Fall Term 2022

Looking for courses that satisfy a specific concentration or secondary field requirement? Use the filtering tool at the top left corner of this page!

Course Information

Common Courses

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.

Lecture Courses

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.

English 195ec. Growth, Technology, Inequality, and Education

Instructor: James Engell and Benjamin Friedman
Tuesdays & Thursdays, 1:30-2:45 pm | Location: Harvard Hall 101
Course site

An economist and a humanist, together with professors from the natural sciences, analyze familiar conceptual and policy-relevant issues from viewpoints of their respective disciplines. For example, how do we measure inequality, and at what point does it become problematic (and how do we know)? How then should it be addressed (e.g., tax code, minimum wage)? What are the best policies to confront job losses from technology? What does sustainable growth mean? The goal is not merely to examine four intertwined issues “growth, technology, inequality, and education” but also to understand the distinct concerns and methods of the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.

 Sections will separately accommodate concentrators in English/Humanities and Economics/Social/Natural Sciences/SEAS. Jointly offered as Econ 1000a/b

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

GENED 1050. Act Natural

Instructor: David Levine
Thursday, 3:00-5:45 pm | Location: Farkas 203

“To thine own self be true,” runs the famous line in Hamlet. But which self? And why? And who’s judging? Does this injunction to be authentic even make sense today, when profiles proliferate online and surveillance is ubiquitous? Acting—the art of creating and reproducing selves—can help us navigate these questions. Just as every century’s approach to acting tells us something about their idea of personhood, so too can our own era’s quandaries around empathy, personae, identity, work, art-making and politics be explored through our approach to acting. The course will examine the construction of private and public selves across eras and disciplines, through a combination of lectures, screenings, readings, and talks. Sections and examinations will be practice-based, focused on a single basic task: students will be asked to turn into each other over the course of the term.

GENED 1183. The English Language Today, Yesterday, and Tomorrow

Instructor: Daniel Donoghue
Monday &Wednesday, 3:00-4:15pm | Location: Boylston 110 

How does the English language shape our world, and how does the world shape English?

How does the English language shape our world? And how does the world shape English? Our “world” includes our most intimate thoughts and feelings, but it also can expand into an ever-widening social network; either way, whether personal or global, the English language has a profound and reciprocal relation with its speakers. This is not a traditional grammar course, warning against dangling participles. Instead, you will discover that notions of correct grammar have a surprising and whimsical history. But our inquiry goes much further: Why is English spelling so weird? Is the language morphing online? Will innovations in HipHop and Spanglish become standard? How did an obscure medieval dialect expand to become a world language? What did Shakespeare sound like? How do we know? Is the spread of world Englishes endangering its coherence as a language? Is that a problem? The course is guaranteed to unsettle some common assumptions, and the English already familiar to you will become more quirky and fascinating. Besides thrilling your inner word geek, the knowledge you gain will sharpen your writing skills and make you a more perceptive reader. You will also gain greater confidence about the place of your English in your world.

Humanities 10a: A Humanities Colloquium: From Homer to Valeria Luiselli

Instructors: Stephen Greenblatt, Louis Menand, Glenda Carpio, Alison Simmons, Jill Lepore, Namwali Serpell
Tuesday, 10:30-11:45am | Location: Boylston 110

2,500 years of essential works, taught by six professors. Humanities 10a will likely include works by Homer, Plato, Sappho, Augustine, Ferdowsi, Murasaki, Dante, Boccaccio, Hafez, Basho, Dickinson, Nietzsche and Luiselli. One 75-minute lecture plus a 75-minute discussion seminar led by the professors every week. Students will receive instruction in critical writing one hour a week, in writing labs and individual conferences. Students also have opportunities to participate in a range of cultural experiences, ranging from plays and musical events to museum and library collections.

Note: Humanities 10a and 10b will count as "Open Electives" for English concentrators. The course is open only to first-year students. Students who complete Humanities 10a meet the Harvard College Curriculum divisional distribution requirement for Arts & Humanities. Students who take both Humanities 10a and Humanities 10b fulfill the College Writing requirement. This is the only course outside of Expository Writing that satisfies the College Writing requirement. No auditors. The course may not be taken Pass/Fail. Students must apply to be admitted to the course. Enrollment is limited to 90.

