Spring 2015 English Courses at Amherst College

Amherst College
Spring 2015 English Courses
ENGL 225 Non-Fiction Writing (old and new requirements: 385 Creative WritingNon-fiction)
Lecture 1
TuTh 1:00-2:20
Instructor: Robert Townsend
We will study writers’ renderings of their own experiences (memoirs) and their
analyses of society and its institutions (cultural criticism). Workshop format, with
discussion of texts and of students’ experiments in the genre. Students must submit
examples of their writing to the English office. Three Limited to 12 students. Please consult the
Creative Writing Center website for information on admission to this course.
ENGL 240 Reading Poetry (new requirements: 200+ elective)
Lecture 1
TuTh 10:00-11:20
Instructor: Ingrid Nelson
A first course in the critical reading of selected English-language poets, which gives
students exposure to significant poets, poetic styles, and literary and cultural contexts
for poetry from across the tradition. Attention will be given to prosody and poetic
forms, and to different ways of reading poems. Limited to 35 students.
ENGL 250 Reading the Novel (new requirements: 200+ elective)
Lecture 1
TuTh 11:30-12:50
Instructor: Judith Frank
An introduction to the study of the novel, through the exploration of a variety of critical
terms (plot, character, point of view, tone, realism, identification, genre fiction, the
book) and methodologies (structuralist, Marxist, feminist, psychoanalytic). We will
draw on a selection of novels in English to illustrate and complicate those terms;
possible authors include Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Wilkie Collins, Henry James,
Kazuo Ishiguro, Thomas Pynchon, Toni Morrison, John Edgar Wideman, Emma
Donoghue, David Foster Wallace, Monique Truong, Jennifer Egan. Preference given to
sophomores. Limited to 35 students.
ENGL 255 Unreliabilities (new requirements: 200+ elective)(creative writing spec.)
Lecture 1
MW 12:30-1:50
Instructor: Amity Gaige
This course is concerned with the problem of honesty in subjective expression. We will
study both fictional and non-fictional first-person narratives.
Some narrators
deliberately deceive, and some deceive without intending to. How does an elusive
understanding of the self make even an “honest” narrator’s project of telling harder, if
not impossible? Readings will include works by Kazuo Ishiguro, Vladimir Nabokov,
Joseph Mitchell, Janet Malcolm, Lauren Slater, and Geoff Dyer. Students will be required
to produce both critical and creative writing. Creative writing experience preferred. Writing
attentive. Limited to 15 students.
ENGL 277 Videogames and the Boundaries of Narrative (new requirements: 200+
Lecture 1
Thurs 1:00-4:30
Instructor: Marissa Parham
In this course we will engage in a comprehensive approach to narrative video gaming–play, interpretation, and design–-to explore how video gaming helps us to
conceptualize the boundaries between our experiences of the world and our
representations thereof. We will ask how play and interactivity change how we think
about the work of narrative. What would it mean to think about video games alongside
texts focused on similar subjects but in different media? How, for instance, does
Assassin’s Creed: Freedom’s Cry change how we understand C.L.R. James, Susan BuckMorss, Isabel Allende, or others’ discussions of the Haitian Revolution? And how do
video games help us to reconceptualize the limits of other media forms, particularly
around questions of what it means to represent differences in race, gender, physical
ability? Finally, how might we more self-consciously capitalize on gaming’s potential
to transform the work of other fields, for instance education and community
In this course, students will play and analyze video games while engaging texts from a
variety of other critical and creative disciplines. Assignments for this course will be
scaled by experience-level. No experience with video games or familiarity with
computer coding is required for this course, as the success of this method will require
that students come from a wide variety of skill levels.
ENGL 280 Coming To Terms: Cinema (new requirements: 200+ elective)
Lecture 1
M 4:00-7:00 PM
Instructor: Nathaniel Brennan
An introduction to cinema studies through consideration of a few critical and
descriptive terms, together with a selection of various films (classic and contemporary,
foreign and American) for illustration and discussion. The terms for discussion will
include, among others: cinematic verisimilitude, spectatorship and affect, sound,
narrative, and the avant-garde. Three class meetings and one screening per week.
Limited to 35 students.
ENGL 287 Introduction to Super 8 Film & Digital Video (new requirements: 200+
Lecture 1
Mon 7:00-9:00 PM
This course will introduce students to basic Super 8 film and digital video techniques.
The course will include workshops in shooting for film and video, Super 8 film editing,
Final Cut Pro video editing, lighting, stop motion animation, sound recording and
mixing. Students will learn to think about and look critically at the moving and still
image. Students will complete three moving image projects, including one Super 8 film,
one video project, and one mixed media project. Weekly screenings will introduce
students to a wide range of approaches to editing, writing, and directing in
experimental, documentary, narrative, and hybrid cinematic forms. Screenings include
works by Martha Rosler, Bill Viola, the Yes Men, Jennifer Reeves, Mona Hatoum,
Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Dziga Vertov, D.A. Pennebaker, Jean-Pierre Gorin, Cécile
Fontaine, and Johanna Vaude. Admission with consent of the instructor. Please complete
the questionnaire at https://www.amherst.edu/academiclife/departments/film/infostu/forms.
