I am on sabbatical for the Winter 2019 term.
Fall 2019 Courses
English 1050, Pulp Fiction
The term “pulp fiction” originally referred to cheap paperback books aimed at the mass market rather than the cultural elite. Some of the original “pulps” were reprinted literary classics, but the term “pulp fiction” became most familiarly associated with lurid, sensational stories. Today “pulp fiction” is sometimes used as a general label for popular genres like mysteries, westerns, or romances, but the early connotations of cheap thrills and low quality lingers, and in some circles genre fiction gets as little critical respect as the “pulps” once did. In this class, we will read a selection of novels and short stories from three genres associated with the “pulp” tradition—a Western, a mystery, and a romance—considering their historical contexts, their formal features, and the vexed question of their literary merit – all while enjoying their often spectacular story-telling and entertainment value.
More detailed information (including a finalized reading list) will be posted here closer to the start of term; a detailed syllabus and schedule will be available on Brightspace for registered students by the end of August.
Tentative Book List (subject to change):
Charles Portis, True Grit
Dorothy B. Hughes, In A Lonely Place
Loretta Chase, Lord of Scoundrels
English 4205, Women and Detective Fiction
To Sherlock Holmes, she was always the woman.
—Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “A Scandal in Bohemia”
At least since Irene Adler beat Sherlock Holmes at his own game, women have had a complicated relationship with both detectives and detective fiction. Though often depicted as either victims or femmes fatales in early detective stories, women characters did frequently have central roles, and even before Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple appeared in 1930, they did their share of crime-solving too. Women writers have also been prominent in the field from its early days: Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and Ngaio Marsh were major figures in the ‘Golden Age’ of detective fiction in the 1920s and 1930s, for instance, and P. D. James, Sue Grafton, and Sara Paretsky are only a few of the many women whose crime fiction tops today’s best-seller lists. In this course we will read a sampling of mystery writing by women that draw attention to gender in a variety of ways, from centering women as investigators to interrogating women’s conventional roles in the genre, from victim to femme fatale. We will pay particular attention to the different things our readings suggest about women’s relationships to crime, law, justice, morality, knowledge, and power.
Specific plans for the 2020 version of this class are still tentative; update information will be posted here in the early summer and a detailed syllabus and schedule will be available for registered students on Brightspace by the end of August.
Tentative Book List (subject to revision)
Agatha Christie, Thirteen Problems
Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night
Carolyn Keene, Nancy Drew: The Secret of the Old Clock
Dorothy B. Hughes, In a Lonely Place
P. D. James, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman
Amanda Cross, Death in a Tenured Position
Sara Paretsky, Indemnity Only
Katherine V. Forrest, Murder at the Nightwood Bar
Katherena Vermette, The Break
Winter 2020 Courses
English 2002, British Literature After 1800
In English 2002, we will sample the remarkable diversity of British literature written between 1800 and the present, a range of time covering what are often referred to as the Romantic, the Victorian, and the Modern periods—though one topic of discussion for us will be how useful or meaningful these labels are. We will read a wide variety of writers working in a range of genres, paying attention to their often dramatic formal innovations as well as their widely varying ways of engaging with the ever-changing social and historical contexts of the modernizing world.
Plans for our specific course readings are still tentative, but they will likely include a custom reader of poetry, prose, and fiction drawn from the Broadview Anthology of English Literature, one Victorian novel (maybe Wuthering Heights), and one contemporary novel (maybe Zadie Smith’s White Teeth). Updated information for English 2002 will be posted here by August; a detailed syllabus and schedule will be available to registered students on Brightspace in December 2019.
English 3031, The 19th-Century British Novel from Austen to Dickens
In this course we will study British novels from the first half of the nineteenth century. During these decades, authors experimented with both the form and the subject matter of fiction as they transformed the novel from a generic upstart into the century’s dominant literary form. Broad issues our discussions are likely to engage include the relationship of the present to the past, of the individual to society, and of the individual to modern institutions and systems (such as government, law, religion, or industry); problems of self-discovery and identity; questions of love, marriage, and morality; questions of gender, class, and race; and the role of the artist, especially the novelist, and of literature, especially the novel, in investigating, articulating, and affecting all of these issues. At all times, our primary concern will be to read our books closely and revel in them—to understand, analyze, and appreciate their richness and variety of form, language, and content. To this end, we will pay careful attention to textual detail as well as to these larger themes and patterns. Our readings are long; you should be prepared to put in enough time to read them attentively. But they are also delightful, so your effort will be heartily repaid in pleasure. Regular, well-informed, and enthusiastic class participation will be encouraged; regular, well-informed, and enthusiastic writing will be required.
Plans for the 2020 version of this class are still tentative; update information will be posted here by October and a detailed syllabus and schedule will be available for registered students on Brightspace by December.
Tentative Reading List
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights
Anne Brontë, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations