Spring Term

Course Information

Lecture Courses

English 20. Literary Forms

Instructor: James Simpson
Day & Time: Tuesdays & Thursdays 12-1:15pm
Course Website

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), King Lear (tragedy), 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 the Classes of 2023 and 2024 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 103r. Advanced Old English: Riddles

Instructor: Daniel Donoghue
Day & Time: Tuesdays & Thursdays 12-1:15pm
Course Website

What deepens your grasp of Old English grammar, improves your translation skills, and ends with a creative project? At times child’s play, at times deadly earnest (think of Oedipus and the Sphinx), enigmatic puzzles have fascinated us for many centuries. They were particularly prolific in the earliest literature in English, including over ninety poetic riddles in the Exeter Book. We will translate a number of such riddles, read many more in translation, and speculate on the philosophical questions they raise about language and meaning. The semester will end with a creative project. Prerequisite: one term of Old English.

English 131p. Milton's Paradise Lost

Instructor: Gordon Teskey
Day & Time: Mondays & Wednesdays 4:30-5:45pm
Course Website

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 questions he raised are surprisingly enduring and modern. We will consider how he generates the sublime and how he builds great scenes and characters, especially his most famous one, Satan.

English 160bg. Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group

Instructor: Marjorie Garber
Day & Time: Mondays & Wednesdays 9-10:15am
Course Website

Virginia Woolf, novelist, essayist, feminist and critic, was at the center of a remarkable group of creative intellectuals who changed the course of the 20th century—and the present day. Her sister was the artist Vanessa Bell, her husband the political writer and publisher Leonard Woolf, her lifelong friends included the biographer Lytton Strachey, the economist John Maynard Keynes, the painter Duncan Grant, and the art historians Roger Fry and Clive Bell.  Together with G.E. Moore, E.M. Forster, Bertrand Russell, Desmond MacCarthy, Vita Sackville-West, and Lydia Lopokova, the members of this powerful coterie were innovators — not only pioneers in their fields but also witty commentators and skilled critics across the disciplines. Not content to change merely the arts and letters of the 20th century, these intimate friends were also social pioneers: some were openly queer, some openly polyamorous, most outrageously iconoclastic, and all radically insistent on the equality of the sexes. They have come to be known as The Bloomsbury Group, named after the area in London where many of them lived and worked. This course will look at the works these people created across the spectrum of the arts, as well as the friendships that sustained this work of nearly half a century, as the vital context that allowed for the major novels and essays of Virginia Woolf. 

English 160je. Extreme Reading: The James Joyce Challenge

Instructor: Beth Blum
Day & Time:  Mondays & Wednesdays 10:30-11:45am
Course Website

Speaking of James Joyce’s Ulysses, T.S. Eliot confessed: “I wish, for my own sake, that I had not read it.” How does one write literature after Joyce’s revolutionary prose? This course explores different authors’ responses to that challenge. You will be introduced to one of the most influential authors of the 20th century through selected readings from Joyce’s key works: DublinersA Portrait of the Artist as a Young ManUlysses, and Finnegans Wake (excerpts). After immersing ourselves in Joyce’s oeuvre, we will track its afterlife in literature (Virginia Woolf, Zadie Smith), graphic narrative (Chris Ware, Alison Bechdel), and popular culture.

English 168d. Postwar American and British Fiction

Instructor: James Wood
Day & Time: Mondays & Wednesdays 1:30-2:45pm
Course Website

In this class, we will examine novels and short stories published since 1945 in Britain and the United States. Though certain themes naturally emerge -- belonging and not belonging; immigration and emigration; estrangement, race and post-colonial politics; liberalism and the importance of "noticing" others; the role of realism and the various postmodern movements in reaction to realism -- the primary emphasis is on learning how to read slowly, and learning how to enjoy, appreciate and properly judge a living, contemporary literature.

English 180MW. Modern Women Writers

Instructor: Elizabeth Phillips
Day & Time: Mondays & Wednesdays 10:30-11:30am
Course Website

What does is it mean to be, or feel as, a woman? This course will survey major female authors from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries who ask these questions in their novels, plays, and essays. In our lectures, we will move through literary explorations of womanhood in Modernism, to Expressionism, the Feminist movements, and on to contemporary questions of trauma, reproductive rights, love, activism, sexuality and gender identity, race, sexual exploitation and abuse, camaraderie, unity, and comedy. Authors include Virginia Woolf, Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde, Djuna Barnes, Sally Rooney, Alice Birch, Elena Ferrante, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Final assignment will be a creative project of your own design based on course themes and materials.

English 190ve. Voices of Environmental Justice

Instructor: Sarah Dimick
Day & Time: Mondays & Wednesdays 3-4:15pm
Course Website

This course considers the relationships between systems of human injustice and environmental issues—including industrial disasters, ocean acidification, and resource extraction. We examine environmental justice writing and artwork with a transnational, interconnected approach. For example, we ask how the Ogoni activist Ken Saro-Wiwa’s writing on oil pipelines in the Niger Delta anticipates Native American protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline. We draw connections between a poem documenting silicosis in the lungs of West Virginian coal miners and a novel portraying the aftermath of the Union Carbide gas leak in Bhopal. We compare a nonfiction account of Kenyan women resisting deforestation and an iPhone app reclaiming public access along the Malibu coast. We explore questions of voice, genre, and narrative, cataloguing the strategies writers and artists use to reach a global audience. 

English 191c. Constellations

Instructor: Homi Bhabha
Day & Time: Tuesdays 9:45-11:45am
Course Website

“Constellations” is an attempt at putting key literary works in conversation with significant texts from other disciplines and discourses --- philosophy, politics, history, law, and  the social sciences. The conversations initiated between these texts might converge on conceptual or historical issues; on other occasions, they may conflict on matters of aesthetic form or cultural belief. What gives these ‘coupled” conversations a thematic or curricular coherence is their sustained interest in the life-worlds of minorities as they struggle to gain the recognition and protection of human rights. One of the key questions running through the course will be what it means to make a claim to human dignity from a position of inequality and injustice.

I have chosen landmark texts that describe a wide arc of historical experience from colonization and segregation to migration and the predicament of refugees. These conditions of life and literature will be framed by questions of national sovereignty and international cosmopolitanism. Discourses of race, gender and identity will intersect with conceptual issues of cultural representation and literary form. The conversations initiated by this course will be polyphonic and plural.

English 195tw. 20th Century African American Literature

Instructor: Glenda Carpio
Day & Time: Tuesdays & Thursdays 10:30-11:45am
Course Website

Close readings of major 20th-century writers in the context of cultural history. (I) From the Harlem Renaissance to the Federal Writers' Project: Alain Locke, Jean Toomer, Claude McKay, Jessie Fauset, George Schuyler, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright. (II) From World War II to the present: Ralph Ellison, Ann Petry, James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, Toni Morrison, Ishmael Reed, Charles Johnson, Rita Dove, Colson Whitehead, Paul Beatty.

GENED 1133. Is the U.S. Civil War Still Being Fought?

Instructor: John Stauffer
Day & Time: Mondays & Wednesday 1:30-2:45pm
Course Website

Most of us were taught that the Civil War between the Confederacy and the Union was fought on battlefields chiefly in the American South between the years of 1861-1865. In this narrative, the North won and the South lost. But what if the issues that resulted in such devastating bloodshed were never resolved? What if the war never ended? This course demonstrates the ways in which the United States is still fighting the Civil War, arguably THE defining event in U.S. history. In each class, we connect current events to readings and themes in the course, highlighting how and why the war is still being fought. From Nat Turner’s slave rebellion in 1831 to the recent riot (or battle) in Charlottesville, we trace how and why the South was in certain respects the victor, even though the Confederacy was destroyed and the Constitution amended. We explore the different kinds of war—ideological, political, cultural, military, and para-military—that placed the unfreedom of blacks—as slaves, serfs, and prisoners—at the center of larger conflicts over federal versus state and local rule, welfare, globalization, and free trade. We analyze the Civil War in literature, art, politics, photography, prints, film, music, poetry, speeches, and history, while also discovering how these cultural forms worked to shape our memory of the event itself. By the end of the course, we will be able to show how and why contemporary U.S. debates are rooted in this defining narrative, and we will better understand the dilemmas the nation faces today.

GENED 1082. Elements of Rhetoric: Persuasive Writing & Public Speaking

Instructor: James Engell
Day & Time: Tuesdays & Thursdays 1:30-2:45pm
Course Website

Rhetorical theory, originating with Aristotle, in contemporary applications. The nature of rhetoric in modern culture; practical examples drawn from American history and literature 1765 to the present; written exercises and attention to public speaking; the history and educational importance of rhetoric in the West; stresses theory and practice as inseparable.

Humanities 10B. A Humanities Colloquium: From Joyce to Homer

Instructors: Louis Menand Stephen Greenblatt, Jill Lepore, Jay Harris, Sean Kelly,Beth Blum
Tuesdays, 10:30-11:45 am

2,500 years of essential works, taught by six professors. Humanities 10b is open only to students who completed Humanities 10a in Fall 2018. Humanities 10b includes works by Joyce, Nietzsche, Mary Shelley, Austen, Pascal, Marguerite de Navarre, Dante, Augustine, Sophocles, and Homer, as well as the Arabian Nights. One 75-minute lecture plus a 75-minute discussion seminar led by the professors every week. Students continue to receive instruction in critical writing one hour a week, in writing labs and individual conferences. Students also have opportunities to visit cultural venues and attend musical and theatrical events in Cambridge or Boston.

Note: The course is open only to freshmen. Students who complete Humanities 10a meet the General Education 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.

Only students who have satisfactorily completed the Fall 2020 term of Hum 10A are eligible to enroll in Hum 10B.


 

COMP LIT 190. Translation: Language at Work

Instructor: Marc Shell
Day & Time: Wednesdays 3-5:45pm
Course Website

What difference does language make? This class begins with Goethe’s Faust, a work that translates the Bible (“In the beginning was the Word”) and teases out the idealist philosophical theorization of translation (Helen of Troy speaking German words in Greek syntax). Seminar participants will then engage collaboratively in comparative readings: the particular language expertise of every one of us will benefit the group as a whole: the final reading list will thus arise from group discussion of the languages we know. The first half of the course considers issues of literalness and literariness along with rhythm and rhyme in both poetry and prose. At the same time we will discuss simultaneous translation, dubbing, and general ineffability along with American literature written in languages other than English. The second half focuses on the relationships of language translation to economic transfer and to literary metaphor and also considers the roles of inter-linguistic translation in various arts and media: movies, plays, music, and variably 'bilingual’ paintings.

Undergraduate Seminars

English 90al. Memory in Asian American Literature

Instructor: Janet Zong York
Day & Time: Tuesday 12-2pm
Course Website

What is the status of memory in contemporary Asian American literature? We explore how remembrance and forgetting, both individual and collective, help constitute panethnic Asian America as an imagined community. What conflicts of memory are inherited from legacies of war, exclusion, and migration? How does memory inform responses to present injustices and the ways people narrate the past and imagine the future? Other topics: form; affect and racialization; multimedia memory; memory as work; mourning and history; memorialization and monuments. Novels, nonfiction, theory and criticism, case histories, short stories, graphic narratives, and poetry may include works by: Cathy Park Hong, Aimee Phan, Ocean Vuong, Mira Jacob, Mohsin Hamid, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Jhumpa Lahiri, Ling Ma, among others.   

English 90d. Literature and Disability

Instructor: Marc Shell
Day & Time: Thursdays 12-2:45pm
Course Website

How has literature influenced the rhetoric and philosophy of disability?  This seminar considers literary and cinematic works that focus on the body (deafness, blindness, and paralysis), the mind (madness and trauma), and language (muteness, stuttering, and dyslexia).  Special attention to the disabling and enabling aftermaths of pandemics and to the effects of modern prostheses. Readings include chapters from the King James Bible and works by Brecht, Hitchcock, Keller, Martineau, Milton,  Morrison, Shakespeare,  Shaw, and Trumbo.

English 90dk. A Divided Kingdom: Nation, Race, and Belonging in Postwar Britain

Instructor: Kelly M. Rich
Day & Time: Mondays 12-2:45pm
Course Website

When Aldwyn Roberts, famed Trinidadian calypsonian “Lord Kitchener,” landed in England, he commemorated the event by singing “London Is the Place for Me,” a song celebrating the beauty and hospitality of his “Mother Country.” Roberts was a passenger on the ship Empire Windrush, whose 1948 arrival from the West Indies signaled a new era of migration to the UK from its colonies, many of which would gain independence over the next fifty years. But was Britain the place for them? As many discovered, making a home there was a fraught process, fueled by long-existing structures of racial prejudice that continue and evolve to this day.

This course explores the cultural politics of British identity after 1945: a period whose social and political upheavals both radically redefine and conservatively re-entrench “British” as a category of analysis. From the 1958 Notting Hill race riots to current-day Brexit, national belonging has always been a complex and contested process, one that fuels myriad forms of desire and alienation. During our time together, we will ask: how do artists and theorists engage with problems of inequality, histories of empire and migration, politics of race, sexuality, and class, and practices of community-building? How do they respond to these aspects of modern social life, as well as re-imagine what that sociality might look like? We will approach these questions by focusing on Black and Asian British literatures—including works by authors Buchi Emecheta, Bernadine Evaristo, Jackie Kay, Hanif Kureishi, Andrea Levy, Daljit Nagra, Caryl Phillips, Salman Rushdie, Sam Selvon, Kamila Shamsie, Warsan Shire, and Zadie Smith—as well as selections from the fields of postcolonial, feminist, and cultural studies.

 

English 90eb. Elizabeth Bishop and Others

Instructor: Vidyan Ravinthiran
Day & Time: Mondays & Wednesday 1:30-2:45pm
Course Website

This course introduces students to the poetry, literary prose, and artful correspondence of one of the major poets of the twentieth century, considering her innovations in all these genres. We will look at her writing in multiple genres alongside the mid-century shift from ‘closed’ to ‘open’ verse forms, and relate stylistic issues to the intellectual and social changes, and political and historical developments of the period. Bishop’s critique of received ideas about nationality, race, power, gender, sexual orientation, and the overlap between culture and nature, is connected with her status as a cosmopolitan poet with links to Canada, the U.S. and Brazil.  ‘Others’ refers both to how her writing comes to terms with the (sociopolitical) reality of other people, and to the comparisons we’ll draw between her writing and that of other poets.   

English 90lg. Introduction to LGBTQ Literature

Instructor: Stephanie Burt
Day & Time: Thursdays 3-5:45pm
Course Website

This seminar looks at the expanding range of genres, forms and strategies pursued by modern and contemporary authors who want to represent LGBTQ+- lives, communities, bodies and selves; poems and performances, novels and stories, YA (young adult) fiction and science fiction, memoirs and graphic novels, will all be  represented, along with a light frame of what's usually called queer theory and some points of comparison, or contrast, from earlier centuries. Bechdel, Audre Lorde, O'Hara, Whitman, Walden, and many others.