Undergraduate Seminars

English 90dr. Digital Race Studies: Storytelling, Power, Community

Instructor: Maria Dikcis
Thursday, 12:45-2:45pm | Location: Lamont Library 401
Enrollment: Limited to 15 students
Course site

This course will introduce students to critical race approaches to digital culture, primarily through Asian American, Black, Indigenous, and Latinx perspectives on and experiences with settler colonialism, racial capitalism, state violence, war, and empire. Together, we will explore how racial formations in the U.S. have shaped and been shaped by the infrastructures and interfaces of our digital world, as well as how communities of color give voice to their histories, desires, and creativity through digital cultural production. To guide our explorations, each week we will examine several projects that foreground the intersection between race, politics, and culture, including curated digital archives, mapping projects, database storytelling, network visualizations, born-digital literature, and longform, media-rich journalism. Additionally, this course is designed to be very hands-on and oriented toward digital humanistic research (also known as Digital Humanities) as an applied field of knowledge. Students will therefore have the opportunity to experiment with and engineer their own digital tools that center communities of color. (No prior technical knowledge is required.)

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

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 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.

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.

Religion 1589. Truths & Reconciliations

Instructor: Pamela Klassen
Tuesday, 9:00-11:45am | Location: TBA

Enrollment: Limited to 20 students

What responsibility do later generations have to remember and atone for the injustices of the past, even as they are perpetuated in the present? This course focuses on how projects of national public memory—especially commissions of “Truth and Reconciliation”—grapple with the demands of the past as they are experienced, ignored, and/or re-narrated by successive generations. Our class discussions will be oriented by readings from the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which addressed government and church complicity in the system of “Indian Residential Schools.” We will consider the possibilities and limits of reconciliation as a Christian-inflected term often used in settler-colonial nations, comparing it to other concepts of historical reckoning, including reparations and resurgence. We will also visit local sites in Cambridge and surrounding areas, asking how places and monuments carry the past and call new generations to contend with them as sacralised, ritualized, and politicized sites of memory.

Note: Part of the course includes visits to local sites in Cambridge and surrounding area.

Undergraduate Tutorials

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. 

Creative Writing Workshops

English CBST. Blood, Sweat, Tears: The Art and Craft of Horror Writing

Instructor: Nick White
Wednesday, 12:00-2:45pm | Location: Boylston G07
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students
Course site​​​​​​​

In this workshop, we will study the shocking art and bewitching craft that is horror. For those writers daring enough to face the abyss with me, we will spend the first half of the semester closely reading contemporary classics of the form, such as Victor LaValle’s The Ballad of Black Tom, Carmen Maria Machado’s Especially Heinous, Stephen Graham Jones’ Night of the Mannequins, and Samanta Schweblin’s Fever Dream. The second half of the semester, we will devote our time to workshopping your own creative work: one shorter flash piece and one longer story or novel chapter (around 5,000 words). The final project will be a significant revision of the longer story or novel chapter.

Supplemental Application Information: Prior experience writing fiction is helpful but not required. Please submit a writing sample of 3-5 pages of fiction, along with an application letter explaining your interest in this course, any writing experience you feel is relevant, and listing examples of work that moves and/or influences you, explaining why it does.

Apply via Submittable (deadline: 11:59pm EDT on Sunday, August 21)

English CCFS. Fiction Workshop

Instructor: Teju Cole
Tuesday, 6:00-8:45pm | Location: Lamont Library 401
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students
Course site

This reading and writing intensive workshop is for students who want to learn to write literary fiction. The goal of the course would be for each student to produce two polished short stories. Authors on the syllabus will probably include James Joyce, Eudora Welty, Toni Morrison, Alice Munro, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Diane Williams.

Supplemental Application Information: Please submit a cover letter saying what you hope to get out of the workshop. In the cover letter, mention three works of fiction that matter to you and why. In addition, submit a 400–500 word sample of your fiction; the sample can be self-contained or a section of a longer work.

 

Apply via Submittable (deadline: 11:59pm EDT on Sunday, August 21)

English CFE. Writing Fiction: Elements of Craft, Style, and Meaning

Instructor: Neel Mukherjee
Monday, 3:00-5:45pm | Location: Barker 018
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students
Course site​​​​​​​

The course will consist of two halves. In the first hour of each class, we will be doing close readings/literary-critical analyses of an assigned text (we’ll be reading writers such as James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Ann Petry, Lucia Berlin, Ernest Hemingway, Gustave Flaubert, among others), with the aim of isolating some aspect of the craft of writing in order to take bearings for your own. Amongst several other things, we shall also be looking at the politics of canon-making; at the white gaze; at writing as representation, empowerment, resistance, reclamation; at some of the long history of racial politics. In the second half of the class, divided into two equal segments of 55 minutes each, we will be workshopping the writing of two students.

Supplemental Application Information: Please submit 3-5 pages of creative writing in prose (fiction is preferable, but non-fiction is also fine) along with a letter of introduction in which you write about why you’re interested in this course; what experience you’ve had writing; some of your favourite writers; what some of your favourite works of fiction are and why.

