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ENG 392

Genre: Advanced Topics

Study of works drawn from a specific literary genre or subgenre. Examples include Confessional Poetry, The Early Novel and Revenge Tragedy.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
1 course

Spring Semester information

Harry Brown

392A: Advanced Topics: Early American Nature Writing

We think of American nature writing as beginning in 1854 with Thoreau's Walden, which influences almost all subsequent environmental thought. But what influenced Thoreau? This course surveys the tradition of American nature writing that anticipates Walden, a tradition shaped by the staggering possibilities and challenges of confronting what seemed to many as a limitless wilderness: a new world demanding a new concept of our place in it. Following the initial shock and euphoria of discovery, we can trace a developing awareness of the limits of environmental use, the interconnectedness of living things, and the human responsibility to the environment. The ecocentric consciousness that defines Walden did not appear suddenly with Thoreau but instead took shape over three centuries of human interaction with the diverse natural environments of North America. Informed by initial readings in environmental history and ecocriticism, we will observe the emergence of American environmental thought in a broad range of exploration and travel narratives, scientific accounts, religious and philosophical essays, poetry, fiction, and Native American legends. We will conclude with Thoreau's early writing, works preceding Walden, in order to close the gap and establish the continuity between early and modern American environmental literature.


Istvan Csicsery-Ronay

392C: Advanced Topics: American Film Comedy

American film comedy has been one of the most powerful and influential forms of popular art in the 20th century. Especially in the period between the 1920s and 1940s, when Hollywood became the dominant producer of films in the world, the marriage of the literary genre of comedy and the technology of cinema seemed to be a marriage made in popular culture heaven. From the slapstick of classical silent comedies, through the glamorous screwball and romantic social comedies of the 1930s and 1940s, to the absurdist texts of the post-1970s, American screen comedies have dominated the comic art in the 20th century. In this course we will concentrate on three phases: the classical slapstick of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and the Marx Brothers; the sparkling verbal comedy of the screwball genre of 1930s and 40s; and the oddball comedy of the 1980s to the present. We will approach the films as artifacts of dynamic periods in 20th American social history and as examples of the literary genre of comedy.