Spring Term

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Course Information

Common Courses

English 20. Literary Forms

Section 1 Instructor: James Simpson
Tuesday & Thursday, 12:00-1:15pm | Location: TBA

Section 2 Instructor: Stephanie Burt
Monday & Wednesday, 1:30-2:45pm | Location: TBA

Enrollment: Each section is limited to 27 students

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 English concentrators and Secondaries in the Classes of 2023, 2024, and 2025 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

Instructor: Beth Blum
Tuesday & Thursday, 1:30-2:45pm | Location: TBA

Enrollment: 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 in the Classes of 2023, 2024, and 2025 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 103w. Advanced Old English: Wisdom Poetry

Instructor: Kristen Carella
Time: TBA | Location: TBA

Old English poems love to recycle age-old wisdom in what are called “gnomic” verses.  Usually expressed in laconic language and embedded in various genres of poems, the meaning of these passages can be unclear: Soð bið swicolost could be translated as “Truth is complicated.” Their prevalence, however, suggests that the wisdom they conveyed was held in universal esteem.  This course will examine the structure, content, and context of gnomic verses from multiple angles.  In addition to our daily translations, we will pursue questions such as: What are the sources of these passages?  What ideological/religious beliefs do they reflect?  How do they function within the various literary genres where they occur?  What is the importance of these passages in Beowulf?  We will also compare Old Norse/Icelandic and Old Irish wisdom literature (in translation) as we attempt to understand this fascinating and challenging aspect of Old English literature. Prerequisite: one term of Old English or the equivalent.

Note: English 102 is a prerequisite for English 103. Students who complete both English 102 and 103 with honors grades will fulfill the College language requirement and the English Department's Foreign Language Literature requirement.

 

English 111. Epic: From Homer to Star Wars

Instructor: Leah Whittington & Vidyan Ravinthiran
Monday & Wednesday, 3:00-4:15pm | Location: TBD

Epic is one of the most enduring and far-reaching forms of artistic expression. From the heroic poems of the ancient Near East to modern films of quest and adventure, epic speaks to the shared values and collective aspirations of cultures, peoples, and communities. But if it’s formal conventions and thematic interests endure, epic changes over time. In this course, you will study the historical and literary evolution of epic as it moves from oral verse into new genres and media, reading texts from the ancient Mediterranean alongside works of poetry, fiction, and cinema from early modern Britain, twentieth-century America, and the contemporary Global South. We will look at some texts in their entirety and others in extracts, focusing on Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Vergil’s Aeneid, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Derek Walcott’s Omeros, The Mahabharata (in prose and film versions), and George Lucas’ Star Wars, with detailed analysis of Gwendolyn Brooks’s American epics on Black life, Annie Allen and In the Mecca. If issues of identity, belonging, and community have always been explored in epic, what is the place of epic in a pluralist multi-culture? What are our contemporary epics today? 

English 122iw. Imagining the World in Medieval and Renaissance Literature

Instructor: Alan Niles
Tuesday & Thursday, 1:30-2:45pm | Location: TBA

How did writers and audiences imagine the world before modernity? This course offers an introduction to the first 1000 years of English literature (roughly 700-1700) and the shifting terms through which writers were able to imagine the world beyond their borders. We will encounter hardy seafarers, fantastical monsters, and real and imagined peoples at the margins of Europe and beyond. We will study the genres of travel narrative, romance, epic, drama, and lyric, and the different ways these forms registered global connections, ideas of race, and cultural and religious difference. We will pay particular attention to the accelerated pace of global

encounters and connections starting in the Renaissance, and the ways that English literature was able (or not) to register new peoples and places, new forms of economic connectivity, and the violence of colonialism and empire.

Note: This course satisfies the English Concentration "Arrivals" requirement for the Class of 2022.

English 124sg. Sex, Gender, and Shakespeare

Instructor: Alan Niles
Tuesday & Thursday, 9:00-10:15am | Location: TBA

This class is an introduction to Shakespeare’s writings and their representations of sex, gender, romance, love, and queerness. We will study poems about erotic and queer desire, plays that stage ideas about gender and gender fluidity, and film adaptations that bring modern perspectives to race and sexuality. Readings will include such plays as Twelfth NightRomeo and JulietA Midsummer Night’s DreamTitus AndronicusMacbeth, and Measure for Measure; Shakespeare’s Sonnets; and films by Derek Jarman, Baz Luhrmann, and Julie Taymor. Throughout our course, we will ask: how are the forms of gender identity and sexual expression we encounter in Shakespeare’s works familiar, or different? How might they challenge, inspire, or disturb us today?

Note: This course satisfies the English Concentration "Shakespeare" requirement for the Class of 2022.

English 151an. The Age of the Novel

Instructor: Tara Menon
Monday & Wednesday, 9:00-10:15am | Location: TBA

An introduction to canonical nineteenth-century British novels (Austen, Shelley, Dickens, Bronte, Gaskell, Eliot, Hardy, Conrad, Conan Doyle). We will pay particular attention to techniques of realism. How do these novels represent social interactions? What kinds of characters are included in the field of vision? What kind of labour, if any, is represented? How do they depict interiority and consciousness? How do the country and the city figure as symbols for the social and economic changes that come with the industrial revolution and the rise of capitalism in nineteenth-century Britain? Topics for discussion include but are not limited to: land, property, agriculture, enclosure, class divisions, factories, industrialization, family, friends, strangers, innocence, nostalgia, finance, greed, manners, tradition. Alongside these novels, we will read both classic and contemporary criticism in an attempt both to understand how the field developed over time and where it stands now. 

English 162bb. Broadway Bodies, or Representation of the Great White Way

Instructor: Derek Miller
Tuesday & Thursday, 10:30-11:45 am | Location: TBA

To many of its fans, Hamilton poses a problem. How can a show that presents so many talented artists of color represent a white-washed American history? And how should we evaluate the show’s impact when sky-high ticket prices make it accessible primarily to a wealthy (read: white) audience? In its aspirational embrace of a multi-ethnic America and its failure fully to realize that promise, Hamiltonembodies the paradox of Broadway. This course examines that paradox since World War II, particularly as it pertains to multiple aspects of identity including race, gender, sexuality, and disability. We will examine how shows such as South Pacific, with its famous anti-racist anthem, or M. Butterfly, which explored the intersections of Orientalism, gender, and sex, temper their inclusive representations to appeal to wide commercial audience. Broadway is a particularly fertile ground for exploring these issues because theatrical performances always call attention to the performative nature of subjectivity: that is, who you are is a product of what you do. As we shall see, though, theatrical performatives risk being “infelicitous,” in the words of philosopher J.L. Austin: instead of affirming the subjects they represent, the performances can turn those subjects into mere theater. Our starting assumption is that many Broadway stake-holders genuinely desire broader representation in and for their work, but that the structure of the industry constrains how these shows challenge the status quo. To understand those constraints we will ask what stories Broadway tells, who sees them, and how they are marketed—while always attuned to “who tells your story.”

English 173bl. The Black Lyric

Instructor: Tracy K. Smith
Thursday, 3:00-5:00pm | Location: TBA

African American poets have long embraced the private freedoms of the lyric poem—freedom to claim the authority of an uncontested first person “I”; freedom to wrangle language into new and startling forms; freedom to depart as needed from the strictures of linear reality. And yet, from its earliest iterations, African American poetry has also concerned itself with correcting and complicating the official narrative of Black life and Black subjectivity in America. This course will explore the means by which Black poets have innovated upon the lyric tradition to accommodate a sense of allegiance to a collective. In this tradition, the lyric poem has become a powerful tool with which to ponder the dynamics of self and other, intimate and political—and justice and injustice. Course readings will include work by seminal 20th Century American figures such as Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Hayden and Lucille Clifton, as well as contemporary voices like Jericho Brown, Tyehimba Jess, Morgan Parker, Eve L. Ewing and others. We will also devote attention to lyric corollaries in film, music, visual art and performance. Students will be encouraged to respond to course themes and texts in both critical and creative form.

Note: This course satisfies the English Concentration "Poets" requirement for the Class of 2022.

English 177am. American Horrors

Instructor: Ju Yon Kim
Tuesday & Thursday, 1:30-2:45pm | Location: TBA

This course will examine horror—defined expansively to include the uncanny, the abject, the monstrous, and the ghostly—in American literature, considering its formal and aesthetic implications and its relationship to major cultural and social issues. What are the methods and theories that critics have used to study horror in literature? How and to what effect have works of American literature used horror to reflect on contemporary social concerns or to depict historical events? We will explore a range of literary works from the nineteenth century to the present next to critical and theoretical studies of horror and the Gothic.

Note: This course satisfies the English Concentration "Migrations" requirement for the Class of 2022 and was formerly offered as English 60a. Migrations: American Horrors.

English 178x. The American Novel: Dreiser to the Present

Instructor: Philip Fisher
Monday & Wednesday, 10:30-11:45am | Location: TBA

A survey of the 20th-century novel, its forms, patterns of ideas, techniques, cultural context, rivalry with film and radio, short story, and fact.  Wharton, Age of Innocence; Cather, My Antonia; Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms and stories; Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury and stories;  Ellison, Invisible Man; Nabokov, Lolita; Robinson, Housekeeping; Salinger, Catcher in the Rye and stories; Ha Jin, Waiting; Lerner, Leaving the Atocha Station. Stories by James, London, Anderson, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Gaitskill, Wallace, Beattie, Lahiri, and Ford.

English 182bf. Black Science Fiction

Instructor: Namwali Serpell
Monday & Wednesday, 1:30-2:45pm | Location: TBA

This course addresses two genres—black fiction and science fiction—at their point of intersection, which is sometimes called Afrofuturism. Our term “black fiction” includes texts that issue out of and speculate about the African-American experience. Our term “science fiction” comprises texts that speculate about alternative, cosmic, dystopian, utopian, and future worlds. Overlapping and mutually transforming concepts include: genetics, race, diaspora, miscegenation, double consciousness, technology, ecology, biology, language, history, futurity, space (inner and outer), and the alien. We will consider the short stories, novels, comics, film, television, and music of black science fiction.

English 184. Foundations of Lyric Poetry

Instructor: Peter Sacks
Wednesdays, 12:00-2:00pm | Location: TBA

An introduction to the fundamentals of Lyric poetry.

Note: This course satisfies the English Concentration "Poets" requirement for the Class of 2022; formerly offered as English 55: Poets. 

English 190ve. Voices of Environmental Justice

Instructor: Sarah Dimick
Monday & Wednesday, 3:00-4:15pm | Location: TBA

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. 

Gen Ed 1138. Consent

Instructor: Elaine Scarry
Monday & Wednesday, 1:30-2:45pm | Location: TBA

Consent will be studied in four domains: Part I-the relation of consent and the body in marriage, in medicine, and in state citizenship; Part II – the act of consent and dissent in war (beginning with the dissent of Achilles in the Iliad and including readings up to the present); Part III – freedom of movement, freedom of entry and exit in citizenship (including contexts where right of movement has been denied); Part IV – consent as the basis of cultural creation. The nature of individual and collective deliberation is at the center of the course throughout. Readings include: philosophic accounts of consent (Plato, Locke, Rousseau), case law (Plessy v. Ferguson, Pratt v. Davis, Schloendorff v. Society of New York Hospital), constitutional writings (Federalist Papers 4, 7, 8, 23, 25, 27-29, 41; Madison’s Record of Federal Assembly; Ratification Debates ), plays (Euripides’ Hecabe, Sophocles’ Philoctetes, five U.S. suffrage plays), poetry (Iliad), films (Philadelphia Story, It Happened One Night), novels (Tale of Two Cities), and historical narratives (Thucydides selections, Underground Railroad narratives).

Note: This course fulfills the "Ethics and Civics" General Education requirement.

Humanities 10b. A Humanities Colloquium: From Ralph Ellison to Homer

Instructors: Jay Harris, Jill Lepore, Deidre Lynch, Leah Whittington, Jesse McCarthy, Wai-yee Li
Tuesday, 10:30-11:45 am | Location: TBA

2,500 years of essential works, taught by six professors. Humanities 10b is open only to students who completed Humanities 10a in Fall 2021. Humanities 10b will likely include works by Ellison, Woolf, Douglass, Wollstonecraft, Cao Xueqin, Shakespeare, Virgil, Sophocles and Homer, as well as the Arabian Nights, The Federalist Papers and the Book of Job. 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 participate online or in person, depending on public health conditions, 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 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.

Comparative Literature 123. Isolation and Islands

Instructor: Marc Shell
Thursday, 12:45-2:45pm | Location: TBA

Islands, both a part of and apart from the main, offer ready-made laboratories for linguistic, biological and political investigation. Islandness as such encourages national literature, philosophy, and vacation.  Our seminar, with its ecological and philosophical focus, centers on fictional an factual islands as well as Canadian ice floes, the always changing marine coastlines of  tidal islands, and Planet Earth itself,   Critical readings  include: Peter Sloterdijk’s Foams, Judith Shalansky’s Atlas of Remote Islands, Sigmund Freud’s writings on his own world as “a little island of pain swimming in a sea of indifference,”  Immanuel Kant’s  “History of Lands and Islands,” and Shell’s Islandology. Literary and filmic works  include Shakespeare’s Hamlet,  John Donne’s argument that “No man is an island,” Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe,  More’s Utopia, Hae-Jun Lee’s “Castaway on the Moon,” Joseph Newman’s “This Island Earth,”  and island travel (and vacation) literature chosen by us as a group. Requirements: one short paper and one term paper.

 

Undergraduate Seminars

English 90b. James / Baldwin

Instructor: Jesse McCarthy
Monday, 9:45-11:45am | Location: TBA
Enrollment: Limited to 15 students

At first glance Henry James and James Baldwin may seem worlds apart. Yet these two enormously influential writers share much in common. Both are New Yorkers; both spent a good deal of their lives as expatriates; both are celebrated for their queerness, a feature of their style as much as their sexuality. Both were serious, moralizing, and passionate observers of the ‘American Scene’; both writers are deeply committed to investigating and exploring the privacy of consciousness and the currency of experience. Henry James was James Baldwin’s favorite writer. Colm Tóibín has called Baldwin, “the Henry James of Harlem.” What attracted Baldwin to James across their vast racial and class differences? What lessons about the art of fiction can we learn by reading each in the light of the other? Not only the Jamesian influence on Baldwin—but what Baldwin allows us to see might be missing or muted in James. We will think very closely about the subject that deeply occupied both of them: America. And what America means from perspectives acquired from outside of America, looking back in. We will also investigate the expression and communication of sexuality, gender, race, class, money, politics and taste alongside assorted criticism, reviews, and other essays of interest. 

English 90ls. Literacy Stories

Instructor: Deidre Lynch
Thursday, 3:00-5:00pm | Location: TBD
Enrollment: Limited to 15 students

This course investigates literacy, literacy instruction, and literacy movements past and present, in theory and practice. Engaging with recent fictions and memoirs by authors such as Elena Ferrante and Ocean Vuong, with African-American slave narratives, laboring-class autobiographies, and other texts from the 19th century, and with materials from the history of alphabet books and children’s literature, “Literacy Stories” investigates the rich, ambivalent ways in which literature has depicted the literacy needed to consume it. Given under the auspices of the English Department and Harvard’s Mindich Program for Engaged Scholarship, “Literacy Stories” also involves collaborations with, and volunteer work for, various community organizations devoted to literacy advocacy and instruction.

This class will give us the opportunity to reflect—something we’ll do in part by learning from our community partners about the many ways of relating to texts that flourish beyond campus—on the contradictory ways in which we value reading. We’ll consider, for example, the friction between solitary and social reading: how the pleasures of this activity lie sometimes with how it separates us from others and sometimes with how it connects us. We will be thinking about literacy’s long-standing association with individual self-determination and thinking about how that association is put into question whenever people’s reading matter gets weaponized as an instrument of their domination. Literacy, the literary and theoretical texts on the syllabus will alike remind us, has a politics. Learning to be literate often involves experiences of unequal power relations and exclusion. Reading with (rather than “to” or “at”) others is an ethical challenge—one that humanities concentrators especially ought to explore.

The writing assignments you will do for “Literacy Stories” will join together academic analysis with personal narrative and social reflection. They will likely encompass regular short responses to the assigned texts, journal entries that reflect critically on what you have been learning from your volunteer work beyond Harvard, and interviews with literacy advocates and community organizers. The capstone project for the seminar will be a memoir—your own literacy story-- reflecting on your own memories of reading instruction and integrating those memories with your experiences in the community over the course of the semester.

Note: this course can be credited toward the Graduate School Education’s secondary field in Educational Studies.

 

English 90lt. Theory Matters: Problems in Contemporary Literary and Cultural Theory

Instructor: Homi Bhabha
Tuesday, 12:00-2:00pm | Location: TBA
Enrollment: Limited to 15 students. 

Why study literary theory? Is theory a conceptual framework or a tool-kit? Is theory a companion to literary study or is it crucial for literary interpretation? These are some of the questions I propose to address in this seminar which will address  literary and cultural problems that have been shaped by theoretical concerns and concepts. This course will not adopt a historical approach nor will it be a survey of “schools” of literary theory. The syllabus will focus on topics such as Power, Race, Identity, Sexuality, Environmentalism, Postcolonialism, Inequality, Poverty etc. etc.  and trace theoretical contributions that have been formative in shaping the diverse discourses around these issues. . Aesthetic, political and ethical approaches will be knotted together in our conversations. The seminar will be concerned with the relation between cultural form and cultural value. Literary texts will be used in conjunction with theoretical works.

English 90lv. Consciousness from Austen to Woolf

Instructor: James Wood
Monday, 3:00-5:00pm | Location: TBA
Enrollment: Limited to 15 students.

A look at the complex ways in which writers represent their characters' thought in texts by Austen, Flaubert, James, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Giovanni Verga, and Woolf. More broadly, traces the development of stream-of-consciousness, from Austen's incipient mastery of free indirect style, through Flaubert's more sophisticated use of it, to Woolf's full-blown inner monologues, seeing this development as not merely a fact of English and American literature, but as a phenomenon of world literature and an element of our modernity.

English 90pw. Every Play Ever Written

Instructor: Derek Miller
Wednesday, 12:00-2:00pm | Location: TBA
Enrollment: Limited to 15 students

This course explores the history of dramatic writing in the US and Europe through the study of every play ever written. Of course, we cannot actually study all those plays—that’s the point. Our explorations of plays (or any other type of art or literature) necessarily include a small fragment of all plays. What does it mean that we learn cultural history this way? That we study drama and yet know nothing at all of most dramatic writing? How, as people invested in the theater and its history, should we think about such astounding ignorance? And what is the relationship between those plays we do see, act in, or read, and the vastly larger number of plays we will never encounter?

This seminar puts theatrical texts in perspective by focusing on the relationship between the exemplary texts that we anthologize and study and the forgotten archive of everything else. We will approach this problem by comparing a set of exemplary texts to lists of plays, considering the relationship between the examples and the lists, and then extrapolating to hypothesize what we can and cannot truly know about the plays we have not read. In short, this course explores the limits of our knowledge of cultural history. We seek not to answer questions definitively, or even really to produce a set of viable hypotheses, so much as to understand better those things we do not and can not know about theater. We will learn, in other words, what we can never learn.

English 90wb. Women on Being, Belonging, and Constructing

Instructor: Katie Daily
Thursday, 9:45-11:45am | Location: TBA
Enrollment: Limited to 15 students

The course aims to strengthen our understanding of the ways in which individuals creatively respond to immigration issues including diversity, equity, and justice in twenty-first century America. Through an intensive study of novels written by first- or second-generation American immigrant women, we will examine immigration’s evolution after the turn of the millennium and its relationships to power and inequity regarding questions of citizenship and belonging. Ericka Sánchez, Eristina Henríquez, Lisa Ko, Yaa Hyasi, Saher Alam, Shaila Abdullah, Chimamanda Ngozi, Adichie, Imbolo Mbue, Laila Lalami. 

