Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Department of English
Fall 2018


ENG 318: Readings in Shakespeare with Jyotsna Singh
ENG 320A: Methodologies of Literary History: Genre with Zarena Aslami
ENG 328: Readings in Novel and Narrative with Natalie Phillips
ENG 340: Theory and Methods of Popular Culture Studies with Gary Hoppenstand
ENG 342: Readings in Popular Literary Genres with Ann Larabee
ENG 353: Readings in Women Writers with Zarena Aslami
ENG 360: Studies in Postcolonial and Diaspora Literature with Sheng-mei Ma
ENG 362: Studies in Modern/Contemporary Literature with Bill Johnsen
ENG 368: Studies in Medieval/Early Modern Literature with Tamar Boyadijian
ENG 449: Seminar in Race, Ethnicity, and Literature
ENG 473A: Literature and Medicine with Natalie Phillips
ENG 478B: Literature and Visual Culture with Julian Chambliss
ENG 484C: Critical Questions in a Literary Period with Steve Deng
ENG 492H: Honors Seminar in English with Julian Chambliss


ENG 318: Readings in Shakespeare
Professor Jyotsna G. Singh
Monday and Wednesday 12:40-2:00 PM

Focus: How do Shakespeare's works reflect the society and culture of early modern England? Do they have a continuing relevance in our own times?   How does his poetic language help us understand the complexities of human experience? Addressing such questions, we will study several plays, selected poems of Shakespeare, and some primary documents of the period. These will include A Midsummer Night's Dream, Othello, Hamlet, Richard III, Cymbeline, and the sonnets, among others.  Overall, our aim will be to identify and study formal elements such as genre, imagery, diction, rhetorical/poetic forms, and character development. In addition, we will also explore the cultural contexts in which the plays have been appropriated -- both in critical and performance histories -- from the sixteenth century to the present.  Class discussions will include close textual analysis of the language, as well as some interpretations of plays via dramatic performance and selected screenings of film versions.  All students will also be asked to participate in short acting exercises.

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ENG 320A: Methodologies of Literary History: Genre
Focus: Victorian Novels in Time
Professor Zarena Aslami
Tuesday and Thursday 10:20-12:10 PM
 

What can “old” novels tell us about their historical moment? What can they tell us about our own? And what’s at stake in the difference? In this course, we will practice two approaches to reading Victorian novels. First, we will read them alongside contemporary documents from the Victorian period, such as newspaper articles, social commentaries, and scholarly books. We will compare and contrast how these different texts participated in debates of their time, such as women’s rights, the morality of colonization, and poverty. How did Victorian novels represent such issues and how did they imagine solutions for them? We will also ask about gaps in the archive: what kinds of Victorian writings, and by whom, do we wish we could read alongside our novels? Second, we will discuss how Victorian novels speak to our own moment. What can they teach us about current social problems in the present, such as racism, sexual assault and harassment, income inequality, gender and sex discrimination, ableism, or environmental degradation? Finally, we will think about the contested relation between these two approaches to reading literature, one historicist (reconstructing the terms, concepts, and beliefs of a past cultural moment in which a text was written to interpret it) and the other presentist (using the terms, concepts, and beliefs of the present to interpret a text written in the past). In this course, students will develop their critical voice and collaborative skills through class discussion and a final presentation. By writing formal papers, they will develop their critical thinking, historical thinking, and communication skills. Students will also learn digital archival research skills by finding their own relevant nineteenth-century texts to read alongside one of our novels. Finally, students will consider the significance of whose voices are included in archives and whose are left out by creatively writing the text they wish existed and writing a reflective paper on how it would change our discussion of a specific Victorian novel.

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ENG 328: Readings in Novel and Narrative
Professor Natalie Phillips
Tuesday and Thursday 12:40-2:00 PM

Focus: TBD

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ENG 340: Representations of Crime and Violence in American Popular Culture
Professor Gary Hoppenstand
Monday and Wednesday 4:10-5:30 PM

Focus: Do you ever ask yourself the question: “Why is our society so violent?” This class will examine the representation and cultural perceptions of violence in American Popular Culture that may help answer this question. Employing Richard Slotkin’s theory of the Myth of Regeneration through Violence (from his monograph, Gunfighter Nation), we will discuss the reasons why Americans seem to be so preoccupied with violent entertainment culture. Included in this discussion will be specific examinations of cultural representations of popular culture entertainment, including how these representations of violent entertainment were formed in the dime novels of the 19th century, the pulp fiction magazines of the 20th century, and recent examples of graphic novels, film and television.