Apply via Submittable (deadline: 11:59pm EDT on Sunday, August 21)

English CFF. From Fact to Fiction: Finding & Shaping a Story: Workshop

Instructor: Claire Messud
Tuesday, 12:00-2:45pm | Location: Lamont Library 401
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students
Course site​​​​​​​

In this course, we will explore the evolution of a story from a factual anecdote or incident to a fictional creation. The aims of the semester are to learn to listen to someone else’s story in interviews, and to endeavor to find, from there, the necessary bones for a fictional narrative. What is most urgent? What is most emotionally affecting? What are the details from an interview that stay with you? And from there: what, from a broader account, is the story you are moved to relate? Once you make that choice, how do you do further research, if necessary? How do you select the point of view, the frame, the characters for your fiction? What are the ethics and responsibilities of these choices?
In these riven and challenging times, storytelling is vital: learning to listen, to engage, and responsibly to relay what we discover. Each person we encounter is a bearer of wisdom and vast experience; so many urgent stories remain untold. How might we, as fiction writers, address reality, without simply writing about ourselves
Several published writers will visit the class to share their experiences of research, and of the relation in their work of fact to invention. (Past guests include Akhil Sharma, Geraldine Brooks, Kirstin Chen and Jane Rogoyska.)  We will read published examples of fact-based fiction, and discuss the authors’ choices.
The first third of the class will involve preparing and conducting interviews with a chosen subject, and sharing those interviews with the class. The second third will involve refining the story’s arc, research and formal decision-making, and writing a first draft. Finally, we will workshop the revised stories that have emerged from this process.

In these riven and challenging times, storytelling is vital: learning to listen, to engage, and responsibly to relay what we discover. Each person we encounter is a bearer of wisdom and vast experience; so many urgent stories remain untold. How might we, as fiction writers, address reality, without simply writing about ourselves?

Several published writers will visit the class to share their experiences of research, and of the relation in their work of fact to invention. We will read published examples of fact-based fiction, and discuss the authors’ choices.

The first third of the class will involve preparing and conducting interviews with a chosen subject, and sharing those interviews with the class. The second third will involve refining the story’s arc, research and formal decision-making, and writing a first draft. Finally, we will workshop the revised stories that have emerged from this process.

Supplemental Application Information: Admission by application only. Please submit a brief letter explaining why you're interested to take this class, and, if you've a subject in mind, why it's interesting to you. There is no prerequisite for this course: all who are interested are welcome to apply. For your writing sample, submit 2-5 pages of creative work of any genre. If you haven't written creatively before, you might consider writing a brief character sketch or memoir piece. 

Apply via Submittable (deadline: 11:59pm EDT on Sunday, August 21)

English CFMR. Interiority & Experience: Writing Character-Driven Fiction: Workshop

Instructor: Claire Messud
Thursday, 3:00-5:45pm | Location: Barker 018 
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students
Course site​​​​​​​

This course approaches the writing of fiction with character at its center. If fiction is an exploration of what it’s like to be alive on the planet, character is paramount: we are who we are because of a combination temperament and experience. You can’t write convincingly if you don’t know your characters: plot, voice, detail, dialogue, setting – all these elements of story are interwoven with and dependent upon character. While it will be primarily a workshop of student fiction, we will read and discuss fiction through the lens of character – including works by Gustave Flaubert, Virginia Woolf, Joyce Carol Oates, Toni Morrison, Viet Than Nguyen, Ben Lerner, and Tayari Jones.  

Supplemental Application Information: Admission by application only. Please submit a brief letter explaining why you're interested to take this class. There is no prerequisite for this course. For your writing sample, please submit 2-5 pages of creative work in any genre.

Apply via Submittable (deadline: 11:59pm EDT on Sunday, August 21)

English CGF. Genre Fiction Workshop: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Speculative Fiction, Horror, The Ghost Story, The New Weird

Instructor: Neel Mukherjee
Wednesday, 3:00-5:45pm | Location: Barker 018
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students
Course site

The course will consist of two halves. In the first hour of each class, we will be doing close readings of an assigned text, with the aim of isolating some concept or aspect of the genre under discussion in order to take bearings for your own. The assigned reading is obligatory. We will look at the convergences and divergences in the various kinds and modes mentioned in the title of the course. We will be thinking of generic topoi, conceptual underpinnings, imagination, style, world-building, storytelling, resolution, among other things. Some of the best writing in these genres is by women on issues of gender and intersectionality, so there will also be a strong feminist component to the course. These genres have also been used, with extraordinary creativity and to great effect, by writers of colour to meditate on issues of race, inequality, oppression, freedom, so the syllabus also features an introduction to that domain. 