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 98r. Junior Tutorial

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 Cvr. Fiction Writing: Workshop

Instructor: Jamaica Kincaid
Wednesday, 12:00-2:45pm
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students

A seminar/workshop. Readings include Bruno Schultz, Jean Toomer, Robert Walser, and Rimbaud's Illuminations, among others.

Supplemental Application Information: TBA

Apply via Submittable (deadline TBA)

English Cmaf. Introduction to Fiction Writing: Workshop

Instructor: Molly Antopol
Section 001: Monday, 3:00-5:45pm | Location: TBA
Section 002: Tuesday, 12-2:45pm | Location: TBA
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students

This course will introduce you to the fundamental elements of fiction writing. We will read a variety of work, including pieces by Alice Munro, Edward P. Jones, Joy Williams, James Baldwin, Bohumil Hrabal, Deborah Eisenberg, Yiyun Li and Ben Okri, using each text as a template for examining such aspects in fiction as tension, dialogue, point of view, arc and character. Through class discussions and a series of writing exercises, we will also pay close attention to the ways in which conventions of craft are applied and understood—and sometimes re-interpreted or subverted. As the semester progresses, the focus of the class will shift to your own work, which we will critique and discuss as a group in a workshop setting, with an eye toward drawing connections between craft principles and your own writing practice. You will later significantly revise your piece. 

Supplemental Application Information

Please submit a 3-5 page sample of your own writing, along with an introductory letter, letting me know why you’re interested in taking the course and what you hope to get out of it. Also, please share a few of the novels or story collections that mean the most to you (or the ones you resist but still can’t shake) – and tell me why you chose these books. 

Apply via Submittable (deadline TBA)

English Csgj. Advanced Fiction Workshop: Rethinking the Basics

Instructor: Gish Jen
Monday, 12:00-2:45pm | Location: TBA
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students

We have, in America, a writing culture. It is not a monolith. There is, however, a readily discernable mainstream, which may or may not suit us. In this class we will examine the historical and intellectual roots of the contemporary Western story, especially as it is taught in MFA programs, including its close association with individualism....

Read more about English Csgj. Advanced Fiction Workshop: Rethinking the Basics

English Cwrr. Fiction by Other Means: Workshop

Instructor: Russ Rymer
Time: TBA | Location: TBA
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students

 This is a short-story writing workshop that uses other creative genres – music, poetry, painting, film and photography – to advance students' fiction-writing abilities. Students will consider techniques and principles essential to other arts and apply them to their writing, enhancing in the process their comprehension of literary forms. Readings will include such modern short story masters as Helen Oyeyemi, Mavis Gallant, Angela Carter, and Edward P. Jones. Students will take some photographs, but the aim of the course isn't to improve graphic skills or art criticism abilities (no prior experience with photography or music or movies is required). The aim is to write great short fiction, using other mediums as muse and guide for inspiring, analyzing, and improving original prose. Final product is a publishable short story.

 

Supplemental Application Information: TBA

Apply via Submittable (deadline TBA)... Read more about English Cwrr. Fiction by Other Means: Workshop

English Cap. The Art of the Personal Essay: Workshop

Instructor: Darcy Frey
Section 001: Thursday, 3:00-5:45pm | Location: TBA
Section 002: Wednesday, 3:00-5:45pm | Location: TBA

What makes a successful work of personal narrative? What lifts mere experience into shapely art? In this workshop, students will study—partly through reading iconic and experimental essayists, mainly through the submission of their own writing—the art of the personal essay. We will explore elements of the craft such as the construction of a trustworthy narrator, varieties of structure and the fashioning of a satisfying conclusion. Readings include work by writers such as Annie Dillard, Joan Didion, James Baldwin and David Foster Wallace. Writing assignments include several short essays, one longer essay and an extensive revision.