English 90lp. Lyric Poetry from East to West

Instructor: Gordon Teskey
Day & Time: Mondays 12-2:45pm
Course Website

A wide-ranging close reading of poetry and song from four continents: Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. Poetry not in English will be translated but students with competence in Asian and African languages, ancient languages (Greek, Latin, Hebrew), modern European languages--French, Italian, German, Spanish, et al.--are welcome to work in those languages. The course is partly a survey of lyrical poetry and partly an opportunity to work on individual projects.

English 90mr. Race and Religion in Medieval Literature

Instructor: Anna Wilson
Day & Time: Wednesdays 12-2:45pm
Course Website

This course focuses on representations of race, religion, and cross-cultural contact in literature written in western Europe between approximately 800 and 1450 CE, before colonial contact with the Americas. During this period, diplomats, pilgrims, and merchants crisscrossed Europe and Asia, generating fascination with far-away lands and a booming trade in exotic goods; Christian kingdoms of western Europe formed uneasy alliances under the banner of a shared religion to invade Muslim territories and sack Jewish communities in the Crusades; and a global pandemic spread via fleas on ship rats, killing hundreds of thousands and fomenting xenophobic violence. We will read texts from a variety of genres, including religious plays, romances about inter-faith marriage, chansons de geste (poems celebrating deeds in war, often grotesquely violent), and ‘armchair travel’ guides. We will trace the emergence of modern concepts of race and ethnicity in the way medieval Christian writers represented religious difference in/as bodily difference; develop a critical, historically-situated toolkit for analysing medieval concepts and terms around race, ethnicity, and nation; and analyse the role of the middle ages in current conversations about race in America.

English 90po. Prison and Performance

Instructor: Elizabeth Phillips
Day & Time: Tuesdays & Thursdays 10:30-11:45am
Course Website

This seminar will explore the history and philosophy of prison with particular reference to the role of literature and art in rehabilitation and decarceration. We will study plays, poetry, and performances that depict incarceration, as well as works written and developed by incarcerated or formerly incarcerated individuals. We will discuss the efficacy of prison arts programming and explore themes of justice, racism, and identity as they relate to incarceration across a diverse set of texts from sociology, performance studies, autobiography, and psychology. Authors include Angela Davis, Michelle Alexander, Anna Deavere Smith, Michel Foucault, Suzan-Lori Parks, Samuel Beckett, Rena Fraden, Naomi Wallace, George Jackson, and others.

English 90sd. Staging Shakespeare

Instructor: Derek Miller
Day & Time: Mondays 9:45-11:45am
Course Website

Like any other plays, those by William Shakespeare pose serious challenges for actors, directors, designers, and audiences, problems they must solve in performance. Because Shakespeare’s plays have such a long history in the theater, they offer a unique window into ever-evolving performance aesthetics. In staging Shakespeare, artists always attempt to capture what they perceive as Shakespeare’s universal achievements and to amplify his work’s resonance for a contemporary audience. This seminar examines a history of Shakespeare in the English-speaking theater to illuminate how Shakespeare helps to shape theater and how the theater helps to make Shakespeare. We will read a number of Shakespeare’s works, but will attend not to literary interpretations of the texts, but rather to (a) the problems those texts create in performance and (b) how artists have solved those challenges over the past four centuries. In other words, we will explore both prior approaches to staging Shakespeare and what in Shakespeare’s plays makes them particularly difficult—and exciting—to stage.

English 90sw. Shakespeare's Women

Instructor: Marjorie Garber
Day & Time: Tuesdays 9:45-11:45am
Course Website

Enrollment: Limited to 15 students.

Juliet, Rosalind, Portia, Ophelia, Isabella, Cressida, Cleopatra, Cordelia, Imogen, Volumnia, Lady Macbeth—the women of Shakespeare’s plays have become iconic figures, cited, admired, critiqued, and invoked in every generation. But in the English public theater of Shakespeare’s time no women were permitted to appear onstage. All these famous roles were played by boy actors; Shakespeare wrote their words and their stories—parts so often celebrated for their truth to nature-- knowing they would be performed by young men. In the cross-dressing plays, in which the heroine disguised herself as a boy, the boy actor would then be playing a girl playing the part of a boy. When actresses began to perform in Shakespeare’s plays, at the end of the seventeenth century, they immediately began to make the roles their own, and productions of Shakespeare were dominated, over the years, by female stars. In the mid-twentieth century feminist critics and theorists drew renewed attention to women and gender in Shakespeare, producing a rich and diverse set of books and articles, many now regarded as classic. And in what might have been anticipated as a telling reversal, contemporary directors and performers have staged productions in which major male roles, like King Lear and Prospero, are played by women.

