English Department

Upper-Level Course Offerings for Spring 2014

For more information, please download the Spring 2015 English Upper-Level Course Bulletin, or contact the English Department.

Spring 2015 Offerings

Special Studies in British Literature


English 401–01: Time and Eternity in Eighteenth-Century Literature

Dr. Lorraine Eadie
Tuesdays 1:00-4:00

As seventeenth- and eighteenth-century technology affords greater precision in the measurement of time, British literature develops a fascination with its use; and as the diary and journal give rise to new forms of narrative, writers and readers alike wonder how the charting of transient moments can achieve lasting value. With the aid of clocks, watches, journals, and language, can ephemeral experience somehow be “translated” into the realm of eternity? This course will consider how selected works in a handful of genres—the periodical essay, the journal narrative, the biography, and the early novel—participate in this new chrono-centric discourse. The life and works of Samuel Johnson, a man haunted by the awareness of passing time, will merit special attention, and the character of Johnson’s thought informs our semester-long study. Yet we’ll be astonished by the multitude of ways in which writers enlist narrative time in the project of conceiving more precise and powerful forms of time-consciousness, teaching that fleeting daily time is endowed with eternal significance.

The course will be conducted as a seminar with significant emphasis on student contribution to class discussion. Coursework includes substantial weekly reading (c. 250 pages per week, occasionally more); an annotated bibliography; a 20-page seminar paper; and a comprehensive final exam.

Projected Texts:

Course Packet with selections from Addison and Steele’s Spectator, Johnson’s Rambler and Idler, and Goldsmith’s Citizen of the World. (Charged to students at cost.)
Pepys, The Diary of Samuel Pepys (abridged)
Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year
Boswell, The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides and The Life of Samuel Johnson (abridged)
Johnson, The Major Works
Richardson, Pamela: Or, Virtue Rewarded
Fielding, Shamela and The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews
Sterne, Tristram Shandy (excerpts)

English 401-02: The Later Victorian Novel

Dr. Dwight Lindley
Wednesdays 1:00-4:00
Prerequisite: English 340 or permission

“My dear fellow,” says Algernon in The Importance of Being Earnest, “it isn’t easy to be anything now-a-days. There’s such a lot of beastly competition about.” While Algy is motivated primarily by sloth, his description of the late Nineteenth Century is actually quite apt: Great Britain in that period—and the British world at large—was larger, more complex, more fast-paced, and more competitive than it had ever been before. Science, industry, business, and empire were all expanding their dominance as quickly as possible, and while it was an exhilarating time to be alive, the pace of change had the effect of unsettling many. All the motion, business, progress, and development made it more and more imperative to remember, or to rediscover, what in human nature was timeless and beyond change. How was it possible in the modern world, and what did it mean, to be something, to be someone? In works by Dickens, Trollope, Eliot, James, Hardy, and Conrad, we will pursue the permanent human features disclosed by the unfolding of late modernity. Catching the progress of civilization at the height of its energy and optimism, we will seek along with these authors what it means to be fully human within (and perhaps in spite of) that civilization.

The requirements for the course will include regular quizzes, a short analysis assignment, a twenty-plus page research paper, and a final exam.

Reading List:
1865—Dickens, Charles. Our Mutual Friend. Ed. Michael Cotsell. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. ISBN 978-0199536252.
1875—Trollope, Anthony. The Way We Live Now. Ed. John Sutherland. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009.  ISBN 978-0199537792.
1876—Eliot, George. Daniel Deronda. Ed. Terence Cave. New York: Penguin, 1996. ISBN  978-0140434279.
1881—James, Henry. Portrait of a Lady. Ed. Roger Luckhurst. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. ISBN 978-0199217946.
1891—Hardy, Thomas. Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Ed. Tim Dolin. New York: Penguin, 2009. ISBN 978-0856426827.
1900—Conrad, Joseph. Lord Jim. Ed. Jacques Berthoud. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008. ISBN 978-0199536023.

