Graduate Courses


ENG 507: Graduate Workshop in Fiction 

Prerequisite(s): English master’s degree candidates concentrating in Creative Writing. All others must submit a writing sample to obtain instructor permission

Course typically offered: Fall

Course description: Blanchot reminds us that writing is defiance.  Very good, but what exactly does that mean?  Is all writing defiance or only writing that earns the name writing?  Is writing in and of itself defiance, or is it in defiance?  And if it is in defiance, what is it in defiance of?  Society?  Art?  Itself?

In an attempt to approach these—and other, similar—questions, this course will examine forms and theories of fiction writing through two tactics:  your own writing and copious amounts of outside readings.  That is to say, in addition to workshopping your own writing and performing numerous experiments in a variety of forms, voices, styles, and modes, you will be doing extensive reading of fiction and fiction writers writing about fiction as well as essays on narrative theory and the theory of fiction.

The basic question for the course: not so much what is a sentence? (although that is an essential question, necessarily part of our tactics) but rather what can a sentence do? In our approach to this question, we may start to glimpse what writing as defiance may itself do.


ENG 508: Graduate Workshop in Poetry 

Prerequisite(s): English master’s degree candidates concentrating in Creative Writing. All others must submit a writing sample to obtain instructor permission.

Course typically offered: Fall

Course description: This iteration of the workshop will include extensive discussion and writing of poetics; anyone interested in a creative approach to thinking and writing about poetry is welcome, scholars as well as poets. Our focus will be the process of writing and the material artifacts that result–writing as the creation of an archive. Prominent exemplars of such a practice include Emily Dickinson and Charles Olson, and due consideration will be given to those and other models; we will also read some critical and theoretical writing about archives and material texts. But the principal object will be our own writing as it unfolds across the semester.


ENG 515: Approaches to Reports, Proposals, and Grants in Academic and Workplace Settings 

Prerequisite(s): Graduate Standing or instructor permission 

Course typically offered: Spring

Course description: This course focuses on the theoretical and practical approaches to reports, proposals, and grants written in academic and workplace settings.  Students will learn how to be the lead writer/project manager on collaboratively written documents.  The course is appropriate for graduate students wanting to work on their own research reports and proposals and for students wanting to learn how to write and how to manage the collaborative process of writing reports, proposals, and grants in workplace settings.


ENG 516: Perspectives on Technical Editing and Information Design 

Prerequisite(s): Graduate standing or permission

Course typically offered: Fall

Course description: Theoretical and practical approaches to technical editing and information design will be covered through topics such as visual rhetoric, visual literacy, cognitive psychology, color theory, visual ethics, and information graphic design. Hands-on work will include learning traditional proofreading marks, online editing techniques, document layout and design principles, and the application of style manuals to specific writing tasks. Projects will include creating a document for a client, practice in developmental editing, and practice in line editing.


ENG 518: Topics in Professional & Technical Writing 

Prerequisite(s): Graduate standing or permission

Course typically offered: Spring

Course description: Topics vary according to changes in the field, expertise of the faculty, and needs of the students. Possible topics include visual literacy, technical editing, information design, usability testing theories and practice, and professional writing in international contexts. May be repeated for credit when topic varies.


ENG 529: Studies in Literature (Fall or Spring)

Prerequisite(s): Graduate standing in English or instructor permission

Course typically offered: Fall or Spring

Recent offering(s):

Policing Englishes (Fall 2018, Dryer)

This seminar will focus on the cultural phenomenon of prescriptivism – a general term we’ll use to describe efforts by institutionally or self-appointed guardians of English to monitor, shape, constrain, discourage, or ‘repair’ others’ uses of  the language.  Although the balance of linguistic research and sound pedagogy in the teaching of language has firmly shifted from the prescriptive to the descriptive, we will take Anne Curzan’s point (2016) that prescriptivism is alive and well as a force shaping language use and language change, and so needs to be understood.

Thus we will seek to understand the many forms and contexts in which we encounter linguistic prescriptivism, but we also want to understand what motivates these behaviors—what’s at stake for us in others’ language practices? What provokes or necessitates these sorts of everyday interventions, and why are these interventions so often accompanied by a rhetoric of disgust, shame, horror, or violence? What accounts for the routine conflation of, for instance, an infelicity of usage and the character of its writer?