Supplemental Application Information: TBA

Apply via Submittable (deadline TBA)

English Cijr. Introduction to Journalism: Workshop

Instructor: Jill Abramson
Monday, 3-5:45pm | Location: TBA
Course Website
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students

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.

Apply via Submittable (deadline: Sunday, August 22 at 11:59pm EST)

English Cajr. Investigations: Journalism and Social Justice: Workshop

Instructor: Jill Abramson
Wednesday, 3:00-5:45pm | Location: TBA
Course Website
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students

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.

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: Sunday, August 22 at 11:59pm EST)

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

Instructor: Susan Faludi
Thursday, 3:00-5:45pm | Location: TBA
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students

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.

Apply via Submittable (deadline TBA)

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

Instructor: Russ Rymer
Thursday, 3:00-5:45pm
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students

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.

Supplemental Application Information: TBA

Apply via Submittable (deadline TBA)

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

Instructor: Joan Naviyuk Kane
Thursday, 12:00-2:45pm | Location: TBA
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students

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.

Apply via Submittable (deadline TBA)

English Clr. Introduction to Screenwriting: Workshop

Instructor: Musa Syeed
Monday, 12:00-2:45 pm | Location: TBA
Course Website
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students

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.

Apply via Submittable (deadline: Sunday, August 22 at 11:59pm EST)

English Calr. Advanced Screenwriting: Workshop

Instructor: Musa Syeed
Tuesday, 12:00-2:45pm | Location: TBA
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.

Apply via Submittable (deadline TBA)

English Ckr. Introduction to Playwriting: Workshop

Instructor: Sam Marks
Monday, 12:00-2:45pm | Location: TBA
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.

Apply via Submittable (deadline: Sunday, August 22 at 11:59pm EST)

English Camr. Advanced Playwriting: Workshop

Instructor: Sam Marks
Tuesday, 12:00-2:45pm
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students.

This workshop is a continued exploration of writing for the stage, with an eye towards presentation.  The semester will culminate in a staged reading of each student's work for the Harvard Playwrights Festival. Each reading will be directed by a professional director.  Students will be encouraged to excavate their own voice in playwriting and learn from the final presentation. The class will examine the design of the stage, the playworld, and the page. Students will 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 Caryl Churchill and Samuel Beckett as well as contemporary dramatists such as Annie Baker, Jackie Sibbles Drury, Branden Jacobs Jenkins, and Jeremy O. Harris.

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.

Apply via Submittable (deadline TBA)

English Capr. Poetry: Workshop

Instructor: Jorie Graham
Section 001: Tuesday, 6:00-8:45pm | Location: TBA
Section 002: Wednesday, 6:00-8:45pm | Location: TBA

Enrollment: Each section is limited to 12 students

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.

Apply via Submittable (deadline TBA)

English Cbbr. Intermediate Poetry: Workshop

Instructor: Josh Bell 
Monday, 3:00-5:45pm | Location: TBA
Course Website
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students

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: Sunday, August 22 at 11:59pm EST)

English Cdpr. Devotional Poetry

Instructor: Josh Bell
Tuesday, 6:00-8:45pm | Location: TBA
Enrollment: limited to 12 students

In this workshop we will focus on the devotional poetry of John Donne, George Herbert, Henry Vaughan, and GM Hopkins, looking first into certain texts of the Old Testament—Psalms, Song of Solomon, Book of Job—from which so much of devotional poetry extends. In conversation with these four poets, students can expect to build and execute their own plaintive lyric “I,” design new ecstatic/meditative soundscape, and plan and deliver the imagistic configurations that will best give them direct-line access to the God (or gods) of their own choice or invention. As this a poetry workshop, all assignments will be creative.