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ENG 342: Readings in Popular Literary Genres
Professor Ann Larabee
Tuesday and Thursday 2:40-4:00 PM

Focus: Designed for both literature and art students, this course surveys the graphic novel, from Art Spiegelman’s Maus, to Penelope Bagieu’s Brazen.  The international history of the form--including early newspaper strips, wordless novels, and underground comix--provides a rich context for exploring innovations in the interplay of word and image. The course focuses on the relationship between fine art and comics and on narrative structure and graphic storytelling. Video games and anime are also discussed in relationship to these topics. Several assignments are hands-on creative works that combine analysis and artistry. However, no drawing skills are required.


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ENG 353: Readings in Women Writers
Focus: Novels, The Feminine, and the Future
Professor Zarena Aslami
Tuesday and Thursdays 2:40-4:00 PM

What does it mean to be feminine? What are the consequences for women if they are not feminine or not feminine enough? What are the consequences for those who are not read as female but who present as feminine? Women’s writing has long interrogated “the feminine,” its privileges and oppressions, its pleasures and pains. In this course, we will actively read novels written in English by women from the nineteenth century to the present. We will track how characters of different races, classes, genders, sexualities, ages, and abilities encounter, embrace, inhabit, suffer, transform, and resist the feminine. Locating the genre of the novel in history, we will consider how it emerged as the dominant literary genre in capitalist liberal cultures in the west. Novels participated in a broader cultural imagining in which middle-class, primarily white, life was divided between a private feminine sphere and a public masculine sphere. Official discourses, like those of medicine and religion, figured the private sphere as the zone of spiritual, moral, and emotional sustenance and continuity. They figured the public sphere as the zone of economic competition and rational political participation. Women were confined to the private, while men were expected to traverse the two spheres. As our novels written by women authors show, this simple schema was constantly being transgressed and challenged, even in its heyday in the nineteenth century. However, the novels also show how this division continues to haunt women’s pursuit of freedom in the west, even in the so-called post-feminist present in which some proclaim that gender equality has been achieved. Our discussions will focus on how our novels represent the feminine and how it intersects with and is inextricable from other social vectors of identity. Finally, we will explore our novels’ utopic horizons. How do they express desire for social change and what are their creative visions for more just and equitable worlds in the future?


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ENG 360: Postcolonial Lit: America's Orient, plus China
Professor Sheng-mei Ma
Mondays and Wednesdays 10:20-11:40 AM

Focus: In this fortieth anniversary of Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978) that inaugurated postcolonial studies, let us apply Said’s East-West power dynamics to the world’s two superpowers. Precisely, how does each superpower manifest its discursive dominance vis-à-vis its opposite? Anglo-America’s imaginary of Orientals moves from one Nobel laureate Pearl Buck’s yellowface The Good Earth to another Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro’s whiteface Never Let Me Go, from Sax Rohmer’s yellow peril to Asian American filmmakers’ bilingual code switching (Wayne Wang, Alice Wu). What Anglo-America has done to Orientals, Westerners of Asian descent try to undo, leading to problematics of glocalization.

Across the Pacific, President Xi Jinping’s “China Dream” captures poetically his nation’s millennial rise, which cloaks spatial expansion as a mere elevation in height. This beautiful dream marshals and martializes non-Han minorities within China’s borders and Asiatic humanoids without. Specifically, China’s discourse of fiction and film comes to silhouette itself against Orientalized non-Han populations and cultures as well as against other Asiatics embodying in their humanoid image—freakish or idealized via CGI—as much repulsive evil as luring romance, as in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Wolf Totem; internet literature and film on tomb robbing. Vested in China’s Orient is both exoticism and horror, no different from America’s. Grading is based on papers, exams, and participation.

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ENG 362: Studies in Modern/Contemporary Literature
Professor Bill Johnsen
Tuesdays and Thursdays 2:40-4:00 PM

Focus: Virginia Woolf said 'on or about December 1910 human character changed.' Did it? Depending on such neuroscientists as Antonio Damasio and Andy Clark, we will try out Woolf's claim by reading Conrad, Lawrence, Woolf and Joyce to perhaps discover the threshold of the modern. After a round of one book for each author, students will choose one author to work with intensively (in smaller groups). We will use etext compilations of these four writers to save money and enhance searching.

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ENG 368: Studies in Medieval/Early Modern Literature
Robin Hood: From Medieval Outlaw to Pop Rebel
Course in Honor of Professor Lister Matheson
Professor Tamar Boyadijian
Tuesdays and Thursdays 12:40-2:00 PM

Focus: This class will explore the image and portrayal of Robin Hood in literature and culture from the medieval to the contemporary period. The continuous presence of Robin Hood in English and other literatures is indicative of both the elusiveness of this archetypal figure, but also the celebrated status of this outlaw and mythical hero. The first part of this class will focus on the stories of Robin Hood produced in the medieval and early modern period in the form of: tales, ballads, plays, and rhymed poetry. The second part of this class will then move to examining the ways in which the figure of Robin Hood has been appropriated in later periods, such as in contemporary literature, film, and culture.