The course will consist of two halves. In the first hour of each class, we will be doing close readings of an assigned text, with the aim of isolating some concept or aspect of the genre under discussion in order to take bearings for your own. We will be reading writers such as Ursula Le Guin, Ted Chiang, Nalo Hopkinson, James Tiptree Jr, Stanislav Lem, China Miéville, among others. We will look at the convergences and divergences in the various kinds and modes mentioned in the title of the course. We will be thinking of generic topoi, conceptual underpinnings, imagination, style, world-building, storytelling, resolution, among other things. Some of the best writing in these genres is by women on issues of gender and intersectionality, so there will also be a strong feminist component to the course. These genres have also been used, with extraordinary creativity and to great effect, by writers of colour to meditate on issues of race, inequality, oppression, freedom, so the syllabus also features an introduction to that domain.

In the second half of the class, divided into two equal segments of 55 minutes each, we will be workshopping the writing of two students.

Supplemental Application Information: Please submit 3-5 pages of creative writing in prose (fiction is preferable, but non-fiction is also fine) along with a letter of introduction in which you write about why you’re interested in this course; what experience you’ve had writing; some of your favourite writers; what some of your favourite works of fiction are and why.

Apply via Submittable (deadline: 11:59pm EDT on Sunday, August 21)

English CNL. The Novel Lab: Studying Long-Form Narratives in Fiction

Instructor: Paul Yoon
Section 1: Wednesday 12:00-2:45pm | Location: Barker 316 
Section 2: Wednesday 3:00-5:45pm | Location: Barker 316 
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students.

Course site: Section 1
Course site: Section 2

What defines a novel? And what does it mean to read one as a writer? How does a painter consider a painting or a photographer a photo? This readings class will study novels through the point of view of a practicing writer. We will read one novel a week, with the goal of exploring the ways in which long-form narratives are constructed, from chapter to chapter, from one movement to another—that is, the architecture of it. Please note: this is not a typical workshop. You will not be sharing you work every week, though later on in the semester we may participate in small group workshops and readings. Consider the class an investigation into all the tools a writer has to create fiction, with the end goal of producing 2 - 3 chapters of the beginning of a novel as your final project.

Supplemental Application Information: Please submit ONLY a letter to me. I want to know what your favorite novel is and why; and then tell me something you are passionate about and something you want to be better at; and, lastly, tell me why of all classes you want to take this one this semester. Please no writing samples. Again, note: This is NOT a typical workshop.

Apply via Submittable (deadline: 11:59pm EDT on Sunday, August 21)

English CNMJ. Fiction Workshop: Forms and Styles

Instructor: Meng Jin
Thursday, 3:00-5:45pm | Location: Barker 316 
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students
Course site

What gives a fictional work life and meaning and originality? In this workshop, students will be exposed to and try on a wide range of forms and styles in fiction to discover what suits and excites them. We'll sample a variety of sensibilities, approaches, and aesthetic possibilities, reading writers working in various traditions -- from Clarice Lispector to Yiyun Li to Ursula LeGuin – exploring the many ways fiction can come alive by following what is mysterious and inimitable in each work. Students will read a writer (sometimes two) a week and write a creative response inspired by some element of the assigned reading. One or more of these responses will be developed into a longer, complete piece, which we will workshop in an effort to discover and nurture the mysterious and inimitable in our own work.

Supplemental Application Information: Please submit 3-5 pages of fiction, along with a letter describing why you'd like to join the workshop, what you hope to get out of it, your previous encounters with creative writing, and anything else you’d like to say about why or what you write. Please also tell me about one or two writers or books you love, and why.

Apply via Submittable (deadline: 11:59pm EDT on Sunday, August 21)

English CTLL. “Telling and Retelling”: Reshaping and Remixing Myths and Fairy Tales

Instructor: Nick White
Thursday, 3:00-5:45pm | Location: 2 Arrow St 420
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students
Course site

In this workshop, we will study how writers have taken classic stories (fairy tales, Greek tragedies, Shakespeare’s plays, epic poetry, parables from sacred texts) and retold them with a contemporary sensibility. In the first half of the semester, we will closely read exemplary short stories and novels by writers such as Angela Carter, Emma Donoghue, John Gardner, Helen Oyeyemi, and Kamila Shamsie. In the second half of the semester, we will workshop your own retellings: you will submit one flash piece and one longer story (around 5,000 words) to be workshopped. The final project will be a significant revision of the longer story. 

Supplemental Application Information:Prior experience writing fiction is helpful but not required. Please submit a writing sample of 3-5 pages of fiction, along with an application letter explaining your interest in this course, any writing experience you feel is relevant, and listing examples of work that moves and/or influences you, explaining why it does.