We’ll begin with some basic linguistic concepts to give us a shared basis for discussion (e.g., the distinction between ‘grammar’ and ‘usage’) and then work to develop a coherent theoretical framework for understanding the phenomenon, building on scholarship by Bourdieu (1982), Bakhtin (1986), Milroy & Milroy (1991), Crowley (1989), and Spolsky (2009). We will interrogate the feasibility of this framework by putting it into conversation with work emerging from global englishes, including Blommaert (2010), Kramsch (2009), Giltrow (2003; 2014), Pennycook (2010), and Canagarajah (ed., 2013). We will consistently go to ‘ground-level,’ putting these theoretical perspectives in conversation with primary source documents.

In the final third of the term, students will conduct secondary- and primary-source research of their own to interrogate competing theories of ‘the standard’; fieldwork applications of these interrogations will include site visits, interviews, focus groups, corpus-building, and/or quasi-experimental design or usability testing to generate a unique contribution to our understanding of this topic.


ENG 536: Topics in Canadian Literature 

Prerequisite(s): Graduate standing or permission

Course typically offered: Fall

Course description: In-depth study of literature by Canadians, focusing on a particular period, group, movement, issue or major author: e.g. pre-Confederation literature, the Tish poets, the McGill Movement, novels by writers of color, Margaret Atwood, and Michael Ondaatje.


ENG 541: Early American Literature from Colonial to Romantic 

Prerequisite(s):  Graduate standing in English or permission.

Course typically offered: Spring

Recent offerings:

American Literature from Col-Romantics (Spring 2018, Lukens)

A study of major and representative figures in American Literature up to 1865, with emphasis on Romantics such as Cooper, Emerson, Hawthorne, Poe, Melville, Thoreau, Fuller, Stowe and Whitman.

The Biopolitical 19th Century: Slavery, Total War, Racial Tyranny (Spring 2016, Friedlander)

Deep in a second decade of global war and in the ongoing crisis of #blacklivesmatter, 21st-century America is apparently caught in a recapitulation of 19th-century traumas. This suggests the value of reexamining those traumas–and the literatures by which we know them–in light of contemporary theories of the social order they helped to establish. “Trauma” to begin with is a latter way of conceiving that era’s events. More recent still: the cluster of concepts and terms of analysis that belong to the study of “bioplitics.” In this seminar, we will read a small but significant set of primary texts alongside a sample of theoretical writings. There will be no fixed correlation of literature and theory. My hope instead is to establish a context for rethinking that era and its relationship to our own.

Biopolitics: A Reader, ed. Timothy Campbell and Adam Sitze, includes crucial work by Foucault, Arendt, Agamben, Haraway, Achille Mbembe, Paolo Virno, and Roberto Esposito. It’s a likely course text, supplemented with writings by Cathy Caruth, Dominick LaCapra, Saidiya V. Hartman, Alexander G. Weheliye and Alexander Kluge-Oskar Negt. The primary texts will possibly include slave narratives by Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs, the Civil War essays of Oliver Wendell Holmes, writings on lynch law by Ida B. Wells, and two novels: Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Harriet Beecher Stowe) and Imperium in Imperio (Sutton E. Griggs). I have much more in mind (Melville’s Battle-Pieces, Alcott’s Hospital Sketches, Sherman’s Memoirs, Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson) but the calendar is limited. I’ll sort it all out in the next few months.

Writing, peer review, and editing will be an important part of this class. Students will compose a half-dozen short responses to the readings (3-4 pages each) and an essay of conference-paper length (10-12 pages). These will then be shared and talked-through by the class for collation in a book. Time will be set aside in class for the planning and some of the labor.

(Spring 2014, Lukens)

The course will be guided by a central question: how did we get here?  We will enter a “time machine” by studying representative figures and texts in American Literature up to 1865, with emphasis on tracing strands connecting English colonial writers such as John Winthrop, William Bradford, Anne Bradstreet and Mary Rowlandson—through two “Great Awakenings,” revolution, and republic—to their unlikely Romantic heirs.  Because of what it reveals about the development of the American nation and its mainstream psyche, we will pay attention to the history and impact of religions in the North American context.  Later readings will be selected from the works of authors such as Irving, Emerson, Apess, Fuller, Douglass, Poe, Hawthorne, the Peabody sisters, Stowe, Melville, Thoreau, Whitman and Dickinson.


