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Spring 2021 LIT 499 Topic Course Descriptions

LIT 499-01: Women, Gender, and the Holocaust
Professor Ellen Friedman
Wednesday 5-7:30pm

This class will focus on Women, Gender and the Holocaust, as well as consider masculinities and sexualities.  The focus on women, gender, and sexualities enlarges traditional ideas of the Holocaust and Nazism.  This approach helps us understand how culturally determined gender roles provided different skills, expectations, understanding, and responses regarding the Shoah. A feminist perspective concretizes the experience of various populations regarding everyday life in ghettoes, in hiding, and in concentration and death camps. 


LIT 499-02: Magic in Early Modern Drama
Professor Jean Graham
Tuesday/Friday 2:00-3:20pm

In this seminar, we will read early modern drama along with relevant history and literary theory, reflecting a range of approaches including feminist and postcolonial.  Early modern texts will include Macbeth, Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, and News from Scotland, an anonymous account of a witchcraft trial.


LIT 499-03: The Short Story in Theory and Practice
Professor Jess Row
Monday/Thursday 12:30-1:50pm

What makes a short story short? It’s a surprisingly tricky question to answer. (Jorge Luis Borges was once quoted as saying, “I write short stories to make novels superfluous.”) We will investigate theories of the short story as we know it today (starting with Poe’s “Aspects of Composition”) and also delve into its prehistory: fairy tales, parables, exemplary tales, and condensed narratives of all kinds. At the same time, we’ll be writing our own short stories as experiments in form and style. Come prepared to use all your creative and intellectual powers to investigate this mysterious and often misunderstood genre!


LIT 499-04: John Donne: Rhetoric & Theory
Professor Felicia Steele
Monday/Thursday 9:30-10:50am

John Donne’s lyric poetry is difficult, beautiful, packed with dense metaphors, and highly erotic. The sermons and meditations of his later years are transcendent and profound, yet deeply anti-semitic. These contrasts are often startling to a modern audience, but may not have been at all unusual for his early modern English audience. This course will examine his literature within the context of early modern theories of rhetoric and examine these theories within the context of contemporary cultural studies. The course will require three textbooks (a collected edition of Donne’s works and a Cambridge Companion to his works, along with the MLA Handbook), but will make use of an extensive library of critical articles and less frequently anthologized sermons, letters, and devotionals from literary archives.


LIT 499-05: Ecocriticism, Unnatural Nature, and Medieval Literature
Professor Glenn Steinberg
Monday/Thursday 3:30-4:50pm
Please note students enrolled in LIT 499-05 will also be enrolled in LIT 499-L5 as a part of the Collaboration Across Disciplines Program

Lots of the stories in medieval literature take place in “natural” settings.This capstone course examines how medieval writers conceive of and portray the natural world – in comparison with how we understand nature today and in the context of Gary Alan Fine’s theory of naturework. We read lots of different medieval texts, including Arthurian romances, fabliaux (dirty stories that engage in social satire), and dream visions. This course also has a community-engaged learning component, working with a community partner on an environmental education project that uses what we have learned in class. From knights wandering in forest wilds to modern-day initiatives to encourage gardening for wildlife, we consider how humans define, describe, and engage with the natural world.

LIT 499-05 Course Flyer


LIT 499-06: Women on the Road: Travel Writing in Early America
Professor Michele Tarter
Tuesday/Friday 9:30-10:50am

In this time of “Covid Confinement,” we seek nothing more than stories of travel and adventure. This research-intensive seminar will explore the literary tradition of early American women who dared to break out of domestic confinement and travel, against all odds. A woman on the road—be it a dusty dirt path through the forest or a treacherous mountain cliff trail—faced enormous obstacles and challenges on the American frontier. Writing about their adventures, these authors sealed the final “transgression”: they shared their daring feats publicly for all the world to see. We will look at a variety of women’s autobiographies to analyze the genre of women’s travel writing in early America: tales of Indian captivity and rescue, Quaker traveling ministers’ journals, cross-dressed women’s Revolutionary war thrillers, slave narratives from the Underground Railroad, and indigenous and white women’s memoirs of westward expansion.

LIT 499-06 Course Flyer