FALL 2009 - SPRING 2011
Each semester, the English Department offers capstone seminars that allow students to deeply explore specific topics in literature. A listing of those seminars follows.
Yeats and Company
Professor Chris Beyers
This course studies the works and context of William Butler Yeats, including his poetry and essays and those of the people in his circle of friends, acquaintances, and fellow travelers. We will read Yeats alongside Blake, decadents, the “Celitic Twilight,” Irish theatre, violent revolutionaries, Theosophists, politicians, and avant-garde writers. In short, every week we will read Yeats and somebody else. The course will feature a number of short papers, a final research paper, and a presentation at the senior colloquium.
Tales of the Sea
Professor Mike Land
This course explores seagoing narratives of the 19th and 20th centuries, with texts ranging from Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick in 1851 to Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm in 1997. Among the other texts will be Melville’s Typee, Sena Jeter Naslund’s Ahab’s Wife, and Life of Pi by Yann Martel. We also hope to take at least one field trip, probably to the Whaling Museum and Seaman’s Bethel in New Bedford; students will be expected to adjust their schedules accordingly once we negotiate a date that works for the majority of the class.
Falling Man: The Quest for Meaning in the Age of Digital Reproduction
Professor David Thoreen
This course takes its title from two sources, the performance artist at the periphery of Don DeLillo’s post-9/11 novel (Falling Man) and Walter Benjamin’s influential essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” With the assistance of writings by Plato, Benjamin, Walker Percy, and Marshall McLuhan, we’ll examine short stories and novels that examine basic questions given new urgency by our historical moment: what is a human being? What is the nature of human society? What is the nature and function of art? What should I believe in? What is the nature of evil? How can I best live in the world we inhabit? In addition to writing a number of short papers and a final research paper that makes an extended interpretive argument about two of the works we study, students will make individual presentations at the senior colloquium.
Imagining Peace in Modern and Contemporary Literature
Professor Paul Ady
This seminar will investigate how selected authors have responded in constructive, peace-building ways to trauma associated with various types of violence: physical, psychological, and structural. Areas of concern will include literary responses to war, to the Holocaust, and to racism. Authors will include Hemingway, O’Brien, Woolf, Krauss, Levi, Baldwin, Morrison, Roy, among others. In its approach the course will incorporate close literary analysis with classical and contemporary peace research.
Through the Looking-Glass: Literature, Photography, and Culture
Professor Becky DiBiasio
By the 1860s, photography had penetrated every aspect of British society and had begun to influence popular art, literature, and culture in a variety of ways. This course explores the impact of photography on literature and literary culture in Britain, beginning with the first war photos from the Crimean War that were published in 1865, then focusing particularly on the development of the popularity of ghost stories, mysteries, horror stories, and fantasy fiction in the 1890’s on through World War I. We will end with the shift to film and science fiction in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Authors will include Arthur Conan Doyle, H. G. Wells, Vernon Lee, R. L. Stevenson, Lewis Carroll, M. R. James, M. E. Braddon and others.
Books of Revelation
Professor Paul Shields
The seminar will focus on characters who linger in post-apocalyptic or near-apocalyptic worlds. Discussions will explore why authors continue to reveal a fascination with the death of civilization and the ways in which their characters survive the cultural wreckage. Readings will include The Book of Revelation, Samuel Beckett's Endgame, Don DeLillo's White Noise, Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club, and Cormac McCarthy's The Road. We will also watch a number of films, including Fight Club and Apocalypto. Students will write a series of short essays and a major research paper.
Women and City Life in American Literature and Culture, 1880-1930
Professor Lucia Knoles
The urban centers of late-nineteenth and early twentieth-century America proved a powerful lure for young women who wanted to exchange one identity for another. The anonymity of city life allowed individuals to cast off old identities, while work, romance, and material “props” such as clothing provided opportunities for creating new ones. In this seminar, we will consider the social, historical, and moral questions raised by the attempt of the heroines of Dreiser’s Sister Carrie, Wharton’sHouse of Mirth, Larsen’s Passing, and Yezierska’s The Bread-Givers to “pass” for something they are not.