Supplemental Application Information: TBA

Apply via Submittable (deadline TBA)

English Ccdp. Found Poems, Erasures and Other Adventures in Documentary Poetry

Instructor: Tracy K. Smith
Time: TBA | Location: TBA
Enrollment: Limited to 12 students

In their quest for clarity, revelation and consolation, poets engage with, reflect upon and speak back to the world in a range of ways. In pursuit of these very same aims, poets also listen closely to what has already been said by others at registers spanning intimate exchange, public discourse and sacred utterance. In this poetry workshop, we’ll engage in an exploration of found materials—letters, news articles, historical texts, police reports, instruction manuals and more—to see what new forms of dialogue they might invite, and what light they might shed upon the questions, concerns and apprehensions of our current time. With readings by Muriel Rukeyser, Robin Coste Lewis, Nicole Sealey, Michael Kleber-Diggs and others. 

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 TBA)... Read more about English Ccdp. Found Poems, Erasures and Other Adventures in Documentary Poetry

Graduate Seminars

English 201. Images, Idolatry and Iconoclasm: Late Medieval to Early Modern: Graduate Seminar

Instructor: James Simpson
Monday, 3:00-5:00pm
Enrollment: Limited to 15 students

Fear of idolatry is a recurrent feature of Western culture. The Christian image threatens to short-circuit the flow of spirituality between humans and God, just as images of the ancient, pagan gods threaten dangerously to preserve the energies of those lascivious and vengeful deities. And images, whether secular or religious, are always potentially threatening to literate culture: they compete with words, and seem to possess a much more immediate power to mesmerize the imagination.  The Protestant Reformation in particular targeted images as the enemy to a true religion of the Word. Legislation in England determined the wholesale destruction of religious images (iconoclasm) between 1538 and 1644. On the other hand, many writers and artists, both secular and religious, look to the image for salvation of sorts. Guided by these perceptions, we will be looking to a range of pre- and post-Reformation texts and contexts. The course will be equally divided between late medieval and early modern texts. Students without Middle English should feel entirely at ease to take this course: all texts will be presented in reader-friendly editions. 

English 264x. Sensation and Moral Action in Thomas Hardy

Instructor: Elaine Scarry
Thursday, 12:45-2:45 pm | Location: TBA
Enrollment: Limited to 15 students

Approaches Hardy’s novels, stories, and narrative poems through the language of the senses (hearing, vision, touch) and through moral agency (philosophic essays on “luck” and “action”).

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

Instructor: Elisa New
Day & Time: TBA | Location: TBA
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. 

Note: Jointly offered with Harvard Kennedy School (as SUP-472 Education Equity Through A Solutions-Targeted Lens) and Harvard Graduate School of Education.

English 290mh. Migration and the Humanities: Graduate Seminar

Instructor: Homi Bhabha & Mariano Siskind
Wednesday, 3:00-5:00pm
Enrollment: Limited to 15 students

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 295rb. Everybody Loves Roland: Graduate Seminar

Instructor: Namwali Serpell
Tuesday, 12:45-2:45pm | Location: TBA
Enrollment: Limited to 15

This course is a survey of the work of the literary theorist Roland Barthes. We will read a selection of his eclectic, rangy, and influential writing, alongside responses to it by authors from Derrida to Sontag to Eugenides. We will use this corpus of writing to explore crucial currents in theory, criticism, and fiction from the sixties to today, including authorship, reader response, phenomenology, structuralism and its aftermaths, cultural studies, queer studies, media studies, affect theory, postcritique, and the theory novel.

English 320. G1 Proseminar

Instructor: Nicholas Watson
Wednesday, 12:45-2:45pm | Location: TBA

The first-year proseminar (taken in the spring semester of the first year) introduces students to the theories, methods, and history of English as a discipline, and contemporary debates in English studies. The readings feature classic texts in all fields, drawn from the General Exam list. This first-year proseminar helps students prepare for the General Exam (taken at the beginning of their second year); it gives them a broad knowledge for teaching and writing outside their specialty; and it builds an intellectual and cultural community among first-year students.

Note: This seminar is only for first year graduate students in the English Department.

English 330. G2 Proseminar

Instructor: Kelly Rich
Wednesday, 12:45-2:45pm | Location: TBA

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

First-Year Seminars

FRSEMR 60C. Comics and Graphic Novels

Instructor: Stephanie Burt
TBA | Location: TBA

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.