Epic is one of the most enduring and far-reaching forms of artistic expression. From the heroic poems of the ancient Near East to modern films of quest and adventure, epic speaks to the shared values and collective aspirations of cultures, peoples, and communities. But if it’s formal conventions and thematic interests endure, epic changes over time. In this course, you will study the historical and literary evolution of epic as it moves from oral verse into new genres and media, reading texts from the ancient Mediterranean alongside works of poetry, fiction, and cinema from early modern Britain, twentieth-century America, and the contemporary Global South. We will look at some texts in their entirety and others in extracts, focusing on Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Vergil’s Aeneid, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Derek Walcott’s Omeros, The Mahabharata (in prose and film versions), and George Lucas’ Star Wars, with detailed analysis of Gwendolyn Brooks’s American epics on Black life, Annie Allen and In the Mecca. If issues of identity, belonging, and community have always been explored in epic, what is the place of epic in a pluralist multi-culture? What are our contemporary epics today?
How did writers and audiences imagine the world before modernity? This course offers an introduction to the first 1000 years of English literature (roughly 700-1700) and the shifting terms through which writers were able to imagine the world beyond their borders. We will encounter hardy seafarers, fantastical monsters, and real and imagined peoples at the margins of Europe and beyond. We will study the genres of travel narrative, romance, epic, drama, and lyric, and the different ways these forms registered global connections, ideas of race, and cultural and religious difference. We will pay particular attention to the accelerated pace of global
encounters and connections starting in the Renaissance, and the ways that English literature was able (or not) to register new peoples and places, new forms of economic connectivity, and the violence of colonialism and empire.
Note: This course satisfies the English Concentration "Arrivals" requirement for the Class of 2022.
This class is an introduction to Shakespeare’s writings and their representations of sex, gender, romance, love, and queerness. We will study poems about erotic and queer desire, plays that stage ideas about gender and gender fluidity, and film adaptations that bring modern perspectives to race and sexuality. Readings will include such plays as Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Titus Andronicus, Macbeth, and Measure for Measure; Shakespeare’s Sonnets; and films by Derek Jarman, Baz Luhrmann, and Julie Taymor. Throughout our course, we will ask: how are the forms of gender identity and sexual expression we encounter in Shakespeare’s works familiar, or different? How might they challenge, inspire, or disturb us today?
Note: This course satisfies the English Concentration "Shakespeare" requirement for the Class of 2022.
Consent will be studied in four domains: Part I-the relation of consent and the body in marriage, in medicine, and in state citizenship; Part II – the act of consent and dissent in war (beginning with the dissent of Achilles in the Iliad and including readings up to the present); Part III – freedom of movement, freedom of entry and exit in citizenship (including contexts where right of movement has been denied); Part IV – consent as the basis of cultural creation. The nature of individual and collective deliberation is at the center of the course throughout. Readings include: philosophic accounts of consent (Plato, Locke, Rousseau), case law (Plessy v. Ferguson, Pratt v. Davis, Schloendorff v. Society of New York Hospital), constitutional writings (Federalist Papers 4, 7, 8, 23, 25, 27-29, 41; Madison’s Record of Federal Assembly; Ratification Debates ), plays (Euripides’ Hecabe, Sophocles’ Philoctetes, five U.S. suffrage plays), poetry (Iliad), films (Philadelphia Story, It Happened One Night), novels (Tale of Two Cities), and historical narratives (Thucydides selections, Underground Railroad narratives).
Note: This course fulfills the "Ethics and Civics" General Education requirement