Apply via Submittable (deadline: 11:59pm EDT on Sunday, August 21)

English CVLI. Imagination Under Siege: Creativity in Times of Crisis

Instructor: Valeria Luiselli
Wednesday, 12:45-2:45pm | Location: Lamont Library 401
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students

What happens to our imagination and capacity for creativity during crises? Do circumstances like wars, authoritarianism, exile or confinement ignite or stifle our creative drive? What roles do fear and isolation play in our creative lives? What is the relationship between imagination, memory and will? Is imagination an instrument or an end in itself? These are some of the questions that will be addressed during this workshop.

Students will write brief weekly responses to readings, and work on fragmentary and hybrid forms of prose and/or sonic essays, in search of new ways of exploring imagination as both a tool for creative resistance and as an end in itself. We will be engaging with work by: Audre Lorde, Plato, Natalie Díaz, María Zambrano, José Limón, Joseph Brodsky, Aristotle, Aeschylus, Borges, Daniil Kharms, and Yásnaya Elena Aguilar, among others.

Supplemental Application Information: Admission by application only. For information on specific application requirements and instructions, please see the full course listing on the English Department website. DEADLINE: for all Fall 2022 workshops, applications will open TBA and are due via Submittable by 11:59pm EDT on TBA. Students will be notified of admissions decisions by 4:00pm EDT on TBA. Workshops will meet the first week of classes.

Apply via Submittable (deadline: 11:59pm EDT on Sunday, August 21)... Read more about English CVLI. Imagination Under Siege: Creativity in Times of Crisis

English CAJR. Investigations: Journalism and The 2022 Elections

Instructor: Jill Abramson
Tuesday, 9:00-11:45am | Location: Barker 018
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students
Course site

Taught by veteran political journalist Jill Abramson, the former Executive Editor of The New York Times, this advanced seminar focuses on political journalism and closely examines coverage of the 2022 elections for Governor, U.S. Senate and the U.S. House as these races unfold this fall.  We will try to answer the question of whether political journalism does its job of delivering voters the quality information they need to select their leaders. On a weekly basis, we will read and study the political coverage of major news organizations, from print (including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic and The New Yorker, among others), broadcast (PBS Frontline and The NewsHour) podcasts, newsletters, blogs and other outlets chosen by students.

Choosing from a list of closely contested races, each student will closely follow news coverage of a statewide or local race. Readings will include in-depth candidate profiles, analytic articles about electoral dynamics, and investigations into subjects such as the role of money in politics. Through close reading, we will examine the rules of quality journalism and see if they apply to political coverage and explore concepts such as objectivity and bias, which are in flux. We will delve into the rise of partisan and ideological journalism and read examples of this type of political writing. Students will examine the role of social media platforms in their electoral races. Writing assignments will include candidate profiles reported by students, editorials (opinion pieces) and an investigative article about assaults on democracy.

The emphasis of the course is on narrative and investigative writing techniques (ie. not horse-race coverage), the development of story ideas, refinement of voice and narrative framing. Students will learn how to outline, draft and revise their articles, and will master the fundamentals of the editing process in journalism.

Guest speakers will include many of the political journalists whose articles are included on the syllabus. No prior journalism experience required.

Supplemental Application Information: The application should include a letter saying why the student wants to take the workshop, why writing and journalism interests them, and which websites, magazines, newspapers and other news sources they read. A writing sample is optional for this course application.

Apply via Submittable (deadline: 11:59pm EDT on Sunday, August 21)

English CIJR. Introduction to Journalism: Workshop

Instructor: Jill Abramson
Thursday, 9:00-11:45am | Location: Barker 018
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students
Course site​​​​​​​

An intensive seminar for those interested in understanding the changing role of journalism and learning the art of reporting and writing narrative stories. The course is designed for students who want a better sense of how journalism really works, taught by the former Executive Editor of The New York Times. Major types of journalism-- profiles, features and investigations will be examined and analyzed. Coursework will include two, magazine-length, narrative nonfiction articles. One is a reported profile. The other is on a subject chosen by each student. A first-person memoir is assigned between these two articles. Readings will include some of the best examples of modern journalism, from magazine features by authors including Gay Talese, Jane Mayer, David Carr and Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah to multimedia narratives such as The New York Times' "Snow Fall" and podcasts.” On a daily basis, students will listen each weekday to The Daily, the news podcast produced by The New York Times. Because this seminar is focused on improving writing skills, students will master the various stages of writing and editing pieces of longform journalism, from how to come up with story ideas, how to outline, how to write a draft and revise work for a final, publishable version. No previous journalism experience required.