Limited to 13 students.
ENGL 295 Literature and Pyschoanalysis (new requirements: 200+ elective)
Lecture 1
MW 2:00-3:20
Instructor: Alicia Christoff
Why does it seem natural to read ourselves and other people in the same way that we
read books? This course will introduce students to both psychoanalytic theory and
literary interpretation, asking about their similarities as well as their dissonance. Why
do novels of development and case-studies resemble one another? What can the
Freudian understanding of the structure of the psyche teach us about the structure of
narrative? And what do “illnesses” like hysteria and paranoia have in common with
everyday acts of meaning-making and with the way we read literature? Each week
pairing a psychoanalytic paper with a short story or novel, we will ask how
psychoanalysis alters not only what we see in literary works, but also the way we
understand our own acts of interpretation. Topics include the unconscious, dreams,
childhood, the uncanny, desire, subjects and objects, and mourning.
Reading will include essays by Freud, Lacan, Winnicott, Melanie Klein, and others; and
fiction by Jensen, Melville, Poe, Brontë, James, Flaubert, and Ishiguro.
Preference given to sophomores considering an English major.
ENGL 325 Imitations (old and new requirements: 300+ elective)(creative writing
Lecture 1
MW 8:30-9:50
Instructor: Daniel J. Hall
A poetry writing course, but with a strong emphasis on reading. Students will closely
examine the work of various poets and periods, then attempt to write plausible
imitations of their own, all by way of learning about poetry from the inside, as it were.
Limited to 15 students. Please consult the Creative Writing Center website for information on
admission to this course.
ENGL 332 Chaucer-The Canterbury Tales (old requirements: Brit-lit pre-1700 or 300+
elective)(new requirements: 300+ elective)
Lecture 1
TuTh 1:00-2:20
Instructor: Ingrid Nelson
The course aims to give the student rapid mastery of Chaucer’s English and an active
appreciation of his poetry. No prior knowledge of Middle English is expected. A
knowledge of Modern English grammar and its nomenclature, or a similar knowledge
of another language, will be helpful. Short critical papers and frequent declamation in
class. The emphasis will be on Chaucer’s humor, irony, and his narrative and dramatic
gifts. We will read most of the poetic Tales and excerpts from the two prose Tales.
ENGL 338 Shakespeare (old and new requirements: English 221 equivalent course)
Lecture 1
TuTh 10:00-11:20
Instructor: Anston Bosman
Readings in the comedies, histories, and tragedies, with attention to their poetic
language, dramatic structure, and power in performance. Texts and topics will vary by
instructor. Limited to 50 students.
ENGL 348 Modern British Literature: 1900-1950 (old and new requirements: 300+
Lecture 1
TuTh 10:00-11:20
Instructor: William H. Pritchard
Readings in twentieth-century writers such as Henry James, Bernard Shaw, Joseph
Conrad, D.H. Lawrence, Wyndham Lewis, Ford Madox Ford, Virginia Woolf, Evelyn
Waugh, W.H. Auden, Robert Graves, George Orwell, Ivy Compton-Burnett. Not open to
first-year students.
ENGL 395 Literature and the Nonhuman World (old and new requirements: 300+
Lecture 1
M/F 12:30-1:50
Instructor: Geoffrey D. Sanborn
Like every other aspect of human culture, literature interacts with biology–with, in
Elizabeth Grosz’s words, “a system of (physical, chemical, organic) differences that
engenders historical, social, cultural, and sexual differences.” The aim of this course is
to make that fact as intellectually fruitful as possible. What happens to our
understanding of literature if we think of it as an expression of life? What happens, that
is, if we think of literature as one of the countless things that emerges from a nonpersonal, non-teleological process of evolution? And what happens if we think of
individual works of literature as potential ways of getting closer, conceptually and
sensually, to life, to the difference-making process within which we all find ourselves?
Critical readings will include selections from Grosz’s Becoming Undone and Timothy
Morton’s The Ecological Thought; literary readings will include Shakespeare’s A
Midsummer Night’s Dream, Thoreau’s Walden, James Welch’s Winter in the Blood,
Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, and Edward P. Jones’s The Known World. A
background in the natural sciences is welcome but not necessary.
ENGL 397 Editors & Authors (old and new requirements: 300+ elective)
Lecture 1
Thurs 2:30-5:00
Instructor: Jennifer Acker
In 1980, on the eve of publication of his second short story collection, Raymond Carver
wrote to his editor Gordon Lish and begged him to stop the presses. Carver felt Lish
had edited the stories so dramatically the author could no longer claim them as his own.
