Monday, July 28, 2014

Stripped naked

I usually spend July writing something that's intellectually pressing to me, but this year it has been an anomalous month of syllabus design.

Most of the classes I teach fall together pretty easily (making a syllabus for a course on Pope and Swift, or on the eighteenth-century novel, is really very straightforward). This class caused me to examine all of my underlying presuppositions about literary criticism, what an English major should know, literary canons, etc. etc.! I would have perhaps felt the crisis more intensely if I hadn't already experienced it once before.

Often I think of syllabus-making as a form of enjoyable precrastination (I am not a precrastinator, my inbox has tens of thousands of emails that I never clean out and I leave lots of things to the last minute so that I can focus on the things that are really important to me, a syllabus is one of those things that can often properly be done shortly before classes start rather than taking up valuable summer mental real estate).

In this case, though, it was some of the most substantive and demanding intellectual work I've done for a while, and it was important to get it drafted now so that the seminar leaders I'll be working with have some idea of how they will supplement and shape the course with their own contributions.

It is really an impossible task: I have left a huge amount out, and there are all sorts of things I'm not doing at all (most notably, I think, I'm pretty much excluding almost all of cultural studies and all of the more political end of literary studies). That said, I am extremely excited about teaching it.

I am now just hoping that there will be a work-study student in the English department who will help me xerox and scan these book chapters!

Anyway, here it is, provisionally:

Books (available at Book Culture):

Austen, Emma (Oxford World’s Classics)
Beckett, Endgame (Grove)
Brown, Clotel (Bedford/St. Martin’s)
Dickinson, The Poems of Emily Dickinson (Belknap)
Jackson, Dickinson’s Misery: A Theory of Lyric Reading (Princeton)
Milton, Paradise Lost (Hackett)
Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays (Oxford World’s Classics)
Wordsworth and Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads: 1798 and 1802 (Oxford World’s Classics)

Readings marked # are available on the Courseworks site.

9/2 Introduction

Criticism as taxonomy: ways of looking and describing; intensive vs. extensive reading
Literature and criticism pairings: Georges Perec/David Bellos, Christopher Smart/Geoffrey Hartman
Non-academic literary criticism: Geoff Dyer, Elif Batuman, Alan Hollinghurst, Andre Aciman

Readings for first seminar meeting:

#Donne, “The Canonization,” “The Ecstasy”
#Cleanth Brooks, from The Well Wrought Urn: Studies in the Structure of Poetry (1947; San Diego, New York and London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975), 3-21

9/9 Milton, books 1-4 of Paradise Lost

#Stanley Fish, from Surprised by Sin: The Reader in Paradise Lost, 2nd ed. (1967; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997), 22-37
#Christopher Ricks, from Milton’s Grand Style (Oxford: Clarendon, 1963), 118-138
#Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, from “Milton’s Bogey: Patriarchal Poetry and Women Readers,” The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1979), 187-207

9/16 Wordsworth and Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads (selections TBA)

#Geoffrey H. Hartman, Wordsworth’s Poetry, 1787-1814 (1964; Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 1987), 141-162
#Paul De Man, “Time and History in Wordsworth,” Diacritics 17:4 (1987): 4-17

Short assignment #1 due in seminar

9/23 Dickinson, poems and Virginia Jackson, Dickinson’s Misery (selections for both TBA)

9/30 #Herbert, “Easter-wings” (2 versions)

# Random Cloud, “FIAT fLUX,” in Crisis in Editing: Texts of the English Renaissance, ed. Randall McLeod (New York: AMS Press, 1994), 61-172
#W. K. Wimsatt, Jr. and Monroe C. Beardsley, “The Intentional Fallacy,” in The Verbal Icon: Studies in the Meaning of Poetry (1954; New York: The Noonday Press, 1958), 3-18
#Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author,” in Image Music Text, trans. Stephen Heath (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux/The Noonday Press, 1977), 152-154

Short assignment #2 due in seminar

10/7 #William Sherman, “Dirty Books? Attitudes Toward Readers’ Marks,” from Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), 153-178
#H. J. Jackson, “‘Marginal Frivolities’: readers’ notes as evidence for the history of reading,” in Owners, Annotators and the Signs of Reading, ed. Robin Myers, Michael Harris and Giles Mandelbrote (New Castle, DE and London: Oak Knoll Press and the British Library, 2005) 137-151
#Andrew Stauffer, “Hemans by the Book,” European Romantic Review 22:3 (2001): 373-380
#Nicholson Baker, “Discards,” The New Yorker (April 4, 1994): 64-86

Oct. 8 – Book Traces event, Butler Library

Seminars meet this week or next week, pending scheduling, at Butler Rare Books and Manuscripts

10/14 Sterne, Tristram Shandy, books I-II (5-137), V.xvi-xix (336-41), VI.xxxvi-xl (420-27)

#Victor Shklovsky, “The Novel as Parody,” in Theory of Prose, trans. Benjamin Sher (1990; Normal, IL: Dalkey Archive Press, 1998), 147-170
#Wayne C. Booth, The Rhetoric of Fiction (1961), 2nd ed. (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press,1983), 221-240
#Peter Brooks, from Reading for the Plot: Design and Intention in Narrative (1984; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992), TK
#Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Musgrove Ritual”

10/21 Austen, Emma (vol. 1 at a minimum)

#James Wood, “Narrating,” from How Fiction Works (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008), 3-38
#Frances Ferguson, “Jane Austen, Emma and the Impact of Form,” MLQ 61:1 (2000): 157-80

Short assignment #3 due in seminar

10/28 William Wells Brown, Clotel

#Ann duCille, “Where in the World is William Wells Brown? Thomas Jefferson, Sally Hemings, and the DNA of African-American Literary History,” American Literary History 12:3 (2000): 443-462
#Jonathan Senchyne, “Bottles of Ink and Reams of Paper: Clotel, Racialization, and the Material Culture of Print,” in Early African American Print Culture, ed. Lara Langer Cohen and Jordan Alexander Stein (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012), 140-158
#Saidiya Hartman, “Venus in Two Acts,” Small Axe 26 (2008): 1-14

Short assignment #4 due in seminar

11/4 Election holiday – no class

11/11 #Melville, Billy Budd

#Barbara Johnson, “Melville’s Fist: The Execution of Billy Budd,” Studies in Romanticism 18:4 (1979): 567-599

11/18 Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

#Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, “Tales of the Avunculate: Queer Tutelage in The Importance of Being Earnest,” in Tendencies (Durham: Duke University Press, 1993), 52-72

Final paper proposal (topic, projected argument, selected evidence, annotated bibliography) due to seminar leader Friday, Nov. 21

11/25 Beckett, Endgame

#Theodor W. Adorno and Michael T. Jones, “Understanding Endgame,” New German Critique 26 (1982), 119-150

12/2 #Franco Moretti, “Trees,” in Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary History (London and New York: Verso, 2005), 67-92
#Matthew Kirschenbaum, “The Remaking of Reading”
#Natalia Cecire, “Ways of Not Reading Gertrude Stein,” ELH (forthcoming)

Draft of final paper (8-10pp.) due to seminar leader Friday, Dec. 5; final paper due to seminar leader at a date of his or her specification.