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    English 91r. Supervised Reading and Research

    The Supervising Reading and Research tutorial is a type of student-driven independent study offering individual instruction in subjects of special interest that cannot be studied in regular courses. English 91r is supervised by a member of the English Department faculty.  It is a graded course and may not be taken more than twice, and only once for concentration credit. Students must submit a proposal and get approval from the faculty member with whom they wish to work.

    Proposed syllabi and faculty approval must be submitted and verified by the English Department Undergraduate Office by the Course Registration Deadline.

    English 99r. Senior Tutorial

    Supervised individual tutorial in an independent scholarly or critical subject.

    Students on the honors thesis track will register for English 99r in both the fall and spring terms. 

    English 10. Literature Today

    Instructors: Jesse McCarthy & Tracy K. Smith
    Tuesday & Thursday, 1:30-2:45pm | Location: Emerson 305
    Course site

    All literature was contemporary at some point, but the literature that is contemporary now provides special opportunities for enjoying, questioning, and understanding the world. Literature Today focuses on works written since 2000—since most of you were born. It explores how writers from around the world speak to and from their personal and cultural situations, addressing current problems of economic inequality, technological change, structural prejudice, and divisive politics. We will encounter a range of genres, media, and histories to study contemporary literature as a living, evolving system. The course uniquely blends literary study and creative writing—students will analyze literature and make literature. The conviction that these practices are complementary will inform our approach to readings and course assignments.

    Note: English 10 is one of the required Common Courses for the English concentrators. The course is designed as a “gateway” course for first and second year students, but it is open to all undergraduates.

    This course satisfies the English Concentration "Diversity in Literature" requirement for students on the “Common Ground” curriculum.

    English 20. Literary Forms

    Section 1 Instructor: Deidre Lynch
    Tuesday & Thursday, 10:30-11:45am | Location: Barker 024
    Enrollment: Limited to 27 students
    Course site

    Section 2 Instructor: Vidyan Ravinthiran
    Monday & Wednesday, 10:30-11:45am | Location: Barker 024
    Enrollment: Limited to 27 students
    Course site

    This foundational course for English concentrators examines literary form and genre. We explore some of the many kinds of literature as they have changed over time, along with the shapes and forms that writers create, critics describe, and readers learn to recognize. The body of the course looks to the great literary types, or modes, such as epic, tragedy, and lyric, as well as to the workings of literary style in moments of historical change, producing the transformation, recycling, and sometimes the mocking of past forms. While each version of English 20 includes a different array of genres and texts from multiple periods, those texts will always include five major works from across literary history: Beowulf (epic), The Winter’s Tale (tragicomedy or romance), Persuasion (comic novel), The Souls of Black Folk (essays; expository prose), and Elizabeth Bishop’s poems (lyric). The course integrates creative writing with critical attention: assignments will take creative as well as expository and analytical forms.

    Note: English 20 is one of the required Common Courses for English concentrators and Secondaries and is a limited enrollment course which will prioritize sophomores and first-years; juniors and seniors who want to take it as an elective will be considered for any remaining spots. Enrollment priority exceptions may be made for people changing concentrations or presenting other notable reasons.

    English 97. Sophomore Tutorial: Literary Methods

    Tutorial Instructor: Derek Miller
    Tuesday, 9:45-11:45am | Location: Barker 269
    Course site

    Enrollment: Each section limited to 15 students

    This course, taught in small groups and required for concentrators, introduces theories, interpretive frameworks, and central questions about literature and literary media. What do we do when we read? What is an author? What do we mean by “literature” itself? How might we compare and evaluate interpretations? How do the historical, social, cultural, and legal frameworks around a text shape its meanings and its effects? Combining major critical and theoretical writings with primary works, the course investigates how literary production and interpretation are informed by philosophical and aesthetic traditions, gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, national and post-colonial identities, and the material forms in which literature circulates, from parchment books to the internet. Students will also practice fundamental literary research methods through close engagement with Harvard libraries.

    Note: English 97 is one of the required Common Courses for English concentrators and is open to sophomores and first-years planning to concentrate in English. Enrollment priority exceptions may be made for people changing concentrations or presenting other notable reasons.

    English 90ka. The Brontës

    Instructor: Elaine Scarry
    Thursday, 3:00-5:00pm | Location: Barker 269
    Enrollment: Limited to 15 students
    Course site

    Writings by Emily, Anne, and Charlotte Brontë, as well as the later novels and films their work inspired.

    This course satisfies the “1700-1900 Guided Elective" requirement for English concentrators and Secondary Field students.

