First Year Seminar: Comedy


Covering a range of comic dramas and comic performances, this course will introduce key theories about comedy as a genre and comic performance as a cultural practice. Likely texts include films, plays and materials on minstrelsy, genre theory, gender, and performance studies.

Early American Literature

ENGL 051

This course explores American literature from its earliest recorded oral traditions to the Civil War. We will read this history aslant by focusing on its outsiders, including exiles, forced migrants, and the “mariners, renegades, and castaways” of Moby-Dick.

U. S. Fiction, 1945 to the Present


It’s an old American story:  re-invent yourself on the run, without time to think about the consequences or even what you’re running from and why.  And yet the past keeps turning up, like your own shadow.  What then?  Whom do you turn to?—for you can’t get where you’re going on your own.  That’s where the real story begins.  

Modern American Poetry

ENGL 053

Words! Action! Song! And meanings!  An introductory survey of 20th-century American poetry, the emphasis will be on particular poets and poems, but a recurrent theme will be poetry’s role in a democracy:  is poetry really an esoteric art for the “educated” few, as some imply, or has poetry played a crucial role in shaping both democratic citizens and a sense of democratic culture?  

19th Century American Novels

ENGL 059

 Nineteenth-century American novels were supernatural, sentimental, experimental, and often all of the above. We will read some of the century’s biggest hits and most epic failures.  

On Violence

ENGL 083

A dark lexicon emerged out of the 20th century: total war, genocide, and collateral damage were new terms invented to describe “new” versions of atrocity. But does our ability to name violence mean that we understand it any better? This course explores the aesthetic and narrative structures of violence in modern fiction, film, critical theory, and law.

Honors Seminar: Romanticism

ENGL 110

We’ll read the women poets of the period (Smith, Robinson, Baillie, Wordsworth, Hemans, and L.E.L.) alongside their more famous male contemporaries (Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, and Keats) in order to explore issues of concern to both: formal innovation, colonial expansion, (counter) revolutionary politics.


From Milton to modern poetry, from Anglo-Saxon to African American texts, our purpose is to teach literature energetically and imaginatively and to inspire students to read deeply, think and argue cogently, and write convincingly.

Overall, we are guided by the conviction that men and women who can read with insight and write with craft and power can master the fundamentals of new disciplines.

Whatever the classroom subject -- from the details of a Shakespearean sonnet to the drama of Sam Shepard, from the fine-tuning of an argument on Beloved to a feminist critique of Milton -- we hope to nurture imaginative reading, insightful analysis, cogent argument, and compelling prose.

This is a joint effort; we would, in the fashion of Chaucer's Clerk, "gladly lerne ... and gladly teche."