Pages

    English 90tu. The Tudors: Literature, Film, Myth

    Instructor: Alan Niles
    Wednesday, 9:45-11:45am | Location: TBA
    Enrollment: Limited to 15 students

    Henry VIII, “Bloody” Mary, Queen Elizabeth; Shakespeare, Marlowe, Donne. In a little over a century, the Tudor dynasty reshaped English literature, culture, and politics. The Tudors have continued to shape popular imaginations of the English past ever since, being variously conscripted for the ideological work of Britain’s expanding empire, hailed as a privileged origin point for modernity, and transformed into popular novels, films, and TV series. This course explores the history and culture of the Tudor period and its enduring hold on our cultural imagination. Through readings, discussions, and class activities, we will explore such topics as narratives of the Protestant Reformation, the history of sexuality and queer erasure, race and colonialism in the early modern world, and literary transformations including the emergence of the literary market and the public stage. Readings will include poems, plays, and experimental prose writings by Thomas More, John Bale, Anne Askew, Thomas Wyatt, Anne Lok, Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, and John Donne, as well as more recent films, novels, and TV shows including Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons, Derek Jarman’s Jubilee, Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard’s Shakespeare in Love, and Toby Marlowe and Lucy Moss’s musical Six.

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

    English 110ff. Medieval Fanfiction

    Instructor: Anna Wilson
    Tuesday & Thursday, 10:30-11:45 am | Location: TBA

    Fanfiction is a surprisingly powerful tool for examining medieval literature. It sheds light on the dynamics of rereading and transformation that characterizes medieval literary culture, which in turn deepen our own understanding of the nature of creativity. In this class we will read some twentieth- and twenty-first century retellings of medieval stories, including fanfiction, alongside medieval literary texts that rewrite, reimagine, or let their authors star in pre-existing stories. This medieval fanfiction will include different takes on the medieval superhero Sir Gawain (including the 2020 movie starring Dev Patel), unauthorized additions to The Canterbury Tales, and medieval Christian devotional manuals which encourage their readership to participate in imaginative exercises where they imagine themselves as participating in events in the life of Jesus Christ. Along the way we will learn what medieval readers and writers thought of questions like, what is an author? What is literature? What is a character? And what happens in our brains when we read? 

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

    English 131p. Milton's Paradise Lost

    Instructor: Gordon Teskey
    Monday & Wednesday, 1:30-2:45 pm | Location: TBA

    This course focuses on Milton’s most famous work, Paradise Lost, the greatest long poem in English and the only successful classical epic in the modern world. Milton went totally blind in his forties and composed Paradise Lost by reciting verses to anyone available to take them down, like the blind prophets and poets of legend. Yet the moral and political questions he raised—what is the human? what is gender? what is the political? what is religion? what is dissent? what is legitmacy? what is revolt?—are surprisingly enduring and modern. His own solutions to these questions may not be ours, but his abilility to provoke thought on them speaks to our time. We will consider how Milton generates the sublime and how he builds great scenes and characters, especially his most famous one, Satan.

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

    English 124p. Shakespearean Playwriting

    Instructor: Stephen Greenblatt
    Tuesday & Thursday, 1:30-2:45 pm | Location: TBA

    An exploration of Shakespeare at work:  what plot devices was he particularly drawn to, how did he develop characters, how did he characteristically construct scenes, how did he handle dialogue. The course will also -- with the aid of supplementary secondary and critical readings -- examine some of the conditions within which he worked: the structure and economics of his theater, censorship, the resources of his language, training in rhetoric, the assumptions of his audience, the nature of his competition.  Students will try their own hand at “Shakespearean playwriting,” drafting scenes, on the basis of surviving primary materials, from two lost plays, the one a tragedy of political assassination, the other a romantic tragicomedy of love, betrayal, and madness.  Written assignments will include two papers, the two playwriting assignments, and the compiling of a list of Shakespeare’s favorite tricks-of-the-trade.

    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 119ty. English Literature: The First 1000 Years

    Instructor: Alan Niles
    Tuesday & Thursday, 12:00-1:15pm | Location: TBA

    This course is an introduction to the different voices, cultures, and traditions that made the first 1000 years of English literature, from Beowulf to Aphra Behn. We will study major and influential writings alongside lesser-known interlocutors—works by Marie de France, Geoffrey Chaucer, Margery Kempe, Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, Mary Sidney, John Milton, Alexander Pope, and more. We will engage with the (often contested) social, political, and religious contexts that gave rise to creative work. We will pay particular attention to the historical transformations of romance, epic, drama, fable, and lyric, and the ways these forms were embedded in the social worlds of their time.

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

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

    Freshman Seminar 64p. Introduction to Lyric Poetry

    Instructor: Gordon Teskey
    TBA | Location: TBA
     

    This is a seminar for first-year students that introduces lyric poetry from Asia, Europe, and North America. The seminar covers a wide range of time as well as place. We travel from ancient Greece and Rome to medieval Italy and France, from classical China, Japan, and Persia to Renaissance Europe, from the Romantic period in England, Germany, and France to contemporary America.

    All poems not in English—in Greek, Latin, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Anglo Saxon, Italian, German, and French—will be studied in translation. Students with knowledge of any of these languages are encouraged to bring the originals into discussion and to use them for translation assignments.

    The first purpose of the seminar is to provide knowledge of poetry from the past and from around the world. The second purpose of the seminar is to provide students with a grounding to write poetry themselves. Weekly exercises include posted comments, translations, and poems.

    Lyric Poetry in Six Acts

    Act I    Graeco-Roman and Medieval: Poetry of Violence, Fame, and Love 

    Act II      Middle East: Poetry of Love and of Faith. Meditations on Death

    Act III    China and Japanese: Poetry of Passion. Poetry of Reflection

    Act IV    The Renaissance: Poetry as Art and about Art

    Act V     The Romantics: Poetry as Expression

    Act VI    The Modern Age: Poetry in a Dying World
     

    This course satisfies the “Pre-1700 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 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 90ln. Harvard and Native Lands

    Instructor: Alan Niles and Philip Deloria
    Tuesday, 9:45-11:45pm | Location: Robinson History Conference Room
    Enrollment: Limited to 15 students

    Harvard’s beginnings included a promise to educate both “English and Indian youth,” but from its outset Harvard’s endowment included Native lands expropriated through war, theft, and coercion. This class will conduct original research on these histories, seeking to contribute a new understanding of Harvard’s institutional development and its historic and continuing impact on Native American peoples. We will work hands-on with Harvard’s archives, developing research skills in navigating collections, reading early handwriting, and interpreting colonial documents.  We will situate our research in readings and class activities on New England colonialism, the long history of European and U.S. dispossession of Native lands, and the political struggles of Native American communities today. Through close examinations of texts including poems, speeches, short stories, and deeds, we will explore the centrality of land and environment in colonial writings and in Native literature today. Our course will result in two products: working collaboratively, we will produce both a new database of Harvard land transactions and a set of detailed research projects on individual sites. Drawing inspiration from Harvard’s own Legacy of Slavery initiative and the Land-Grab Universities website, we hope to come up with both new data and new narratives for describing Harvard’s pasts and possible futures.

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

    Note: This course is also offered through the History Department as History 15H.  Credit may be earned for either English 90LN or History 15H, but not both.