ENG 542: Studies in Multicultural American Literature 

Prerequisite(s): Graduate standing in English or instructor permission

Course typically offered: Fall or Spring

Course description: In-depth study of works by American writers of particular ethnic traditions focusing on a particular period, group, movement, issue or individual(s); e.g. Contemporary Native American Writers, African American Literary Tradition and Theory, Literature of Mixed Blood Experience, Jewish American Literature, or Maine Literary History Franco-American and Wabanaki.

Recent offerings:

Narratives of Colonization and Decolonization (Fall 2017, Lukens)

The literatures of colonization began in the fifteenth century, disseminated in multiple languages across Europe, as Europeans spread their religious and economic projects across the globe. This semester’s iteration of ENG 542 will be a chance to read documents authorizing colonization as well as its critique in the context (mostly) of the Americas. We will consider stories and outcomes of colonization in the light of both Euroamerican and indigenous perspectives and experience, try on ideas about “decolonization,” and discover what that might mean in the context of the academy and the nation.

Intertribal Drama (Spring 2015, Lukens)

This is a course establishing some familiarity with a range of plays written by Native American and First Nations playwrights, but concentrating mainly on the production of critical and contextual writing about these plays and their potential audiences. Special emphasis on the development and application of theoretical approaches to intertribal theater, and on documenting the intersection of intertribal theater with both Native and non-Native communities. Some attention to the history and development of Native theater troupes will be included in the course; students will also seek out information on performance history and critical reception of plays in production. As necessary, these readings will be contextualized by instruction, research, and further reading on history and cultures of Native American and First Nations peoples and playwrights.


ENG 545: American Realism and Naturalism 

Prerequisite(s): Graduate standing in English or permission

Course typically offered: Fall

Course description: Emphasis on fiction, and especially on the novels of Twain, Howells, James, Crane, Dreiser, and Wharton.

Recent offerings:

(Fall 2017, Jacobs)

Realism and naturalism have been commonly considered the dominant modes of American fiction in the period between the Civil War and the First World War (1865-1914), and authors best fitting these categories have often dominated the canon as well as American literature syllabi. There’s no question that the period saw a lively critical debate about the role of “the real” in fiction.  However, the terms “realism” and “naturalism” are problematic, in part because the writers commonly grouped into these categories evidence a very wide aesthetic range. Twain and James, for instance, could hardly be more different, yet each has been called a realist. Similarly, there is little common ground between the deliberate stylistic crudity of a Frank Norris and the polished irony of a Stephen Crane; both are often called naturalists, though Crane himself never used the term.   Furthermore, these terms have functioned to exclude many writers who didn’t fit the categories. During this period of rapid nationalist expansion, the New England dominance of American letters was challenged by writers from many other places and ethnicities.
In addition to short works useful for addressing these questions of genre and periodicity, I have selected longer works around the theme of “journeys of estrangement.”   The protagonists travel from America to Europe, from East to West, from the city to the country, and back again. Their journeys bring them (and us) face to face with the problem of determining what is “real” or “natural,” and they illuminate tensions central to the period, such as modernism vs. anti-modernism, civilization vs. nature, and nostalgia for the rural (or even pre-historic) past in the face of the new mass urban culture.    I have stretched the usual chronological boundaries a bit, so as to include the works by Cather and Austin.


ENG 546: Modern American Literature

Prerequisite(s): Graduate standing in English or instructor permission

Course description: A study of significant themes, literary and cultural, and the esthetics of such authors as Frost, Williams, Pound, Eliot, Stein, Moore, Crane, Cather, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Porter, Dos Passos, Faulkner.

Recent offerings:

Experience as a Project (Fall 2013, Friedlander)

In this seminar we will take up a small but diverse set of writers from the first half of the twentieth century for whom the psychological and social, individual and communal aspects of experience revealed exciting directions for thought and crucial material for writing. By this I mean more than that they took their lives and world as subject matter–though this they certainly did. The labor of understanding and articulating their lives and world led, beyond that, to a concern for the nature of experience as such, developed in projects with epistemological, ethical, ethnographic, and historiographic dimensions. I will probably tinker with these plans, but my present thought is to begin with two very different students of William James, W. E. B. DuBois and Gertrude Stein, then continue with John Dos Passos, Marianne Moore and Zora Neale Hurston, ending with H.D. (whose encounter with Freud was even more meaningful, perhaps, than that of Du Bois and Stein with James). I am also considering the inclusion of Martin Jay’s Songs of Experience: Modern American and European Variations on a Universal Theme for supplementary reading. Over the course of the semester students will produce a cohesive portfolio of short essays based on the readings and a group project of their own determination.


ENG 549: Studies in Gender and Literature (Spring)

Prerequisite(s): Graduate standing in English or instructor permission

Course typically offered: Spring

Recent offerings:

Bodies, Identities, Non-Human Agency (Spring 2016, Billitteri)

Intensive study of the workings of gender in language and literature. Topics will vary widely, and may include studies of women writers, of feminist criticism, gender criticism, or queer theory, of femininities and/or masculinities in particular literary periods or schools, as well as of specific theoretical questions such as the gendered nature of language. May be repeated for credit. (Offered annually).

Austen and the Aesthetics of “Female” Authorship (Spring 2015, Neiman)

Since the Victorian period, Jane Austen’s novels have largely been celebrated—but in what terms and at what cost? Recently, scholars—most notably Claudia Johnson, Deirdre Lynch, and Clifford Siskin—have complicated long-standing assumptions about Austen’s novels, namely that they are charming portrayals of fashionable society. Instead, these scholars show that Austen’s novels index important socio-political and aesthetic transitions in the Romantic period and in such a way that has been anything but transparent. As Johnson argues, Austen’s novels help to create the context for their qualified acceptance into the literary canon. This is because Austen participates in—and benefits from—the making of a new category of novel (“female”) as well as a new set of standards for evaluating women’s writing. By these standards, woman’s writing should be decorous, domestic or private, and apolitical. These new standards have since shaped how scholars read and assess Austen’s work and that of her immediate contemporaries. They have also obscured the relationship between Austen’s work and that of her more overtly political predecessors, both male and female.

This course pairs Austen’s novels with those by several of her contemporaries or predecessors. We situate these novels in several larger contexts:  1) Enlightenment narratives about education and self-development and the importance of these narratives to the novel’s mid-eighteenth century rise to legitimacy as a moral form; 2) 1790s “political” novels and the way that these novels showcase the interrelationships among personal disposition, habits of mind, and socio-political mores; 3) 1810s print culture and its relation to both increasingly derogatory critical discourse about novels and increasingly fashionable portrayals of poetic genius. Through familiarizing ourselves with these contexts, we will explore how (and the degree to which) Austen contributes to socio-political and aesthetic debates, including Romantic-era concerns about “prolific” print culture and subsequent redefinitions of literature and authorship. We will also strive to discern and contextualize differences between Austen’s earliest novels, all of which were first drafted in the 1790s (Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice) and the final three (Emma, Mansfield Park, and Persuasion), which were composed in the 1810s.

We will find that Romantic-era print culture brings a wide variety of writers into contact with other writers. Writers respond to each other’s work, both explicitly and implicitly, through intertextual references. Because can only begin to map out intertextual relationships between Austen and other writers, the final research project assigns students to pursue a research direction of their own. We will begin to prepare for this project midway through the semester. At this time, students will be asked to select one or two texts by other writers that they would like to read. They will also be assigned to do some outside research on their text or texts (several annotations of critical sources will be due at this time).


ENG 551: Medieval English Literature (Fall)

Prerequisite(s): Graduate standing or permission

Course typically offered: Fall

Course description: Medieval England was full of bustling villages, cities, and manors. But surrounding these spots of civilization were vast stretches of forest, fen, and moor, not to mention a roaring sea. In these wilds anything could happen—terrible monsters like Grendel terrorized the sloping highlands, sea creatures slid about the lakes and sea, and elves, outlaws, and devils lurked beneath the greenwood leaves. This class, a survey of medieval English literature, questions what the wild meant to medieval people. Using ecocritical theory, we will probe the boundaries between human and beast, civilization and wilderness, natural and supernatural, coming to a closer understanding of how it felt to live surrounded by a natural world much less tame than ours. Texts include Anglo-Saxon elegies, Beowulf, Anglo-Norman ancestral romances, parts of the Canterbury Tales, romances including Havelock the Dane and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, some late medieval ballads and Middle English lyrics, and more. This is course will introduce you to many of the major works of Medieval English Literature. The readings are challenging and problematic, and certainly the subject of Western engagement with the natural world has relevance even outside the field of Medieval Studies. Your gained knowledge of the Western tradition of nature writing should enhance your general understanding of the environment in literature. We have inherited many medieval ideas about nature, both good and bad, and a knowledge of the history of ideas about the natural world will surely be useful to you beyond the confines of this class.