English 401-03: The English Renaissance Lyric

Dr. Benedict Whalen
T-Th 1:00-2:15

“…the ever-praiseworthy Poesy is full of virtue-breeding delightfulness, and void of no gift that ought to be in the noble name of learning”
-Sir Philip Sidney, The Defense of Poesy

This course will study the tradition of English Renaissance lyric poetry. It will include extensive reading in both the great, well-known poets of the period (Spenser, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Donne, Herbert, Jonson, Milton), as well as their lesser-known but important contemporaries (to name a few: Wyatt, Lyly, Wroth, Southwell, Herrick, Marvell, Carew, Crashaw, Lovelace, etc.). The course will be organized thematically and by general sub-genres of the lyric, and will include sections covering the Renaissance pastoral lyric, sonnet sequences, Renaissance devotional poetry, carpe diem poetry, the metaphysical poets, the Cavalier poets, country-house poems, Renaissance elegies, and a few epyllions, or “little epics” (including Marlowe’s “Hero and Leander” and Shakespeare’s “Venus and Adonis” and “The Rape of Lucrece”). The course will include extensive consideration of certain overarching themes, including most prominently love and religion, and to uncover and address these themes, we will rely upon close reading and formal and rhetorical poetic analysis. The course will not presume prior knowledge of poetics on the students’ parts.

In addition to the poetry, the course will include select secondary readings that discuss the Renaissance lyric, certain important biographical and historical readings intended to give context, and a poetics handbook. The course is a seminar, including all of the consequent duties of active discussion, presentations, independent reading, and a seminar paper. Short poetic analyses will also be due at intermittent points. Furthermore, given the matter at hand, it is only natural that students will be expected to continually memorize and recite poems over the course of the semester. 

Special Studies in American Literature

English 402-01: Walt Whitman: Making an American Poetry

Dr. Kelly Scott Franklin
Thursdays 1:00-4:00
Prerequisite: English 360 or permission

Walt Whitman has long been a polarizing figure, alternately demonized and lionized by his readers. But he has irrevocably shaped and defined our national verse, radically changing its poetic form, and expanding the boundaries of what constitutes the subject of American poetry.

This class gives students an opportunity to really encounter Whitman, not as one writer among many, but as a powerful American poet whose work merits our understanding and appreciation.

Whitman grappled in a unique way with some of the major questions in our human experience: how to understand death, love, sex, friendship, and the problem of suffering. He questioned the relations of the individual with the state, and those of the nation with the world. He meditated on the nature of art, on the possibilities of modernity, and much more.

Whitman’s verse celebrates the dignity and equality of the human person, male or female, slave or free. He praises the human body, in all its aspects, for its goodness and beauty. He left us a poetry that is at once American and global, as he ceaselessly wrote and rewrote a book that remains both universal and intensely personal.

This course will include substantial readings from three different editions of Leaves of Grass, with attention to Whitman’s ideas about America, democracy, the Civil War, literature, and the human person. Finally, by tracing how Whitman rewrote key poems across the various versions of Leaves of Grass, we will see the poet in in progress, and gain fresh insight into the meaning—and the making—of his American poetry.

Class work: includes various short reflection/interpretive papers on the Whitman’s poems, an annotated bibliography, and a final critical/research paper.

Reading List:

Whitman, Walt. Complete Poetry and Collected Prose. Ed. Kaplan, Justin. New York: The Library of America, 1982.
Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass 1860: The 150th Anniversary Facsimile Edition. Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Press, 2009.
Whitman, Walt. Selected Letters of Walt Whitman. Ed. Edwin Haviland Miller. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1990.

English 402-02:  American Literary Nonfiction Since 1980 (May count as Eng. 404)

Dr. John Somerville
MW 11:00-12:15
Prerequisite: English 370

In the last few years there has been an increasing amount of attention paid to those memoirs, biographies, histories, travel narratives, literary essays, and other works of nonfiction that display features typically associated with serious fiction.  These works are, for instance, often notable for their stylistic quality, for their imaginative use of narrative structure, and for various other elements that might be termed artistic.  Certainly, the history of prose in English includes many works that can be described as "literary nonfiction"; a particular focus on this genre as worthy of special attention is, however, a fairly recent development. 