In our discussions of literary and cultural references to Robin Hood, we will examine how the Robin Hood myth has changed and been “recreated” over time; and how medieval and early modern portrays compare to present-day representations of both the figure and his circle. We will also examine how Robin Hood –as a mythical and outlaw hero –has come to reflect upon the socio-political context of the period in which he is being discussed, and how tracing the transformation of this figure from the Middle Ages to the present is also reflective of the intricate intertextual relationships among English authors over the centuries.  

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ENG 449: Seminar in Race, Ethnicity, and Literature
TBD
Tuesdays and Thursdays 12:40-2:00 PM

Focus: TBD

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ENG 473A: Literature and Medicine
Professor Natalie Phillips
Tuesdays and Thursdays 10:20-11:40 AM

Focus: This course interweaves three interdisciplinary fields in literary studies: cognitive approaches to literature, the history of mind, and medical humanities. Discussing intersections in literary and medical portrayals of cognition from Austen’s Persuasion to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and OCDaniel, we explore pivotal moments in the  history of the mind and brain, beginning in the eighteenth century and ending with the DSM-5, self-described as “the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals in the U.S.” As we consider the literary history of modern diagnostic categories such as autism spectrum, attention deficit, and OCD (including depictions of distraction in Tristram Shandy, Jane Austen’s use of contemporary theories of head injury, and modern portrayals of disability in YA fiction), we will also explore therapeutic uses of literature, music, and art in proposed clinical treatments of everything from depression, anxiety, and PTSD to Alzheimers and stuttering. Throughout, we will read key works in  cognitive approaches to fiction, disability studies, and medical humanities, exploring both the power—and the profound challenges—of integrating scientific and literary-critical approaches to conduct authentically interdisciplinary work in medical humanities. The seminar will conclude by exploring work in the neuroscience of reading, with a focus on  alternate styles of literary engagement and presentation, including braille, American Sign Language, audio-books, and various Kindle/iPad apps for “assisted” reading. Students will learn to use scientific databases, such as PubMed, to find the latest studies in neurobiology, developmental psychology, cognitive linguistics, and neuroaesthetics. Alongside their final research paper, students will work collaboratively to brainstorm and design an interdisciplinary experiment that imagines using technologies from cognitive science—such as fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging), EEG, or eye-tracking—to explore a central question at the intersection of literature and medicine.

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ENG 478B: Literature and Visual Culture
Professor Julian Chambliss 
Mondays and Wednesdays 3-4:20

Focus: TBD

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ENG 484C: Critical Questions in a Literary Period
Professor Steve Deng
Mondays and Wednesdays 10:20 AM-12:10 PM

Focus: This course serves as a “capstone” to the English major. It is designed to bring together the various skills you have learned from your English courses thus far (close reading, engaging with secondary sources and literary theory, interpreting a literary text from within historical contexts, structuring a literary essay and developing a solid thesis), as well as to allow you to engage in more extensive research on a particular critical problem in early modern literary criticism, especially through primary research of contextual early modern texts in Early English Books Online. The course will culminate in a “mini-conference” across the final weeks and a thesis-like essay of 15-20 pages, which could serve as a writing sample for those intending to attend graduate school. Moreover, the bulk of the course is organized as a series of presentations by students in order to provide an oral interactive experience that will benefit students for whatever field they choose to pursue after MSU. Students will identify a critical problem for focus using materials from the field of early modern English drama and poetry. Even if you have limited or no background in early modern studies, I hope that from perusing these materials, you will be able to identify a topic and/or primary text of interest on which you can concentrate for the rest of the semester.  The course will then be run as a workshop – each student will prepare seven 5-10 minute presentations throughout the semester, which will constitute the largest grade component. During the semester the students will hand in an annotated bibliography of primary and secondary materials consulted for the project. And a final 10-15 minute presentation will be given at a “mini-conference” during the end of the semester, in which students will present their final projects while getting valuable feedback from the class in preparation for the final essay.

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ENG 492H: Superheroes and the American Experience
Professor Julian Chambliss
Mondays and Wednesdays 12:40-2 PM

Focus: From their debut in the 1930s to our current cinematic moment, superheroes have been a central part of the American experience. What do superheroes narratives tell us about American culture? How has the genre’s evolution highlight broader societal evolutions? This course offers an extensive examination of the superhero genre from its early exemplars to innovative turns.

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