ENG 553: Shakespeare and his Contemporaries (Fall)

Prerequisite(s):  Graduate standing or permission

Course typically offered: Fall

Course description: This course offers relatively broad reading in late 16th and early 17th century English plays and scholarship.  To develop a sense of this innovative, popular, often thoughtful and spectacular drama, we will explore the conventions of revenge tragedy, domestic tragedy, city comedy, and tragic farce.  Recurring themes and motifs include fashioning identity, gratifying desire, maintaining honor, and achieving justice.  The plays raise issues of class and gender, justice and desire, civilization and nature, that seem both late medieval and startlingly modern.  We will read Shakespeare as a working dramatist among his contemporaries, sometimes using him as a foil for his contemporaries.  Some of the plays—and not just those by Shakespeare—have been appropriated by late twentieth- and early-twenty-first century popular culture.  You will likely find ample opportunity to accommodate this drama to your own literary and theoretical interests.

By the end of the semester, you should gain understanding of the ethical, cultural, and aesthetic diversity of late 16th and early 17th century drama; appreciate how the drama anticipates modern cultural and aesthetic issues (i.e., why it is sometimes called early modern); understand how literary conventions work and evolve, enforcing and subverting a culture’s premises; apply theories of comedy and tragedy; and practice informed literary analysis with increased confidence.

Likely Book List:  David Bevington, ed., English Renaissance Drama (Norton, 2002).

Any recent, reliable edition of Shakespeare, such as Stephen Greenblatt’s Norton Shakespeare, G. Blakemore Evans’ Riverside Shakespeare, Bevington’s Complete Works of Shakespeare, or the Arden, New Cambridge, Oxford, Penguin, or Signet paperback series of individual plays.

Evaluation:  Grades are based on oral presentations, two 5 pp. papers, and a 15-18 pp. paper.  The first short paper usually explores the form or effect of drama; the second short paper tries out a theoretical approach to a play.  The long project defines and pursues an interest that develops over the course of the semester. It might define a subgenre of Elizabethan and/or Jacobean drama or otherwise engage a problem in interpretation or staging in one or more plays, or it might historicize or theorize one or more plays or a recurring motif in the drama. Short papers may emerge from the oral presentations, long papers from the short ones, what you will.


ENG 554: Renaissance and 17th Century Literature

Prerequisite(s): Graduate standing in English or instructor permission

Course description: Readings in the lyric and narrative poetry and in the prose of the period from 1520 to 1660.  Special emphasis on Sidney, Spenser, Donne, and Milton.


ENG 555: Literature of the Enlightenment

Prerequisite(s):  Graduate Standing or permission

Course description: From reason to violence, from innocence to rape, from sentiment to sadism, astounding change ignited the Restoration and eighteenth century, making this period a watershed that marks the transition from Renaissance to Modern.  This seminar will consider literature against the background of this historical change, inheritance, and influence. Works by Pope, Behn, Cavendish, Finch, Congreve, Dryden, Swift, Defoe, Richardson, Johnson, and Radcliffe, among others.  Both clarifying and complicating our understanding of the reflexive relationship between literature and politics, we will study literature in terms of gender, culture, genre, individualism, representation, and postcolonialism.


ENG 556: English Romanticism 

Prerequisite(s): Graduate standing in English or instructor permission

Course typically offered: Spring

Course description: Studies in Romanticism with emphasis on the legacy of English Romantic poetry and prose in post-romantic literature. We will consider, for example, how Wordsworth’s originality influenced such writers as De Quincy, Baudelaire, Proust, and Walter Benjamin. Or, to trace a different tradition, Whitman and Wallace Stevens. Or, still another tradition, Woolf and Lawrence.