    English 90qm. Metaphysical Poetry: The Seventeenth-Century Lyric and Beyond

    Instructor: Gordon Teskey
    Monday, 3:45-5:45pm | Location: Barker 269
    Enrollment: Limited to 15 students
    Course site

    In an age of scientific and political revolution, how do poets respond when common beliefs about God, humans, cosmic and social order, consciousness, and gender have been taken away? Modern poetry starts in the seventeenth century when poets, notably women poets, sought new grounds for poetic expression.

    This course satisfies the English Concentration "Poets" requirement for students on the “Common Ground” curriculum.

    This course satisfies the “Pre-1700 Guided Elective" requirement for English concentrators and Secondary Field students.

    English 90rv. Empire and Revolution, Sex and Gender, Race, Slavery, and Abolition

    Instructor: James Engell
    Wednesday, 12:45-2:45pm | Location: Barker 269
    Enrollment: Limited to 15 students
    Course site

    The literatures of race and slavery, gender, empire, democracy, and revolution that shaped our modern world.  Excerpts from Dryden, Astell, Behn, Pope, Swift, Montagu, Johnson, Equiano, Gibbon, Paine, Burke, Wollstonecraft, Blake, and Shelley.  Some fiction as well.

    This course satisfies the English Concentration "Diversity in Literature" requirement for students on the “Common Ground” curriculum.

    This course satisfies the English Concentration "Migrations" requirement for students on the “Common Ground” curriculum.

    This course satisfies the “1700-1900 Guided Elective" requirement for English concentrators and Secondary Field students.

    English 210Q. Queer/Medieval

    Instructor: Anna Wilson
    Thursday, 9:45-11:45am | Location: Barker 269
    Course site

    The / in this course title can suggest a slippage or interchangeability; opposition and polarization; or erotic or romantic friction. This course functions as an introduction to queer theory as an intellectual tool with which to read texts far removed from the political, cultural, and social discourses from which queer theory emerged. We will ask: what can queer theory offer readers of medieval literature in its explorations of gender, sexuality, race, power, narrative, trauma, and time? We will read a range of queer theorists from foundational works to new thinkers, including but not limited to Judith Butler, C. Riley Snorton, Lee Edelman, Eve Sedgwick, José Esteban Muñoz, and Carolyn Dinshaw, alongside a selection of medieval texts from the European middle ages (roughly 500-1500). Texts will be in modern English translation or in Middle English (no experience in Middle English is required, the class will include additional support for those who have not read Middle English before). Medieval texts may include Aelred of Rievaulx’s Rule of Life for a Recluse, The Book of Margery Kempe, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the poems of Baudri of Bourgeuil and other twelfth century Latin poets of the Loire school, the plays of Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim, The King of Tars, and Roman de Silence. 
     

    English 228c. Milton and the Art of Criticism

    Instructor: Gordon Teskey
    Monday, 12:00-2:00pm | Location: Barker 269
    Course site

    A survey of Milton’s English poetry as a basis for discussing problems in the art of criticism. First, is criticism an art? Is literary criticism a practical or a theoretical enterprise? Does criticism combine philosophy and history while remaining separate from each (as Aristotle thought)? In what ways can criticism draw illuminating connections between a poet’s work and a poet’s life? What kind of attention can criticism pay to language, meter, genre, and literary history? Above all, what is the relation of criticism to the political and of the political to the aesthetic? Milton criticism over three centuries provides a unique archive for considering how criticism has been practiced over time. We follow the development from classic criticism (Marvell, Johnson, Voltaire, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Hazlitt, Blake, Equiano, Wollstonecraft, Arnold, Raleigh) to modern ones (Woolf, Eliot, Lewis, Empson, Frye, Schwartz, Quint, Greenblatt, Nyquist, Jameson, Wilburn, Mohamed, Lewalski, Vendler).

    English 285SA. South Asian Poetry

    Instructor: Vidyan Ravinthiran
    Wednesday, 12:45-2:45pm | Location: Barker 018
    Course site

    Originally, this course centred poets resident in, and writing from, post-Independence India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It will now also examine South Asian-American and British-South Asian writers. In terms of poets living in the Global South, it will concentrate on those who make a decisive break with the wannabe-colonial, archaically emulous stuff which came before them—doing this with the aid of European modernism, and US poetry’s turn to open forms and a streetwise vernacular: writers like Nissim Ezekiel, Srinivas Rayaprol, Kamala Das, Arun Kolatkar, Dom Moraes, Eunice de Souza, Adil Jussawalla and Arvind Krishna Mehrotra—poets whose politics is inextricable from the aesthetic richness of their work. Moving to the US and UK, we’ll ask if a lineage can be mapped out, connecting practitioners of lyric—Sujata Bhatt, Agha Shahid Ali, and A.K. Ramanujan are examples—with the explicitly racialized, post-lyric, experimental work (encompassing prose poetry) of 21st century authors like Bhanu Kapil and Divya Victor.

