived in and saw the world. Discussion of the novel will be extended and enriched by readings and discussions of historical, political, philosophical, social, scientific and artistic currents in turn-of-the-century France.  Requirements include response papers, close textual analyses, and a final research paper.

English 7800: Introduction to Literary Research (51078)
Prof. Elsky, Tue 6:30-8:10
For MA English only.  Obtain permission to register from the Graduate Deputy.

The aim of this course is to prepare for the writing of the MA thesis. As an introduction to several major areas of literary research and scholarly procedure, the course will focus on practical techniques of locating and citing primary and secondary sources; use of primary and secondary sources; choosing an approach to the topic of the MA thesis; arriving at a working thesis and manner of proceeding. Assignments will be directed toward a term project (a formal prospectus) on a writer, work, or topic that will be the subject of the student’s MA thesis. The procedure of the course will center around work-shopping specific projects undertaken by students in the course. We will also attend to identifying critical approaches that have dominated literary scholarship in recent decades. Forms of criticism will be illustrated with essays chosen by students for their own work.

English 7810: Thesis (51081)
For MA English only.  Obtain permission to register from the Graduate Deputy.

English 7811: Independent Study (51084)
Obtain permission to register from the Graduate Deputy.