ENG 557: Victorian Literature

Prerequisite(s): Graduate standing in English or permission

Course description: A study of Victorian poetry, prose, and fiction by the major authors: Carlyle, Tennyson, Browning, Dickens, Newman, Ruskin, Morris, Hardy and Yeats.


ENG 558: Modern British Literature

Prerequisite(s): Graduate standing or permission

Course description: This course examines the notion of a modernist literature and studies works traditionally considered part of the British modernist canon.~ The focus this semester will be on early modernism. The approach will be historical and cultural. Our discussions will include current reevaluations of “modernism.” Readings might include authors such as Thomas Hardy, William Pater, Oscar Wilde, W. B. Yeats, T. S. Eliot, Mina Loy, Ford Madox Ford, Arnold Bennett, James Joyce, Rebecca West,  Virginia Woolf, Wilfred Owen,~ & W. H. Auden


ENG 570: Critical Theory

Prerequisite(s): Graduate standing or permission

Course description: Readings in the theoretical traditions that have determined the possibilities for scholarship and interpretation in literary criticism, and a consideration of significant contemporary experiments that have redefined these possibilities.

Recent offering(s):

Poetics of Fiction (Spring 2017, Kress)

“Rigorous attention to literary structures, in other words, poetics”—Christine Brooke-Rose

Poetics? Of fiction? Poetics of fiction? Poetics of fiction! Reading widely in narrative theory and “experimental” fiction, this course will introduce students to a poetics of fiction and examine the way theoretical and creative texts intervene in each other. In other words, the course will explore the ways in which experimental fiction is both generated by and generative of theories about fiction—and vice versa. Traditionally, the term “poetics” is most commonly applied to studies in poetry, but in a more accurate sense, poetics should be thought of a way of theorizing linguistic (and other) texts that gives equal attention to critical and creative approaches to theory. To that end, this course will approach a poetics of fiction by debating fiction’s theories, practices, productions, and place in the contemporary world. The central critical questions for the seminar will be similarly experimental: we will not begin with nor rest on the assumption that the study of and/or the creation of fiction is inherently necessary, valuable, or even interesting; rather, this course will test those foundations to determine whether or not they can serve as grounds for future study.

That is to say, we’ll take our cue from Michel Foucault, as we try to map out the topologies of fiction, theory, and poetics as institutions: “It seems to me that the real political task in a society such as ours is to criticize the workings of institutions, which appear to be both neutral and independent; to criticize and attack them in such a manner that the political violence which has always exercised itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can fight against them.”


ENG 579: Theories of Composition 

Prerequisite(s): Graduate standing or permission

Course typically offered: Spring

Course description: A study in the rhetorical, stylistic and cognitive perspectives – from classical formulations to current research – on the nature of written composition and issues in composition teaching.

Recent offerings:

(Spring 2018, Dryer)

Despite the current name, which dates from the 1970’s, ENG 579 is now a researchmethods course that focuses on current unsolved problems in text-production, -circulation, and – reception. The course will thus involve immersions into some of the historical highlights and current research trends in each of these three dimensions, in particular the exceptionally interesting problems posed by the question of “validity” in research design and data-interpretation: construct-representation, consequential validity, construct-irrelevant variance, and so on. These problems are more interesting and more pressing than they may appear. For example, constructinvalid (yet dominant) models of “the writing process” do considerable social damage, particularly (though by no means exclusively) in the contexts of schooling, high-stakes testing, identity formation, and securing exchange-value for labor in the workplace.

While the course interprets “research” broadly, including critical discourse analysis and archival research as well as qualitative and quantitative approaches, projects will be driven by falsifiable hypotheses and will depend on rigorously ethical data-collection and analysis.

Course Goals:

  •  To briefly cover some of the historical and cultural context for the emergence of Writing Studies since 1963, including the abandonment of “product” approaches to teaching and assessing writing, the rise and fall of cognitive-process approaches, the turn to qualitative methodologies and the “social turn,” and the return of quantitative analysis and the growing significance of neurophenomenological research;
  •  to provide training in the reading, interpretation, and application of empirical research;
  • to introduce some theoretical frameworks commonly used in writing studies: cognitive-process, genre theory, activity theory, institutional ethnography, applied linguistics; and
  • to introduce and practice some basic qualitative and quantitative approaches to writing research, including survey design, coding of documents and transcripts, corpus analysis, critical discourseanalysis, ethnography or site-study, and factor analysis.