Supplemental Application Information: The application should include a letter saying why the student wants to take the workshop, why writing and journalism interests them, and which websites, magazines, newspapers and other news sources they read. A writing sample is optional for this course application.

Apply via Submittable (deadline: 11:59pm EDT on Sunday, August 21)

English CNFR. Creative Nonfiction

Instructor: Darcy Frey
Section 1: Wednesday, 3:00-5:45 pm | Location: Lamont Library 401
Section 2: Thursday, 3:00-5:45 pm | Location: Lamont Library 401
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students.

Course site: Section 1
Course site: Section 2​​​​​​​

Whether it takes the form of literary journalism, essay or memoir, creative nonfiction is a powerful genre that allows writers to break free from the constraints commonly associated with nonfiction prose and reach for the breadth of thought and feeling usually accomplished only in fiction: the probing of character, the unfolding of drama, the argument of an idea, the evocation of place. Readings include work by Jo Ann Beard, Alexander Chee, Ariel Levy, Richard Rodriguez.

Supplemental Application Information: Please write a substantive letter of introduction describing who you are as writer at the moment and where you hope to take your writing; what experience you may have had with creative/literary nonfiction; what excites you about nonfiction in particular; and what you consider to be your strengths and weaknesses as a writer. Additionally, please submit 3-5 pages of creative/literary nonfiction (essay, memoir, narrative journalism, etc, but NOT academic writing) or, if you have not yet written much nonfiction, an equal number of pages of narrative fiction.

Apply via Submittable (deadline: 11:59pm EDT on Sunday, August 21)

English CNSR. Narrative Science Journalism: Workshop

Instructor: Michael Pollan
Wednesday, 3:00-5:45 pm | Location: Emerson 307
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students
Course site​​​​​​​

The arc of this workshop will trace the process of researching and writing a single long piece of science journalism: finding and pitching story ideas; reporting in depth and at length; outlining and structuring your story; choosing a narrative voice and strategy, crafting leads and “overtures,” and making connections between your story and its larger contexts.  As a group, we’ll also work as editors on one another’s ideas and pieces. And since reading good prose is the best way to learn to write it, we’ll be closely reading an exemplary piece of narrative science journalism each week. Students will be expected to complete a draft and revision of a substantial piece by the end of the term. 

Supplemental Application Information: To apply, submit a brief sample of your non-academic writing along with a letter explaining your reasons for wanting to take this course and describing your science experience, if any.

Apply via Submittable (deadline: 11:59pm EDT on Sunday, August 21)

English CSST. The Sound and the Story: A Workshop in Nonfiction Narrative for Audio Production

Instructor: Jill Lepore
Monday, 3:00-5:45pm | Location: Robinson 106
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students
Course site​​​​​​​

This hands-on workshop in nonfiction narrative for audio will take students through all the steps of storytelling from story development and pitching through research and reporting, writing and editing for the ear, factchecking and production. Special attention will be paid to the way the limitations and strengths of audio production guide story choice, story structure, and interviewing for radio, podcasting, and enhanced audiobooks. Reading assignments will include guides on writing for radio, including Out on the Wire: The Storytelling Successes of the New Masters of Radio, but course discussions will also rely on listening assignments that will include both recent projects, like Slow Burn and The Other Latif, and historical audio storytelling, like Edward R. Murrow’s Hear It Now and the formal innovations of Orson Welles. Guests will include acclaimed reporters and audio producers from NPR, Pushkin, Frontline, Radiolab, BBC Radio 4, and the New Yorker Radio Hour. Students should expect to allot time for training in audio production using software licensed by Harvard and supported by the Harvard Sound Lab.

Supplemental Application Information: To apply, please write and record a two-minute, non-fiction audio essay or story. Your essay or story needs to be true and cannot be about your own life. Please give your recording a title and include, at the end of the recording, your name, year, and concentration, and any prior relevant coursework and experience along with a sentence or two about why you’d like to take this course. No prior experience with audio production is necessary to take this course!

Apply via Submittable (deadline: 11:59pm EDT on Sunday, August 21)

English CWP. Words & Photographs: Workshop

Instructor: Teju Cole
Wednesday, 3:00-5:45pm | Location: Sever 205
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students
Course website​​​​​​​

For almost two centuries now, words have accompanied photographs, sometimes to sublime effect. In this writing-intensive workshop, we will model our work on the various ways writers have responded to photographs: through captions, criticism, fiction, and experiments. Students will learn close-looking, research, and editing, and will be expected to complete a “words and photographs” project using their own photographs or photographs made by others. 

Supplemental Application Information: Please submit a photograph and up to a page of text responding (or perhaps not responding) to the photograph. In addition, submit a cover letter saying what you hope to get out of the workshop. The cover letter should mention three books in any genre that have been helpful to your writerly development.

