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ENG 255

Topics in Literary Studies

While refining students' general analytical and interpretive skills, this course offers intensive examination of specific issues in literature and culture, often those at the center of current critical interest. Recent sections have focused on The Gangster Film, Memoir and Sexuality, Quest for the Grail, and Native American Literature. Students may only count one ENG 255 that is a cross-listed Modern Language course toward the major or minor.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
Arts and Humanities 1 course

Current Semester Information

Beth Benedix

255A: Tps:BiblicalLiterature

Topics:Biblical Literature

The term "Biblical literature" presents us immediately with a set of complicated issues: What assumptions do we need to make in order to read the Bible as a work that we might describe as "literary" in nature? How to approach a set of texts that do not present a unified or necessarily coherent message? In this class, we're going to be considering the phrase "Biblical literature" primarily from two vantage-points. The first is the Bible as literature. Here, we will look at Biblical texts themselves, addressing how these pieces might be read in the context of traditional interpretive approaches, but also as discrete entities that shed light on the historical, political and religious environments in which they were written. As we look at these texts, we will want to think about the question of redaction, or the process by which these pieces become part of the Biblical canon. Beginning with the first two chapters of Genesis, we as readers are presented with any number of seemingly conflicting claims. How do these conflicts work together to form the finished piece we know as the Bible? We will also be considering the Bible in literature, and this venture will occupy the majority of our discussions. Here, we'll encounter a number of Modern works that echo pieces of the Bible--some quite subtly, others more explicitly. As we confront these works, we will want to explore possible motivations on the part of the authors who wrote them. In each case, these authors are involved in a process of revision, of re-evaluation: how does the borrowed Biblical text help them in this process?


Amity Reading

255B: Tps:HistoryOfEnglishLang

Topics:The History of the English Language

We use the English language every day, in writing and in speech, in formal essays and in casual texting, in the classroom and in the dorm room. But how often do we really stop and think about our language? This class will examine the English language from its earliest stages recorded more than 1000 years ago to its current spoken and written forms in the United States, the British Isles, and across the world. We will also learn basic linguistic concepts and descriptive terminology in order to understand English as a manifestation of the principles of human language. We will be considering questions such as these: What are the essential features common to all human languages? To which other languages is English related, and how? Why is there a b in subtle? What is grammar and why is it important? What are the distinctive varieties and dialects of modern spoken English? Why is it knife, but knives? What is "standard English," and what are the social implications and ideological investments of such a construct? This course will provide you with both a history of the English language and a basic introduction to the linguistic study of languages.


Masha Belyavski-Frank

255C: Tps:Russian 20th-C Lit.

Topics:Twentieth-Century Russian Literature

This course examines some of the major works of twentieth-century Russian literature, as well as the literary and social trends connected with them. We will read and discuss representative works by Blok, Zamyatin, Bulgakov, Bely, Zoshchenko, Akhmatova, Solzhenitsyn, and Tolstaya, among others. From major poetry and novels, to science fiction and far-out futuristic works, socialist realism, dissident literature, and post-modern short stories, this course covers the spectrum of twentieth-century Russian literature. Taught in English.


Meryl Altman

255D: Tps:ReadingPoetry

Topics:Reading Poetry

This course is for people who already like reading poetry, and also for people who aren't sure yet whether they do or not, but would like to get better at understanding what poems say and how they work. We'll look closely (really closely) and slowly at poems in a range of styles--long, short, formal, experimental, narrative, visual, sound-based, simple, flowery, philosophical--from a range of historical periods (ancient to the day before yesterday), on a range of topics. Love, war, plants, and politics are likely to feature. I'll give you a toolkit of terms and concepts literary scholars use to help us figure things out...but the basic idea is that when we read together, everybody sees something different, and we all come away understanding more.

This is a W-class. There'll be a little interpretive paper every week, which sometimes you'll exchange with each other, and also a final project where you'll get to write about your favorite poet or a theme that grabs you. If you're thinking about maybe being an English major, this could be a good chance to practice and hone interpretive skills that can apply to any genre of writing; but I'm hoping people from all sorts of majors will be interested, too. No prior knowledge (of anything) is assumed, beyond an interest in language, and in how it shows us the world.


Karin Wimbley

255E: Tps:BlackDiaspora

Topics:Reading in the Black Diaspora

This course explores the literary expressions of black writers in Africa, the Americas, and Europe. Course texts include works by Edwidge Danticat, Bessie Head, Chinua Achebe, Aime Cesaire, Wole Soyinka, Nalo Hopkinson, Nicolas Guillen, Adrienne Kennedy, and Zadie Smith, to name a few.