The seminar will read and discuss a number of Shakespeare’s plays, together with criticism, theory, and stage history, to see how women—characters, actors, critics, audiences—have shaped our understanding of Shakespeare, and how Shakespeare has influenced ideas about women, both over the years and in the present day.

English 90t. Resisting Toxicity: Rachel Carson, Dolores Huerta, and Environmental Nonfiction

Instructor: Sarah Dimick
Day & Time: Tuesdays 12:45-2:45pm
Course Website

Rachel Carson, the author of Silent Spring, and Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farmworkers Union, both campaigned against toxic exposures in the mid-20th-century United States and yet are rarely considered in tandem. This course puts the writings and activism of these two women in conversation, ranging through feminist, queer, and Latinx environmental writing to build connections between environmentalism and labor rights. Our study focuses on the craft of environmental nonfiction writing, examining contemporary practitioners working in the vein of Carson and Huerta. Students will also compose environmental nonfiction, employing the literary techniques analyzed in this course to craft a narrative addressing exposure, toxins, or the state of public health.

Common Ground Courses

English 45. Arrivals: British Literature 700-1700

Instructor: Anna Wilson
Day & Time: Tuesdays & Thursdays 1:30-2:45pm
Course Website

In this course we will read some of the most significant works of literature written in the British Isles before 1700, whose influence continues to be felt in present-day writers. We will trace the early evolution of different genres - romance, epic, drama, lyric - and the emergence of English from an underdog position to a fully realized literary language. We will read some of the classics alongside some of their lesser known interlocutors, while exploring how these texts respond to and shape issues of their time, including war, shifting political regimes, national, racial, and religious identities, and changing attitudes to gender and sexuality. Come for the grounding in the great works of early British literature, stay for the dragons, genderfluid knights, dark comedies about selling your soul, and surprisingly racy sonnets.

 

English 63d. Migrations: Narrating Displacement

Instructor: Katie Daily
Day & Time: Mondays & Wednesdays 9-10:15am
Course Website

This seminar will examine the intersections of individual identity and national identity with a unifying course theme of immigrant displacement as a lived experience. Accordingly, we will examine American immigrant experiences through nonfiction from different periods and voices. The texts we’ll read and discuss will challenge what we think we know about ourselves, about others, and about the idea of where we belong. Through our readings, class discussions, and writing requirements, we will develop a more nuanced and critical understanding of the constructed nature of displacement and what it means to belong.

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...

Read more about English 91R. Supervised Reading and Research

English 97. Literary Methods: Sophomore Tutorial

Instructor: Tutorial Section 1: Derek Miller; Tutorial Section 2: Daniel Donoghue 

Days & Times:

Tutorial Section 1: Tuesdays 9-11:45am. Course website

Tutorial Section 2: Wednesdays 12-2:45pm Course website

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 the Classes of 2023 and 2024 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 98R. Junior Tutorial

Spring 2020 Junior Tutorials

Double Portraits: Reading Poets Side-by-Side from the Romantics to the Present (Michael Allen)

Queer Quixotism: Gender, Sexuality, and Race in the Legacy of Don Quixote (Olivia Carpenter)

Social Science Fiction from the Sixties to the Present (Joseph Shack)

J. M. Coetzee: Writers and Political Responsibility (Charlie Tyson)

After War (Nick Utzig)

(Write it!) Disaster: Literary Form and Catastrophe (Carly Yingst)

Junior English Concentrators interested in enrolling in English 98r should be in touch with Lauren Bimmler.

English 99R. Senior Tutorial

Time: TBA | Location: TBA

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 CALR. Advanced Screenwriting: Workshop

Instructor: Musa Syeed
Day & Time: Tuesdays 12-2:45pm
Course Website​​​​​​​

Enrollment: Limited to 12 students.

The feature-length script is an opportunity to tell a story on a larger scale, and, therefore, requires additional preparation. In this class, we will move from writing a pitch, to a synopsis, to a treatment/outline, to the first 10 pages, to the first act of a feature screenplay. We will analyze produced scripts and discuss various elements of craft, including research, writing layered dialogue, world-building, creating an engaging cast of characters. As an advanced class, we will also look at ways both mainstream and independent films attempt to subvert genre and structure. Students will end the semester with a first act (20-30 pages) of their feature, an outline, and strategy to complete the full script.

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.

English CLR. Introduction to Screenwriting

Instructor: Musa Syeed
Day & Time: Monday 12-2:45pm 
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students.
Course Website

The short film, with its relatively lower costs 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 the industry. 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) that the student can produce in the future, if they choose.

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.

... Read more about English CLR. Introduction to Screenwriting

English CAMR. Advanced Playwriting

Instructor: Sam Marks
Day & Time: Tuesdays 12-2:45pm
Course Website​​​​​​​

Enrollment: Limited to 12 students.

This workshop is a continued exploration of writing for the stage. Students will be encouraged to excavate their own voice in playwriting. They will examine and attempt multiple narrative strategies and dialogue techniques. They will bolster their craft of playwriting through generating short scripts and a completed one act. Readings will include significant contributors to the theatrical form such as Ibsen and Beckett as well as contemporary dramatists such as Annie Baker, Caryl Churchill and Sam Shepard.