Yet this collection is an American masterpiece. What can we learn about the art and
practice of editing from this relationship? How does one read and think like an editor?
In addition to reading editor-author correspondence and the “before” and “after”
versions of landmark literary works, including The Great Gatsby, students will read
and analyze trail-blazing literary magazines, defunct and contemporary, that have
shaped literary landscapes and authors’ careers. Submissions to The Common, the
Amherst College-based print and online literary magazine, will provide some of the
course materials and opportunities for hands-on editing work. Requisite: One English
course at the 200 level or higher required. Limited to 15 students.
ENGL 427 Crafting the Novel (old and new requirements: 300+ elective)(creative
writing spec.)
Lecture 1
Tues 1:00-3:40
Instructor: Amity Gaige
This is an advanced writing course for students seeking to move their fiction writing
into longer forms. Students will be expected to complete at least 60 pages of new
writing, comprised of three different “approaches” to novel writing. Readings will be
extensive, including published novels, the work of peers, and essays on theory and
craft. One class meeting per week. Requisite: ENGL 226. Recommended requisite: ENGL 326.
Open to juniors and seniors. Limited enrollment. Please consult the Creative Writing Center
website for information on admission to this course.
ENGL 438 Solitude and the Self in British Romanticism (old requirements: Brit-lit
1700-1900 or 300+ elective)(new requirements: 300+ elective)
Lecture 1
TuTh 11:30-12:50
Instructor: Amelia S. Worsley
Are we most ourselves when we are alone? Is creativity made more possible by
solitude? Why do artists and writers tend to be seen as more solitary than other kind s
of people?
In this course, we will study shifting ideas about the relationship between the self,
solitude, and creativity in the works of William Wordsworth, Jean -Jacques Rousseau,
Charlotte Smith, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Felicia Hemans, John Keats, Percy Bysshe
Shelley, Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, and Mary Wollstonecraft. Our main focus will be on
Romantic poetry, but we will also pay close attention to texts about solitude that the
Romantics themselves read, such as Shakespeare’s Hamlet and The Tempest, Milton’s
Paradise Lost, Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, and eighteenth-century “graveyard poetry,” in
order to question more rigorously how ideas about solitude changed across time. How
do factors such as gender, race, national origin, and class have a bearing u pon the way
that solitude is represented? The course includes an independent research project, in
which students are asked to find a memoir, philosophical work, novel, periodical, or
piece of travel writing from 1700-1830, in which solitude is a central concept, in order to
ask how the development of different genres and modes of autobiographical writing
affected ideas about solitude. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students.
ENGL 480 Film Historiography in Theory and Practice (old and new requirements:
300+ elective)
Lecture 1
TuTh 11:30-12:50
Instructor: Nathaniel Brennan
This seminar will introduce students to the methodologies of film history, covering
recent questions in the field of cinema studies as well as more general work on
historical and archival practice. We will explore concepts such as historical
spectatorship and reception, the intellectual history of film theory, production and
studio history, the history of narrative and form, and national and transnational film
history. Students will also be introduced to the practical matters of historical research
such as utilizing special collections (public and private) and handling and assessing
archival material. The course will be research intensive; in addition to the assigned
readings and discussion in class, students will undertake one major research project and
present their findings over the course of the semester. Two class meetings and one
screening per week. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students.
ENGL 491 The Creole Imagination (old requirements: 300+ elective)(new
requirements: Anglophone/ethnic Amer literature or 300+ elective)
Lecture 1
MW 12:30-1:50
Instructors: C. Rhonda Cobham-Sander and John E.
What would it mean to write in the language in which we dream? A language that we
can hear, but cannot (yet) see? Is it possible to conceive a language outside the socio symbolic order? And can one language subvert the codes and values of another?
Questions like these have animated the creolité/nation language debate among
Caribbean intellectuals since the mid-1970s, producing some of the most significant
francophone and anglophone writing of the twentieth century. This course reads across
philosophy, cultural theory, politics, and literature in order to consider the claims such
works make for the Creole imagination. We will engage the theoretical and creative
work of Édouard Glissant, Maryse Condé, Wilson Harris, Derek Walcott, Kamau
Brathwaite, Patrick Chamoiseau, Jamaica Kincaid, and Edwidge Danticat. We also will
consider how these writers transform some of the fundamental ideas of psychoanalysis,
poststructuralism, and critical historiography. At stake in our readings will be the
various aesthetic and political aspects of postcolonial struggle–how to think outside the
colonial architecture of language; how to contest and subvert what remains from
history’s violence; and how to evaluate the claims to authenticity of creolized New
World cultural forms. Junior/Senior seminar. Limited to 20 students.