English and Comparative Literature

Course Listing

English and Comparative Literature

Departmental Representative:
Professor Maura Spiegel
613A Philosophy

Director of Undergraduate Writing:
Nicole B. Wallack
310 Philosophy Hall

To request a syllabus, please contact the course instructor. You can find contact information for an instructor on the university directory.

CLEN S3208D Literary Impressionism: 1874-1925. 3 points.

This course takes the “impression” as a cue to explore fiction, philosophy, and visual art of the period from roughly 1874, the year of the first Impressionist exhibition, to 1925, well into the Modernist period, in order to understand how and why “impressionism” came to have such central importance for writers, artists, and other thinkers. We will ask how and why this idea developed over time, how it influenced and was influenced by movements in realism and Modernism, and how the idea of the impression continues to influence the arts today. This class will be both international in scope, focusing on works by French, British, and American authors, and interdisciplinary, encompassing works of different literary genres, including the novel, the short story, and the sketch, as well as works of painting, photography, philosophy, psychology, and criticism. Each week will include discussions of numerous paintings of the period, and we will often focus on the relationships between different artistic media. The course will also include field trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art. Authors to be covered include Zola, Maupassant, Pater, James, Crane, Hemingway, Ford, and Woolf. This course will satisfy the department’s genre requirement for prose fiction.

Summer 2018: CLEN S3208D
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
CLEN 3208 001/69724  
3 0

ENGL S1010X University Writing. 3 points.

Fee: Course Fee - 5.00

Facilitates students' entry into the intellectual life of the university by helping them to become more capable and independent academic readers and writers. With its small section size and emphases on critical analysis, revision, collaboration, and research, the course leads students to develop specific skills and general habits of mind important to their future academic success. Students read and discuss a range of contemporary essays, complete regular informal reading and writing exercises, and write four longer papers.

ENGL S3233Q Shakespearean Character on Stage and Page. 3 points.

This course provides an introduction to Shakespeare through a combination of reading his plays and viewing them in performance.  On the one hand, we approach each play as a written, published text: our in-class conversation consist primarily in close analysis of key passages, and, in one class period, we visit Rare Books to examine the earliest printed versions of the plays in light of English Renaissance print technology.  On the other hand, we view performances of each assigned play, including the attendance as a group of at least one Shakespeare production on an NYC stage.  Our semester’s through line is to trace, from his earliest plays to Hamlet, Shakespeare’s remarkable development of the techniques of characterization that have made generations of both playgoers and readers feel that his dramatis personae are so modern, real, human.  We will also devote attention to exploring the value of each play in our present moment and on our local stages.  We read 8 plays in all, including Titus Andronicus, Midsummer Night's Dream, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Merchant of Venice, and Hamlet.

Summer 2018: ENGL S3233Q
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
ENGL 3233 001/60812  
3 0

ENGL S3273Q American Literature and Culture: Walt Whitman and New York . 3 points.

Walt Whitman was not the first to write about New York.  But he was the first of many to let New York write him.  By age 43, Whitman had composed most of his best poetry, published three editions of Leaves of Grass, and left New York only twice. How did the second son of an unsuccessful farmer, a grammar school dropout and hack writer become America’s greatest poet?  This course offers a response to this perennial mystery of literary scholarship by proposing that “Walt Whitman, a kosmos, of Manhattan the son” was indeed a product of his environment.  Coming of age as a writer at the same time the city was emerging as a great metropolis, he received his education and inspiration from New York itself.  Course time is equally divided between discussions of Whitman’s antebellum poetry, journalism, and prose (including the newly recovered Life and Adventures of Jack Engle) in their cultural and geographical contexts, and on-site explorations that retread Whitman’s footsteps through Brooklyn and his beloved Mannahatta.  Experiential learning is further encouraged through assignments based in archives, museums, and at historic sites throughout the city.

Summer 2018: ENGL S3273Q
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
ENGL 3273 001/77419  
3 0

ENGL S3714D Life Itself: The Quest for Value in American Literature. 3 points.

One ought to rejoice in the fact of death—ought to decide, indeed, to earn one’s death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life.


James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time


To be alive—is Power—
,Existence—in itself—
,Without a further function—


Emily Dickinson (F #876)         


In a social climate of reaction and tribalistic conformity on both the left and right, in which sources of truth and value seem to have been eviscerated, this course seeks wisdom in a line of great American writers, from roughly 1850 to 1950, whose works, with unmatched zest and originality, quest after value in a secular universe. The central questions of the course are: where are the highest values to be found after the collapse of moral and religious foundations and the adoption of a technocratic scientism that consigns human value to the realm of the identity-specific or “subjective”? How can our quest for value avoid both atomizing relativism and dominating dogmatism? What forms of selfhood and solidarity can we imagine beyond the narrow confines of contemporary politics? We’ll pursue these questions through a reading of American writers in different genres (essay, journal, poem, novel, psychology, philosophy) across roughly three historical moments: 1) 1850: the moment of Transcendentalism (Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman) and the reception of Romantic thought in America; 2) 1900: dominated by Henry and William James, artistic and intellectual giants who wrote in the wake of Emerson's generation and whose thinking parallels Nietzsche's and Freud's on the possibility of value after the Death of God; 3) 1950: the late poetry of Wallace Stevens, who absorbed all of these writers and found in the poetic imagination a power that "helps us to live our lives."

ENGL S3803Q Thackeray, Flaubert, Tolstoy and Hardy. 3 points.

