Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Department of English
Fall 2013
Home > Graduate > Courses > Past courses > Fall 2013

ENG 814/492H – Literatures in English After 1800

Professor Judith Stoddart

Tuesday, 4:10-7:00pm


The nineteenth-century is often characterized as the age of individualism, when the development of psychology as a science and the rise of the novel as the prominent literary form helped to consolidate our assumptions about individual identity and personality.  But there is an equally strong fascination in the period with the dissolution or dispersion of the self, not as a condition to be feared or controlled, but actively cultivated. Influenced by new theories in evolutionary biology and psychology, this line of thinking focused on the impossibility of drawing boundaries around individual selves and on the possibility that our identities might be shared across bodies, across time periods, and across space. In this course, we will look at texts that explore the productive possibilities of this expansion of the self.  We will read novels, poetry, psychology, and biology from the 1840s through 1920, as well as current theories of personality that pick up on themes (e.g., faulty memory, obsession, altered brain states) introduced there.  We will look at how some of the new popular genres and subgenres of the time—science fiction, fantasy, detective fiction, horror—emerged from these concerns, as well as how more familiar forms—lyric poetry, the realist novel—were twisted and transformed.  Our focus will be primarily British literature of the period, paired with recent accounts in philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and ethics, but the course will intersect more broadly with questions of identity, subjectivity, character, and genre theory. Students whose primary area is outside the nineteenth century will be encouraged to make connections to materials in their areas of expertise.


ENG 802/482 - Literary Criticism and Theory

Professor Zarena Aslami

Tuesday and Thursday, 10:20-11:40am
How do we describe the relation between literature and sexual difference, culture and power? Feminist theorists have analyzed, on the one hand, how literature actively participates in the production and reproduction of sexual difference and, on the other, how it can expose, resist, or deform it. In this course, students will develop their critical reading, writing, and discussion skills as we examine a range of approaches in feminist literary and cultural theory and analyze a selection of literary texts, primarily from Western Europe and North America. As we proceed through the semester, we will keep returning to the status of literature and of sexual difference, asking of each what it is, what it can do, and how historical factors condition its meanings. We will start with classics in the field and read our way to contemporary critical theory, moving back and forth between theory and literature. Possible theorists include Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, Simone de Beauvoir, Juliet Mitchell, Kate Millett, Gayle Rubin, Hélène Cixous, Luce Irigaray, Michel Foucault, Jane Tompkins, Julia Kristeva, Hortense Spiller, bell hooks, Eve Sedgwick, Judith Butler, Gayatri Spivak, Toril Moi, and Jacqueline Rose. Possible literary authors include Charlotte Brontë, Virginia Woolf, Nella Larsen, Sylvia Plath, Caryl Churchill, Gloria Anzaldùa, Jamaica Kincaid, Marjane Satrapi, Zadie Smith, and, while not strictly literature, but arguably literary and focused on an aspiring female writer, Lena Dunham’s TV series “Girls.” Students will be responsible for selecting the texts for our final section.


ENG 819/455 – Special Topics in Language and Literature

Professor Ann Larabee

Monday and Wednesday, 3:00-4:20pm




ENG 813/455 - Literatures in English After 1800

Professor Jyotsna Singh

Tuesday and Thursday, 4:10-5:30pm


What are some distinctive features of Renaissance literature and why does the subject of love dominate its poetry? Why do sixteenth and seventeenth-century writers frequently use the language of desire to explore gender roles? How do men and women express their desires differently (such as through different poetic forms and tropes) and what notions of gender shape their language? How do the literary works of the period define an ideal or flawed masculinity and femininity? Why do they frequently use gendered language to define political power? To explore these and other questions, we will consider a number of theoretical approaches and examine a range of genres -- poetry, prose, and drama, focusing on the interplay of thematic and formal connections between the different works.


Throughout the course, we will also examine the ways in which Renaissance literature on love, desire, and gender intersects with emerging (early modern) ideas of self and subjectivity (via contemporary theories of subjectivity). We will also consider how social codes and literary aesthetic forms are shaped by the language of love and desire, both in the early modern period and our own times.


SELECTED TEXTS: Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet; Venus and Adonis, The Rape of Lucrece; Sonnets, Spenser, Selections from the The Faerie Queen; Sidney Astrophil to Stella; Marlowe, Dido Queen of Carthage, among others.


ENG 820/430 – Emphasis Area Seminar - Undead Media: Beyond Living in Modern Culture

Professor David Bering-Porter

Monday 3:00-6:50pm

Wednesday 3:00-4:50pm


With the rise of the zombies, vampires, and other monsters in the popular imagination comes the question: what does it mean to be undead?  What is death and, for that matter, what does it even mean to be alive?  This course looks at undeadness and the post-vital turn modern culture through the lens of popular media in order to better understand the implications of the undead in contexts ranging from the personal utopia of eternal life and the political dystopias of the zombie apocalypse and beyond.  We will be making connections between mediated living and undead fantasy by examining representations of undeadness in a variety of media including literature, cinema, television, and video games in order to ask: what can representations of undeadness tell us about the status of our own lives since the advent of the media age? Evaluating objects ranging from Shelley’s Frankenstein and gothic literature; cinematic representations of the undead such as Nosferatu and I Walked With a Zombie; and contemporary incarnations such as the video games like Resident Evil, The Walking Dead on television, and World War Z; this course will conclude by considering the style, politics, and science of the undead and its importance as a contemporary concept that helps us understand what it means to be alive.  Critical readings will include Barthes, Bazin, Kittler, Derrida, Foucault, as well as relevant texts specific to the media under investigation.