    Focusing on post-1947 Indian poetry, this course will also glance at Sri Lankan poetry from this period. These poets make a decisive break with the wannabe-colonial, archaically emulous stuff which came before them—and they do this with the aid of European modernism, and US poetry’s turn to open forms and a streetwise vernacular. We’ll read Nissim Ezekiel, Sujata Bhatt, A.K. Ramanujan, Kamala Das, Arun Kolatkar, Dom Moraes, Eunice de Souza, Adil Jussawalla, Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, and Agha Shahid Ali—poets whose politics is inextricable from the aesthetic richness of their work. 

    English 102m. Introduction to Old English: Charms, Herbals, Folk Medicine, Miracle Cures

    Instructor: Daniel Donoghue
    Tuesday & Thursday, 10:30-11:45am | Location: Quincy House S001 (Stone Innovation Space)
    Course site

    This course combines language study with the investigation of a critical theme. The narratives set for translation provide a thematic coherence as we dig into the language of Old English, which is the vernacular used in England from the sixth century until about 1100. Although some of its features remain recognizable today, Old English needs to be learned as a foreign language with its own spelling, pronunciation, syntax, and so on. The term begins with an emphasis on grammar, which will be covered in graduated steps until midterm, after which the readings and translation will take up more of our class time.

    The unifying theme of the readings will be remedies to preserve the health of the human body. Old English literature offers an abundance of medical texts, including herbal remedies and magical incantations. Some come from ancient Greek and Latin sources, while others are local folk recipes. Some are fantastical, some are known to be effective, and others clearly rely on the placebo effect. The readings will move from simple prose to intricate poetry. An end-of-term project will assign each student a short Old English magical charm—think of it as a human utterance charged with power to control nature. With the help of personal coaching, each student will produce a literal and a creative translation.

    This course satisfies the “Pre-1700 Guided Elective" requirement for English concentrators and Secondary Field students.

    Note: Fulfills the College language requirement and the English Department's Foreign Literature requirement (c/o '22) if its continuation, English 103, is also completed.

    English 115b. Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales

    Instructor: Nicholas Watson
    Tuesday & Thursday, 12:00-1:15pm | Location: Emmerson 307
    Course site

    What makes stories so pleasurable and revealing but also so enraging and dangerous?  How do we understand the strong emotions they evoke, and how do we learn to resist their power?  Answering back to a world of fake news and divisive political narratives, this course revisits Geoffrey Chaucer's classic story-collection, The Canterbury Tales: the deepest, most caustic, and most entertaining analysis of the problematic status of stories ever written. The Canterbury Tales consists of a series of tales supposed to be told by the members of a pilgrimage on their way from London to Canterbury.  Some are serious, others funny and sometimes obscene; some are offensive; some are religious, others very much not; some deal with issues local to England at the time the poem was written (the fourteenth century), others range across much of the rest of the world.  The poem is set in a long-ago past, but it thinks of itself as contemporary, giving us an opportunity to think about a moment in the distant past as though it were the present, exploring it from the insider perspective Chaucer’s story-collection makes possible. We read the poem in the language in which it was written, Middle English, which is easy to learn with some early help: no previous experience with the language is necessary. After reading and viewing adaptations of parts of Chaucer’s poem, you will have an opportunity to write your own Canterbury Tale if you wish.

    This course satisfies the “Pre-1700 Guided Elective" requirement for English concentrators and Secondary Field students.

    English 125pc. Shakespeare and Popular Culture

    Instructor: Alan Niles
    Monday & Wednesday, 12:00-1:15pm | Location: 2 Arrow St 408
    Course site

    Shakespeare’s plays have always been “popular” in the multiple senses of the word: drawing on a stock cultural repertoire of characters and themes, appealing to mass audiences from the public theater of Shakespeare’s time to the screens of today, and succeeding (and surviving) in a competitive literary marketplace. This course explores these multifaceted aspects of Shakespeare’s “popularity” and the ways the enduring legacy of Shakespeare’s works has depended on complex crossings between their status as “elite” and “popular” culture. Through readings, lectures, and class activities, we will situate Shakespeare’s plays in relation to topics including the social experience of playgoing in Shakespeare’s time; racism, misogyny, and radical politics on the stage; theories of popular culture, mass culture, and subcultures from Shakespeare’s time to the present; Bardolatry and Shakespeare’s long reception history; and Hollywood, Bollywood, and global cinematic appropriations of Shakespeare’s plays today. Readings will include such plays as A Winter’s Tale, Hamlet, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Pericles, Henry VI, Part 2, and more. Prior experience reading Shakespeare may be helpful but is not expected or required.

    This course satisfies the English Concentration "Shakespeare" requirement for students on the “Common Ground” curriculum.

