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ENG 451

Seminar in Literature

Concentrated study of a topic in literary studies. Prerequisite: two 300- or 400-level courses in literature. Required of majors in English with emphasis on literature. May be repeated once for credit.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
Two 300- or 400-level courses in literature. Required of majors in English with emphasis on literature. 1 course

Spring Semester information

Marion McInnes

451A: Seminar: How to Read, How to Write, How to Live: The Long Tradition of Literary Advice

In this senior seminar we will explore all sorts of advice-giving literature, from sermons and philosophical meditations to popular self-help guides. Most of our readings will be by American authors (Benjamin Franklin, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, Mary Oliver, and Nicholson Baker), but some, such as the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, will take us back to antiquity. We'll look at advice books about grammar and literary style, such as Strunk and White's lovely Elements of Style, and we'll learn how to get along with truculent employees by reading Dale Carnegie's 1936 best-seller, How to Win Friends and Influence People (still in print! And still given as a graduation present!) Some of the best literary advice comes in the form of fiction, so we'll read Nicholson Baker's The Anthologist to learn how protagonist-poet Paul Chowder thinks we should read poems. You'll have a chance to pursue how-to and advice topics on your own (how to cook, how to argue, how to teach, how to find a compatible spouse, how to ace an interview), and the seminar will culminate with a longish writing project that is part scholarship and part creative nonfiction.


Fall Semester information

Istvan Csicsery-Ronay

451A: Seminar in Literature: Modern Fantastic Fiction

In this course we will explore some major works of recent fantastic fiction. We will investigate fantasy in several of its aspects: as a literary genre, as a psychic mechanism, as a metaphysical operation, and as a political act. We will take up the question, how does social history affect fantasy, and vice-versa; what purposes does fantastic fiction serve for its audiences? We will examine traditional motifs of the genre (multiple worlds and magic portals, secret knowledge, drastic metamorphoses, the animated universe, mystical powers) and its traditional thematic conflicts (between the archaic and the modern, private worlds and the shared universe, will and law, the grotesque and the conventional, the carnival and the normal). Although Tolkien's work is important for any study of late 20th century fantasy, this course will touch on his writings, and the genre of heroic fantasy, only tangentially. We will concentrate instead on works and writers who have tried to make original fictions that do not fit into conventional subgenres of fantasy.


Spring Semester information

Deborah Geis

451A: Seminar in Literature: