ENGL-570 Romanticism and the Problem of History
Fall for 2011-2012
This seminar on British literature of the romantic period (c. 1780-1837) focuses on a set of conceptual questions crucially important to writers in the age of the French Revolution: what is “history”; how do things change; and how might imaginative activity affect the processes we think of as real? For many romantic-era writers, these core concerns about historical experience spun off to trigger further investigations into memory, trauma, and the nature of literary writing itself: what does poetry do, anyway? In addition to fleshing out the dynamic relationship between literary form and historical change in the period, we will also see how romantic-era works framed what have become the enduring methodological dilemmas of literary and historical scholarship: duration, succession, periodization, evidence, and mediation.
The course will introduce key debates in current criticism and consider the long afterlives of romantic-era thought, going so far as to question the boundaries of “the romantic period” in the first place. But it is also designed as an introduction to the major works and authors writing during those years: Jane Austen, Joanna Baillie, William Blake, Edmund Burke, Lord Byron, Samuel Coleridge, Olaudah Equiano, William Godwin, Felicia Hemans, John Keats, Anne Radcliffe, Walter Scott, Percy and Mary Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, and William Wordsworth. Critical work will come from sources including James Chandler, Alan Liu, Mary Favret, Kevis Goodman, and Clifford Siskin; short theoretical interventions from Walter Benjamin, Paul de Man, G.W.F. Hegel, Georg Lukacs, and Fredric Jameson. Over the course of the term, students will produce a substantial piece of academic writing, developing an idea from conference abstract and brief position paper to an article-length seminar essay. No prior knowledge of romanticism is required.
ENGL-570-01 Thinking Through Ghosts
“There has never been a scholar who really… deals with ghosts,” Jacques Derrida asserts in Specters of Marx. This course will examine both the preoccupation with haunting and spectrality that marks literary and cultural criticism, especially in the past two decades, and the numerous permutations of the ghostly in nineteenth-century American literature and culture. We will read theory and criticism by Derrida, Sigmund Freud, Michel Foucault, Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok, Toni Morrison, Avery Gordon, Lynne Huffer, Terry Castle, Simon During, Molly McGarry and others. Literary texts will include works by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Harriet Prescott Spofford, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles W. Chesnutt, Henry James, Jr., Pauline E. Hopkins, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, Emily Dickinson, and others, as well as writings and images from the Modern Spiritualist movement and some examples of the early ghost film. Students will write several short essays and complete a longer seminar project including an independent research component. Note: Students should have read Toni Morrison’s Beloved before the semester begins.