This course will be concerned only with such works written by Americans in the last thirty years.  Among the books we will read are examples of memoir, nature writing, social observation, history, and journalism.  These are:

Buford, Bill.  Among the Thugs. (1990) 
Covington, Dennis.  Salvation on Sand Mountain. (1995)
Didion, Joan.  The Year of Magical Thinking. (2005)
Filkins, Dexter.  The Forever War. (2008)
Lopez, Barry.  Arctic Dreams. (1986)
Reding, Nick.  Methland.  (2009)
Richard, Mark.  House of Prayer No. 2. (2011)
Simon, David.  Homicide. (1991)
Spence, Jonathan.  The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci. (1984)
Sullivan, John Jeremiah.  Blood Horses. (2004)

The final semester grade will be based on the grades from a Midterm Exam, a Final Exam, a Research Paper, and Occasional Quizzes.

Special Studies in Western Literature

English 403-01: Planted in Soil and Soul: Gardens & Horticulture in Literature & Life (May count as Eng. 404)

Dr. Patricia  Bart
T-Th 6:00-7:15 pm

The aim of this course is twofold: To appreciate a sampling of the literature of gardens and gardening as such, chiefly in the West, and to move from that literary appreciation to a realization of it in the realm of plantsmanship, designing a garden that could grow in a specific agricultural zone, terrain and soil. 

his garden design, in turn, engrafts the literature by which it was inspired into the landscape, serving as a physical reminder of the art whence it came.  The course will include a lecture on the changing nature of gardens in Britain, from monastic and abbey gardens through the Great House culture of the sixteenth to the early twentieth century, and on back to the more practical beauties of the monastic gardens in the more modest gardens of today—with a sidelight on the grander twenty-first-century projects involving research for terraforming and ecological and agricultural experimentation such as the geothermal banana groves of Hveragerði, Iceland and the enclosed ecosystems of Biosphere 2 (Oracle, Arizona) and The Eden Project (St. Austell, Cornwall).

Works studied will include excerpts from the Bible (Genesis, Song of Songs), Hesiod’s Works and Days, Virgil’s Georgics and Eclogues, Homer’s Odyssey (palace and grounds of Arete and Alcinous), Dante’s Purgatory (earthly paradise), Petrarch’s Rime Sparse, Bacon’s Essays (On Gardening), Milton’s Paradise Lost, Walpole’s Essay on Modern Gardening, Wordsworth’s lyrics and Gertrude Jekyll’s Wood and Garden: Notes and Thoughts, Practical and Critical, of a Working Amateur. 

The length of reading assignments will be respectably substantial, as in any literature course, but will be kept moderate enough that there can be time for students to explore the practical, botanical aspect of these gardens, selecting as a term project a garden to be designed under the inspiration of one or more of the works on the syllabus, or a work of the student’s own choice approved by the instructor. 

Literature students in particular will come to appreciate better the interaction between history and material culture in the interpretation of literary texts, and the mediation of those texts to our own time.  In accomplishing this study, they will also become more aware of practical ways to foster the love of literature in their own communities, both now and after college.

Students of literature from English, Classics and modern languages, history students, students in biology and botany, and students in graphic arts would all benefit from the interdisciplinary approach of the course, and all skill levels are welcome in each of these fields.  A team of mixed disciplinary background is highly desired.   Basic practical gardening instruction will be offered during lectures and an extensive reserve book list will be provided on the subject.  Very much in the spirit of the subtitle of Gertrude Jekyll’s gardening classic,  we will be sharing the notes and thoughts of avid working amateurs in aspects of the class with which each of us may be the less familiar.

The final project for the class—a practical garden design together with a commentary explaining its relationship to its inspiration and to soil and climate—will carry us through the dread months of the Michigan winter, and will follow students into life after Hillsdale with the possibility of planting their learning beyond these grounds and halls.  Students will also be encouraged, should they so desire, to design a garden based on a work not on the syllabus. Designs may include gardening within an enclosed man-made system, on a space station or even terraforming, provided that the inspiring work and project selected be approved by the instructor in advance.

If anyone gardens The Red Planet, it should be a Hillsdalian, and that Hillsdalian should have a well-thought-out plan steeped in the liberal arts tradition.

Young men should not be shy of this course.  At least one Marine officer has completed it, having designed a garden for bachelor officer’s quarters inspired by selections from the Commandant’s Professional Reading List.  Do recall that the first Man was intended by God Himself to be a gardener.