Apply via Submittable (deadline: 11:59pm EDT on Sunday, August 21)

English CBBR. Intermediate Poetry: Workshop

Instructor: Josh Bell 
Monday, 6:00-8:45pm | Location: Barker 018
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students
Course site​​​​​​​

Initially, students can expect to read, discuss, and imitate the strategies of a wide range of poets writing in English; to investigate and reproduce prescribed forms and poetic structures; and to engage in writing exercises meant to expand the conception of what a poem is and can be. As the course progresses, reading assignments will be tailored on an individual basis, and an increasing amount of time will be spent in discussion of student work.

Supplemental Application Information: Please submit a portfolio including a letter of interest, ten poems, and a list of classes (taken at Harvard or elsewhere) that seem to have bearing on your enterprise.

Apply via Submittable (deadline: 11:59pm EDT on Sunday, August 21)

English CCFC. Poetry Workshop: Form & Content

Instructor: Tracy K. Smith
Monday, 3:00-5:45pm | Location: Lamont Library 401
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students
Course website​​​​​​​

In this workshop, we’ll look closely at the craft-based choices poets make, and track the effects they have upon what we as readers are made to think and feel. How can implementing similar strategies better prepare us to engage the questions making up our own poetic material? We’ll also talk about content. What can poetry reveal about the ways our interior selves are shaped by public realities like race, class, sexuality, injustice and more?   

Supplemental Application Information: Please submit a writing sample of 5-10 poems and an application letter explaining your interest in this course.

Apply via Submittable (deadline: 11:59pm EDT on Sunday, August 21)

English CHCR. Advanced Poetry: Workshop

Instructor: Josh Bell
Tuesday, 6:00-8:45pm | Location: Barker 018
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students. 
Course site​​​​​​​

By guided reading, classroom discussion, one-on-one conference, and formal and structural experimentation, members of the Advanced Poetry Workshop will look to hone, deepen, and challenge the development of their poetic inquiry and aesthetic. Students will be required to write and submit one new poem each week and to perform in-depth, weekly critiques of their colleagues’ work.

Supplemental Application Information: Please submit a portfolio including a letter of interest, ten poems, and a list of classes (taken at Harvard or elsewhere) that seem to have bearing on your enterprise.

Apply via Submittable (deadline: 11:59pm EDT on Sunday, August 21)

English CACF. Get Real: The Art of Community-Based Film

Instructor: Musa Syeed
Tuesday, 12:00-2:45pm | Location: Barker 269
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students
Course site​​​​​​​

“I’ve often noticed that we are not able to look at what we have in front of us,” the Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami said, “unless it’s inside a frame.” For our communities confronting invisibility and erasure, there’s an urgent need for new frames. In this workshop, we’ll explore a community-engaged approach to documentary and fiction filmmaking, as we seek to see our world more deeply. We’ll begin with screenings, craft exercises, and discussions around authorship and social impact. Then we each will write, develop, and shoot a short film over the rest of the semester, building off of intentional community engagement. Students will end the class with written and recorded materials for a rough cut. Basic equipment and technical training will be provided.

Supplemental Application Information: Please submit a 3-5 page writing sample of any genre. Also, please write a short note to introduce yourself and the community/communities you might be interested to work with and your relation to them. Include an example of films/filmmakers that have inspired you, your goals for the class, as well as any themes/subject matter/ideas you might be interested in exploring. Filmmaking experience is NOT necessary.

Apply via Submittable (deadline: 11:59pm EDT on Sunday, August 21)

English CLR. Introduction to Screenwriting: Workshop

Instructor: Musa Syeed
Monday, 12:00-2:45 pm | Location: Barker 018
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students
Course site

The short film, with its relatively lower costs of production and expanded distribution opportunities, has become one of the most disruptive, innovative modes of storytelling--and is often an emerging filmmaker's first step into a career. This course will introduce students to the basics of short form screenwriting, including narrative theory/structure, character design, and dialogue/voice. In the first quarter of the semester, we will hone dramatic techniques through several craft exercise assignments and in-class writing. In the following weeks, students will write two short screenplays. Throughout the semester, we will be workshopping and doing table reads of student work, discussing screenplays and craft texts, and screening a wide array of short films. The emphasis will be on discovering a sense of personal voice and completing two short screenplays (under 20 pages).

Supplemental Application Information: Please submit a 3-5 page writing sample. Screenplays are preferred, but fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, and plays are acceptable as well. Also, please write a short note to introduce yourself. Include a couple films/filmmakers that have inspired you, your goals for the class, as well as any themes/subject matter/ideas you might be interested in exploring in your writing for film.