    This course satisfies the “Pre-1700 Guided Elective" requirement for English concentrators and Secondary Field students.

    English 157. The Classic Phase of the Novel

    Instructor: Philip Fisher
    Monday & Wednesday, 10:30-11:45 am | Location: Emmerson 108
    Course site

    A set of major works of art produced at the peak of the novel’s centrality as a literary form: Sense and SensibilityMadame BovaryAnna KareninaMiddlemarchThe Brothers KaramazovBuddenbrooks. Society, family, generational novels and the negations of crime and adultery; consciousness and the organization of narrative experience; the novel of ideas and scientific programs; realism, naturalism, aestheticism and the interruptions of the imaginary.

    This course satisfies the “1700-1900 Guided Elective" requirement for English concentrators and Secondary Field students.

    English 181a. Introduction to Asian American Literature: What Is Asian American Literature?

    Instructor: Ju Yon Kim
    Tuesday & Thursday, 1:30-2:45pm | Location: CGIS South S020
    Course site

    Aiiieeeee! An Anthology of Asian-American Writers (1974) was one of the earliest attempts to collect writings that were, to quote the editors, “exclusively Asian-American.” Yet as their lengthy—and controversial—explanation of the selection process makes clear, Asian American literature defies neat categorization. This course is both a survey of Asian American literature and an introduction to ongoing debates about what constitutes Asian American literature. We will study a variety of literary genres and ask how formal and stylistic conventions, as well as shifting sociohistorical circumstances, have shaped conceptions of Asian American literature.

    This course satisfies the English Concentration "Migrations" requirement for students on the “Common Ground” curriculum.

    This course satisfies the English Concentration "Diversity in Literature" requirement for students on the “Common Ground” curriculum.

    This course satisfies the “1900-2000 Guided Elective" requirement for English concentrators and Secondary Field students.

    English 182. Science Fiction

    Instructor: Stephanie Burt
    Monday & Wednesday, 12:00-1:15 pm | Location: Harvard Hall 202 
    Course site

    Utopias, dystopias, artificial intelligence, life on new planets, and much, much more-- from the late 19th century to the present, *mostly in novels and short stories but also in comics, poetry, games, film and TV.* Likely readings include Mark Twain, H. G. Wells, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Robert A. Heinlein, James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon), Octavia Butler, William Gibson, Nalo Hopkinson, Ted Chiang, Tillie Walden, Charlie Jane Anders, N. K. Jemisin…. We will also be playing a tabletop role playing game as part of the class.

    This course satisfies the English Concentration "Diversity in Literature" requirement for students on the “Common Ground” curriculum.

    This course satisfies the “1900-2000 Guided Elective" requirement for English concentrators and Secondary Field students.

    English 185e. The Essay: History and Practice

    Instructor: James Wood
    Monday & Wednesday, 1:30-2:45pm | Location: Art Museums Deknatel Hall
    Course site​​​​​​​

    Matthew Arnold famously said that poetry is, at bottom, “a criticism of life.” But if any literary form is truly a criticism of life, it is the essay. And yet despite the fact that all students write essays, most students rarely study them; bookshops and libraries categorize such work only negatively, by what it is not: “non-fiction.” At the same time, the essay is at present one of the most productive and fertile of literary forms. It is practiced as memoir, reportage, diary, criticism, and sometimes all four at once. Novels are becoming more essayistic, while essays are borrowing conventions and prestige from fiction. This class will disinter the essay from its comparative academic neglect, and examine the vibrant contemporary borderland between the reported and the invented. We will study the history of the essay, from Montaigne to the present day. Rather than study that history purely chronologically, each class will group several essays from different decades and centuries around common themes: death, detail, sentiment, race, gender, photography, the city, witness, and so on. In addition to writing about essays – writing critical essays about essays – students will also be encouraged to write their own creative essays: we will study the history of the form, and practice the form itself. Essayists likely to be studied: Plutarch, Montaigne, Hazlitt, De Quincey, Woolf, Benjamin, Orwell, Camus, Primo Levi, Barthes, Baldwin, Sontag, Dyer, Didion, Leslie Jamison, Knausgaard, Ta-Nehisi Coates.

    English 187aa. The Aesthetics of Athletics

    Instructor: John Stauffer
    Thursday, 12:00-2:30pm | Location: Barker 114
    Course site​​​​​​​

    This course explores the rarely studied but intimate relationship between art and athletics in literature, visual art, movies, and performance.  We examine literary and other representations of athletics; the emotional and philosophical parallels of artists and athletes; along with the dedication to craft and the ideal of perfection.   Authors include Herman Melville; David Foster Wallace; Chad Harbach; Joyce Carol Oates; Frederick Douglass; Willa Cather, Ross Gay, Samuel Fussell, others.

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