Supplemental Application Information: Prior experience in writing the dramatic form is strongly encouraged. Please submit a 5-10 page writing sample (preferably a play or screenplay, but all genres are acceptable). Also, please write a few sentences about a significant theatrical experience (a play read or seen) and how it affected you.

English CKR. Introduction to Playwriting

Instructor: Sam Marks
Day & Time: Monday 12-2:45pm
Course Website​​​​​​​

Enrollment: Limited to 12 students.

This workshop is an introduction to writing for the stage through intensive reading and in-depth written exercises. Each student will explore the fundamentals and possibilities of playwriting by generating short scripts and completing a one act play with an eye towards both experimental and traditional narrative styles. Readings will examine various ways of creating dramatic art and include work from contemporary playwrights such as Aleshea Harris, Ayad Akhtar, Robert O’Hara, Clare Barron, Suzan Lori-Parks, and Taylor Mac, as well established work from Caryl Churchill, Edward Albee, and Harold Pinter.

Supplemental Application Information: Submit a 2-4 page sample in any genre. Also, please write a few sentences about a significant theatrical experience (a play read or seen) and how it affected you.

English CAPR. Poetry

Instructor: Jorie Graham
Two offerings:
Day & Time:
Section 001: Tuesdays 6-8:45pm
Section 002: Wednesdays 6-8:45pm

Course Website Section 1
Course Website Section 2
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students for each section

Open by application to both undergraduates and graduates. Class lasts 3 hours and includes the study of poetic practice in conjunction with the 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.

English CBBR. Intermediate Poetry

Instructor: Josh Bell
Day & Time: Mondays 3-5:45pm 
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students. 
Course Website


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.

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English CBN. Creative Nonfiction: Before and Beyond the (Imaginary White) Reader

Instructor: Joan Naviyuk Kane
Day & Time: Friday 12-2:45pm
Course Website

Writers of literary, lyrical nonfiction negotiate complex power dynamics with their selves, communities, subjects, and readers. In this workshop we will conduct an intensive study of the craft techniques writing of creative nonfiction, focusing on the balance between the politicization of witness, descriptive detail, and narrative voice. Given that one of the great imaginative allures of lyric prose is that it can invent its audience as much as it can invent its speaker, how do writers of creative nonfiction contend with social context? What are the ways in which we can write and revise lyrically that can allow our work to depart from, evade and amplify the experiential in its collaborations with language, history, and place? We will do some generative exercises and workshopping (each writer will be workshopped at least twice per semester) as well as discussion, of course. Participants will generate drafts, revise new work, and investigate the fundamentals of the genre of creative nonfiction.

Supplemental Application Information: Applicants are requested to submit 3-10 pages of prose (double-spaced), a 2-3 page cover letter in which they may address how long they’ve been writing seriously, what previous study they have done in literary arts, any additional experiences that seem relevant to their application, what type of direct criticism and revision they are seeking from a workshop, craft approaches they would like to know more about, and discussion of any other writers in which the writers’ craft and/or ways in which the writers’ work has served as a model for the applicant’s own literary ambitions.

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English CIJR. Introduction to Journalism

Instructor: Jill Abramson
Day & Time: Monday 3-5:45pm
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students.
Course Website


An intense seminar for those interested in understanding the changing role of journalism and in learning the art of reporting and writing narrative stories. The course is intended for those contemplating careers as journalists or because they want a better sense of how journalism really works. Coursework will include two narrative articles that are ready for publication. Readings will include some of the best examples of modern journalism, from magazine features by authors including Gay Talese to multimedia narratives such as The New York Times' "Snow Fall."

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.

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English CAJR. Investigations: Journalism and Social Justice

Instructor: Jill Abramson
Day & Time: Wednesday 3-5:45pm
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students.
Course Website

 

This advanced seminar focuses on investigative reporting about social justice issues and cases. Readings will cover school resegregation, housing and homelessness, health care and economic inequities, among other subjects. Class members will learn how to use documents, transcripts and other materials in their reporting.

The emphasis of the course is on investigative writing techniques, story ideas, voice and narrative framing.

Students will be required to write two investigative articles, one involving a group reporting project and another on an original subject chosen by each student. There will be intermittent, shorter writing assignments. Grades are based on written work and class participation. Guest speakers will include many of the journalists whose articles are included in class reading assignments.

English CWSR. The Art of Writing about Science and the Environment: Workshop

Instructor: Russ Rymer
Day & Time: Thursdays 12-2:45pm
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students.
Course Website

This is a seminar in creative nonfiction writing that will take science and the environment as its subject matter. Students will research and write a series of magazine-style articles about science or scientists, intended for a general readership. Along the way, they will hone their interviewing and research skills and expressive capabilities, while contending with issues of factual accuracy, creative license, authority, and responsibility, along with the basic tenets of longform nonfiction. Ultimately students will explore the ways that hard science and subjective prose are interrelated forms. No prior experience with science is required.