Apply via Submittable (deadline: 11:59pm EDT on Sunday, August 21)

English CTV. Writing for Television: Developing the Pilot: Workshop

Instructor: Sam Marks
Monday, 12:00-2:45pm | Location: Lamont Library 401 
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students
Course site​​​​​​​

This workshop introduces the television pilot with a focus on prestige drama and serialized comedy.  Students will excavate their own voice and explore the structure and execution of pilot writing through a first draft of their own original script. With intensive reading and discussion of student work we will examine elements of TV writing, such as treatments and outlines as well as character, dialogue, tone, plot, and, most importantly, vision.  Over the semester, we’ll turn ideas into worlds and worlds into scripts. 

Supplemental Application Information: Prior experience in dramatic writing is encouraged, though not necessary. Please submit a 5-10 page writing sample (preferably a play or screenplay, but all genres are acceptable). Also, write a few sentences about one of your favorite televisions shows and why you wish to write for TV.

Apply via Submittable (deadline: 11:59pm EDT on Sunday, August 21)

Graduate Seminars

AFRAMER 215x. Black Literary Avant-Gardes

Instructor: Jesse McCarthy
Wednesday, 3:45-5:45pm | Location: Barker 114

In his classic manifesto “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain,” Langston Hughes declared that his generation of artists and poets—upstarts coming of age in the roaring twenties—was determined to build what he called “temples for tomorrow.” How should we read that phrase today? Recent debates in Black Studies and in African American Literature over temporality, periodization, affect, and antagonism, suggest that we may not have an adequate theory of the avant-garde, or at least we may need to update the one we inherit from Poggioli (1968). By revisiting the avant-garde, we renew a concept that touches on a wealth of topics of interest to contemporary theoretical and methodological debates: taste, politics, publics and counter-publics, signifying, archives, transnationalism, translation, incompleteness, failure, and the circulation and manipulation of new medias. There are also the classic questions: Who gets to decide what constitutes an "avant-garde" or avant-gardes? What is the relationship between avant-garde artistic movements and political or militant ones? This course will explore all of these themes comparatively, with readings drawn from poems, plays, novels, films, and ranging widely across the African diaspora, without neglecting important formations in Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America.

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. 

First-Year Seminars

Freshman Seminar 33x. Complexity in Works of Art: Ulysses and Hamlet

Instructor: Philip Fisher
Monday, 3:00-5:00pm | Location: Barker 222

Is the complexity, the imperfection, the difficulty of interpretation, the unresolved meaning found in certain great and lasting works of literary art a result of technical experimentation?  Or is the source extreme complexity—psychological, metaphysical, or spiritual?  Does it result from limits within language, or from language’s fit to thought and perception?  Do the inherited forms found in literature permit only certain variations within experience to reach lucidity?  Is there a distinction in literature between what can be said and what can be read?  The members of the seminar will investigate the limits literature faces in giving an account of mind, everyday experience, thought, memory, full character, and situation in time.  The seminar will make use of a classic case of difficulty, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and a modern work of unusual complexity and resistance to both interpretation and to simple comfortable reading, Joyce’s Ulysses.  Reading in exhaustive depth these two works will suggest the range of meanings for terms like complexity, resistance, openness of meaning, and experimentation within form.

Freshman Seminar 60C. Comics and Graphic Novels

Instructor: Stephanie Burt
Monday, 3:00-5:45pm | Location: Barker 218 

Comics and graphic novels, or sequential art, are one of the world’s great storytelling media: we’re going to learn how to read them, how to talk about how they get made and how they work, how to understand—and how to enjoy— some of the kinds of comics and graphic novels (that is, some of the genres) that make up the history of this medium in the modern English-speaking world. That history has three strands, which cross and re-cross, but which need to be understood independently, and we will see all three: short-form strip comics, designed for newspapers beginning in the 1890s and now flourishing on the Web; action-adventure and superhero comics, invented in the late 1930s, transformed in the 1960s and again in the 1980s, usually created by teams, and important to popular culture today; and a third strand beginning with “underground” or “alternative” comics or comix (with an x) in the 1960s and evolving into long form graphic novels, often created by single writer-artists, today.  That history comes with visual references, which you will learn to recognize; comics also comes with its own set of theoretical terms, which you’ll learn to use. Comics today share a medium (pictures and usually words in sequence) but belong to several genres: we’ll learn how to talk about them, and how they’ve evolved.You’ll get the chance to make comics, and to figure out how creators collaborate, advocate, distribute, and sometimes even earn a living from the comics they make, but the course will focus on existing comics, from McCay to Bechdel, from Kirby to Ms. Marvel— as events in culture and as works of art.

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