In The Historical Novel, Georg Lukács (1937) describes a post-1848 crisis of bourgeois realism in which "a more conscious sense of history" impressed itself upon "the widest circles of bourgeois society," even those "not in the least interested. . . or aware that a change had taken place." Opportunism, decline, and decadence are its markers, and "a double and contradictory subjectivism." Yet, for all of what Lukacs referred to as the "subjective arbitrariness" of the writers, their "conception of history. . . is nevertheless an honest protest against the ugliness and sordid trivialization of their capitalist present." This course in the bourgeois realist novel explores a spectrum of female subjectivities from different classes. Patterns of bourgeois consumption and production-or lack thereof, as the case may be-will be of recurring interest, as will the novels' representations of history, whether the Napoleonic Wars in the foreground or the July Monarchy in the background. A central concern in each of these novels will be the way in which each female subject is defined and dramatized in relation to her social and domestic milieu. Finally, we will dedicate substantial discussion to the construction of these "loose baggy monsters," as Henry James referred to large nineteenth-century novels. We will study these novels as works of a particular genre that reached its apotheosis during the bourgeois era, conducting our aesthetic inquiry predominantly through the criticism of the novelist Virginia Woolf. Author of material feminist critiques such as A Room of One's Own, the literary critic Woolf can help us lift the female subject (Becky Sharp, Emma Bovary, Anna Karenina, and Tess) from the bourgeois crisis in which she is entangled. We will read all non-English language novels in translation; however, those among us with working knowledge of French will look at brief sections in the original in order to analyze what Flaubert accomplishes at the level of language.

ENGL S4401D 18th Century & Romantic Poetry . 3 points.

This course is a study of romantic poetry and poetics but does not approach its subject from the belated perspective of the Victorians or the Moderns. Instead, the famous Romantics of the late 18th and early 19th centuries are viewed proleptically, from the vantage point of early and mid 18th-century poets who established the modern criteria and generated the forms and ideas later ingeniously personalized by the poets we customarily refer to as the Romantics. Indeed, though we shall spend the concluding half of our study with Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, and Keats, our study begins with the neoclassical romanticism of Pope, Thomson, Akenside, the Wartons, Gray, and Goldsmith. As such, our reading entails a study of lyric trends bridging 18th - and 19th-century verse and of related discourses in aesthetic psychology, moral philosophy, experimental religion, natural description, and affective criticism. We shall attend closely to rhetorical and prosodic elements, with a view to characteristic genres (ode, epistle, georgic, epitaph), innovative hybrids and new forms (elegy, the "conversational" poem). Recommended and required readings in prose are of the period and include theoretical and critical writings by our poets.

Summer 2018: ENGL S4401D
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
ENGL 4401 001/26382  
3 0

ENGL S4452Q Comic Theater: From Shakespeare to the New York City Stage. 3 points.

Fee: Course Fee - 150.00

Why do we still laugh at comic works from nearly 2500 years ago, comedies that have outlived their generations? An examination of the different forms of staged comedy throughout the centuries, beginning with foundational texts from Ancient Greece, especially Aristophanes. We consider how today's playwrights are still building on, and making reference to, primary works from the Western canon. Texts we will read range from Shakespeare, Jonson and Restoration comedies, to Wilde, Beckett, Hansberry, Tennessee Williams, Pinter, and Churchill. We will also cover contemporary work seen on the stages of New York, including short comic plays, stand up, and physical comedy. Attention will be given to comic characters, comic pretense, wit, humor, comedy of errors, comic gestures, comic archetypes, farce, cross-dressing, satiric comedy, comic relief, tragicomedy, romantic comedy, and theatre of the absurd. This course will be of special interest to serious students of comedy. When possible, class outings make use of current New York City productions.

Summer 2018: ENGL S4452Q
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
ENGL 4452 001/20941  
3 0/12

ENGL S4526D Comic Books and Graphic Novels as Literature. 3 points.

In his 1924 book, The Seven Lively Arts, cultural critic Gilbert Seldes wrote, "With those who hold that a comic strip cannot be a work of art I shall not traffic." This course will take a prolonged look at this form of art in order to trace the history of comics and graphic novels in America. Focusing on representative texts that define and redefine the medium, we will learn how to approach comics as a distinct literary and visual form, while familiarizing ourselves with the critical vocabulary of "sequential art." By examining the graphic novel with an eye toward the literary, the course will explore a variety of genres and the ways they deploy conventional literary forms such as allegory, epic, character, setting, symbolism, and metaphor. We will consider how comics resist, represent, and entrench dominant cultural ideologies about power, myth, heroism, humor, adolescence, gender, sexuality, family, poverty, religion, censorship, and the immigrant experience. The course will provide students with the critical tools to read this key vehicle of contemporary creative expression. Readings will include seminal works and newer classics, by Gaiman, Bell, Miller, Moore, Crumb, Bell, Spiegelman, Ware, Derf, and shorter pieces by many others. In addition, we will read selections from texts on graphic narrative theory and comics history, beginning with Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics. Students must attend the first lecture. Instructor permission is required for registration after 5/18.

Summer 2018: ENGL S4526D
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
ENGL 4526 001/17471  
3 0

ENGL S4920Q The Bible as Literature. 3 points.

The course focuses on the literary artistry and principal thematic concerns of the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures), Apocrypha, and New Testament in the King James Version. In addition to close literary study of individual biblical books, from Genesis to Revelation, other topics to be studied include: canon formation (How does a book become 'essential reading'?); gender relations (What does the Bible say about marriage, same-sex, and hetero-sexual relations?); the influence of the Bible on various writers in different countries; and the Bible as a source of popular cultural forms of expression (films, songs, cartoons, etc.).

Summer 2018: ENGL S4920Q
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
ENGL 4920 001/68508  
3 0

ENGL S4930D Made in America: Mafia in Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and David Chase's The Sop. 3 points.

Summer 2018: ENGL S4930D
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
ENGL 4930 001/16255  
3 0

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