English CWWR. Narrative Nonfiction Workshop: Writing About Women and Sexual Politics

Instructor: Susan Faludi
Day & Time: Thursdays 12-2:45pm
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students.
Course Website

 

This is a workshop class where students will learn the art of literary longform journalism and compose stories that take on questions of gender, feminism, sexuality and power, while simultaneously exploring how the media represents gender and learning the history of women in journalism. No profession has been as important to feminists in challenging society than journalism--even as journalism has been historically resistant to a feminist vision. Students will master the fundaments of great reporting and writing—interviewing, structure, voice, style, and ethics—while crafting their own magazine-style stories that grapple with ground-level gender dramas.

Supplemental Application Information: Please submit a writing sample of about 1,000 words in any genre that showcases your creative abilities, along with a note about why you want to take the class and what your writing interests are. If you have previous journalism/literary writing experience, please include that, too.

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English CAFR. Advanced Fiction Workshop: Writing this Present Life

Instructor: Claire Messud
Day & Time: Thursday 3-5:45pm 
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students.
Course Website


Intended for students with prior fiction-writing and workshop experience, this course will concentrate on structure, execution and revision. Exploring various strands of contemporary and recent literary fiction – writers such as Karl Ove Knausgaard, Rachel Cusk, Chimamanda Adichie, Valeria Luiselli, etc – we will consider how fiction works in our present moment, with emphasis on a craft perspective. Each student will present to the class a published fiction that has influenced them. The course is primarily focused on the discussion of original student work, with the aim of improving both writerly skills and critical analysis. Revision is an important component of this class: students will workshop two stories and a revision of one of these.

Supplemental Application Information: Please submit 3-5 pages of fiction, along with a letter explaining why you'd like to join the workshop, what you hope to get out of it, and what you're working on currently. Please also list your previous writing experience. Your literary and narrative interests are also relevant - what books, films or other artworks speak to you and/or influence your work?

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

Instructor: Claire Messud
Day & Time: Wednesdays 3-5:45pm
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students.
Course Website

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: 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.

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

Instructor: Neel Mukherjee
Day & Time: Mondays 9-11:45am
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students.
Course Website​​​​​​​

The course will consist of two halves. In the first hour of each class, we will be doing close readings of an assigned text (please see ‘Syllabus’), 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 be looking at questions of genre, and at the reasons for the quotation marks bracketing the word genre in the heading. We will also 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.    

In the second half of the class, divided into two equal segments of 50 minutes each, we will be workshopping the writing of two students. Our goal is for each of you to have two turns, and approximately 5-10,000 words of your work critiqued, by the time semester ends. The final project involves significant redrafting of a story or a portion of a novel.

English CFA. Advanced Fiction Writing.

Instructor: Neel Mukherjee
Day & Time: Wednesdays 9-11:45am
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students.
Course Website​​​​​​​

The course will consist of two halves. In the first hour of each class, we will be doing close readings of an assigned text (TBA), with the aim of isolating some aspect of the craft of writing in order to take bearings for your own. In the second half of the class, divided into two equal segments of an hour each, we will be workshopping the writing of two students. Our goal is for each of you to have two turns, and approximately 5-10,000 words of your work critiqued, by the time semester ends. The final project involves significant redrafting of a story or a portion of a novel.

English Chf. The Craft of Historical Fiction: Workshop

Instructor: Geraldine Brooks
Day & Time: Mondays 12-2:45pm
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students.
Course Website​​​​​​​

Using the Harvard archives, students will complete a short story or chapter based on a character or incident that occurred on this campus anytime from its founding in 1636 to the 1970s.  We will read Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Marlon James’s The Book of Night Women, examining these authors’ use of sources, voice, point of view and structure. We will examine what responsibility, if any, the novelist has to history, how to locate the voices of the unheard, and how we might confront, but not exploit, past suffering. 

Supplemental Application Information: Please submit a short note of introduction, a writing sample of two thousand words or less in any genre and a note on one or two novels that have influenced or enchanted you.

English Cgb. Voicing Character: Fiction Workshop

Instructor: Geraldine Brooks
Day & Time: Fridays 12-2:45pm
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students.
Course Website

This workshop aims to develop a tool box useful for a wide range of fiction. Students will begin by writing an oral history, develop it into a non-fiction profile, and then create a fictional character based on their subject for a short story or first chapter of a novel. In our first workshop, we will read selected Studs Terkel and WPA oral histories, discussing how to approach and conduct an oral history interview.  Next we’ll workshop the results of your interviews and discuss how to shape them into profiles. As we move into creating fiction, we’ll read Colum McCann’s essay “Two Stories, So Many Stories” in the anthology "Kingdom of Olives and Ash" and study how he developed his reportage into the novel “Apeirogon.”

Supplemental Application Information: Please submit a short note of introduction, a writing sample of two thousand words or less in any genre and a note on one or two novels that have influenced or enchanted you.

Graduate Seminars

English 200d. Advanced Topics in Old English: The Riddle Tradition

Instructor: Daniel Donoghue
Day & Time: TBD | Location: TBD
Course Website

For students who have a reading knowledge of Old English, this seminar will build upon that competence and offer new directions to pursue. How do we define a riddle? What’s the difference between it and other kinds of enigmatic discourse? The genre of riddles opens up questions concerning the relation between language and reality, human perception, and the construction of meaning.

English 219t. Gender, War, Writing, Rhetoric, and Reading: Troilus and Criseyde from Late Medieval to Early Modern

Instructor: James Simpson
Day & Time: Mondays 3-5pm
Course Website

The material of this course consists of the following exceptionally rich late medieval and early modern Trojan materials: Chaucer’s House of Fame; Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde; Lydgate’s Troy Book (Book 2); Henryson’s Testament of Cresseid; and Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida. We will be guided into these materials by the inter-related topics listed in the course title. Wherever possible and appropriate, we will absorb the publication conditions and media of these texts and/or performances.

English 227s. Literature in a State of Siege

Instructor: Stephen Greenblatt
Day & Time: Wednesdays 3-5:45pm
Course Website

What challenges and opportunities arise for artists and writers working under dire conditions—martial, political, medical, and natural states of emergency? To what extent are such exceptional conditions the rule (as Walter Benjamin proposed)? Co-taught by Stephen Greenblatt (English) and Joseph Leo Koerner (History of Art), this course considers art and literature in states of siege against the backdrop of juridical theories of such states. This class is is also offered as HAA 253k.

 

English 279. Modern and Contemporary Poets

Instructor: Stephanie Burt
Day & Time: Wednesdays 12-2pm
Course Website

Major poets and poems from T.S. Eliot and Marianne Moore almost to the present day: we may also read, among others, William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, Lorine Niedecker, Gwendolyn Brooks, Bernadette Mayer, J F Herrera, James Merrill, C. D. Wright, and Terrance Hayes. Appropriate both for students who know some of these poets well, and for those relatively new to the study of poems.

English 282ph. Public Humanities Practicum: Humanities in the High School Classroom

Instructor: Elisa New
Day & Time: TBD | Location: TBD
Course Website

 

Humanists of the 21st century are looking at a changed professional landscape.  Major shifts in higher education, and in the college and university job market for humanists, predate the COVID-19 pandemic, but the pandemic has brought these shifts into starker relief--even as it has revealed new opportunities for humanists in the fields of digital learning and educational media production, K-12 education, higher education administration, education policy, and more.  

Teaching the Humanities with New Media: A Poetry in America Practicum will enable students to experience some of these newer career opportunities by “embedding” as Research and Pedagogy Associates in Poetry in America: The City from Whitman to Hip Hop, a for-credit course being offered to high-school students--most of them from Title I and Title I-eligible schools--across the US and around the world.  This semester’s practicum will provide students an opportunity to gain exposure to, and to build skills in, the world of online education, broadly defined. Poetry of the City (POTC) is offered in partnership with the National Education Equity Lab and with Arizona State University.  The course will be offered under auspices of ASU’s online high school, ASU Prep Digital.

Students enrolled in the practicum will have official titled roles within the ASU course that may provide them useful credentials for the future. Visit poetryinamerica.org to learn more about Poetry in America and its programs. 

 

English 290mh. Migration and the Humanities

Instructor: Homi Bhabha
Day & Time: Thursdays 3-5pm

By focusing on literary narratives, cultural representations, and critical theories, this course explores ways in which issues related to migration create rich and complex interdisciplinary conversations. How do humanistic disciplines address these issues—human rights, cultural translation, global justice, security, citizenship, social discrimination, biopolitics—and what contributions do they make to the “home” disciplines of migration studies such as law, political science, and sociology? How do migration narratives compel us to revise our concepts of culture, polity, neighborliness, and community? We will explore diverse aspects of migration from existential, ethical, and philosophical perspectives while engaging with specific regional and political histories.

English 292ph. Public Humanities Workshop: Writing, Media, Online Education

Instructor: Martin Puchner
Day & Time: Mondays 3-5:45pm
Course Website

Public humanities are becoming increasingly central for careers both inside and outside of academia. This workshop, which is open to beginning and advanced graduate students, introduces participants to the tools they need to address audiences other than specialists in their own field. These tools range from writing op-eds based on dissertation research to writing general interest books, and also include book reviews, podcasts, social media strategies and more. While we will discuss some historical context, the emphasis is on practice and skills. Our work will be supplemented by visits from editors and literary agents. Because the course is a workshop, enrollment is limited to 12.

English 330. G2 Proseminar.

Instructor: Glenda Carpio
Day & Time: Tuesdays 12:45-2:45pm
Course Website

This second-year proseminar has a two-part focus:  it introduces students to the craft of scholarly publishing by helping them revise a research paper for publication in a peer-reviewed journal by the end of the course.  It thus gives students the tools to begin publishing early in their career.  It also introduces students to the growing array of alternative careers in the humanities by exposing them to the work of scholars who are leaders in fields such as editing, curating, and digital humanities.  

Note: Open to English graduate students only. Prerequisite: For G2+ students