ENG 580: Topics in Poetry and Poetics (Spring)

Prerequisite(s): Graduate standing in English or instructor permission

Course typically offered: Spring

Course description: Intensive study of literary language and practice focusing primarily but not exclusively on poetry. Topics will vary widely but fit one or more of the following general areas of emphasis: theories of poetry and poetic production; surveys focusing on work from more than one historical period or national literature; studies on the critical and other prose writings of poets; courses on critical theory in which poetry plays a key role; narratology and genre theory. May be repeated for credit.

Recent offerings:

Poetics and Discipline (Spring 2018, Friedlander)

From its inception as a modern profession, literary study has drawn inspiration and taken direction from the critical labor of poets. In this seminar, we will look at several episodes in that history, beginning with three precursors in the nineteenth century: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, first professor of comparative literature at Harvard; Sidney Lanier, who lectured on poetry at Johns Hopkins; and James Russell Lowell, first president of the MLA. We will then turn to two modes of academic study that dominated much of the twentieth century, each with a deep source in poetics: the “New Criticism,” which drew broadly on T. S. Eliot, William Empson, John Crowe Ransom, Laura Riding, and Robert Penn Warren; and the American Studies mode on display in the critical writings of Charles Olson, Muriel Rukeyser, and William Carlos Williams. The course will conclude with three poets who had a decisive influence on social movements in the sixties and seventies, with a corresponding impact on the disciplines: Amiri Baraka, Adrienne Rich, and Gary Snyder, crucial figures in the Black Power, Women’s, and Environmental Movements, and early proponents of Black Studies, Gender Studies, and Ecocriticism.

The emphasis throughout will be twofold: first, bringing to light the poetic labor hidden in so much academic study; and second, discerning missed opportunities in the disciplination of that labor. Texts and assignments are still to be determined, but I am hoping to arrange things so that most of our time is spent on the last three figures.

The Nineties (Spring 2017, Evans)

The National Poetry Foundation will host a major conference on The Poetry and Poetics of the 1990s in late June 2017 here on the flagship campus of the University of Maine. This seminar will survey the decade’s literary and artistic practices with a focus on the writers, movements, concepts, and controversies that are likely to be represented in the context of the conference. Special attention will be paid to the formidable sonic archive associated with the poetry of the 1990s, but students will have considerable leeway in determining the direction their research takes. The seminar will also offer a glimpse of—and, for those who are interested, a chance to participate in—the behind-the-scenes work that goes into hosting a national event that blends scholarship (academic conference) and creative work (literary festival).


ENG 596: Graduate Internship in Professional Writing

Prerequisite(s): Permission required; ENG 515 or ENG 516 or by recommendation of faculty

Credits: 1-6

Students may enroll year-round.

Course description: Supervised work in professional writing. Graduate students may work with businesses, professionals, organizations approved by the department in an area of professional writing. The work varies for each student enrolled, but normally involves writing, editing, research, reporting, interviewing, indexing, or other writing-related activity. Students must apply for this course before the semester of enrollment. Students are expected to work approximately 12 to 15 hours per week per 3 hours credit. May be repeated for credit up to 6 credit hours.


ENG 606: Rhetorical Theory

Prerequisite(s): Permission of the instructor only

Course description: Survey of basic issues in and the contributions of major theorists, historical and contemporary. 

Note: This course is identical to CMJ 606: Rhetorical Theory.


ENG 649: Seminar in Modern and Postmodern American Poetry 

Prerequisite(s): Graduate Standing or permission

Course typically offered: Fall

Course description: Offers an in-depth study of poets of the Modernist and Postmodernist periods. Modernist poets studied may include Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, H.D., Marianne Moore, Gertrude Stein, Wallace Stevens or T. S. Eliot. Postmodernist poets may include the Objectivists, the poets of the Black Mountain or New York Schools, poets of the San Francisco Renaissance and the “Language” poets. Specific topics will vary from semester to semester. Normally, the seminar will cover three to six poets, but at times the seminar may focus on a single poet.

Recent offerings:

W. H. Auden as Modernist and Postmodernist Poet (Fall 2015, Cowan)

Although W. H. Auden’s (1907-1973) early poetry in the 1920s and 1930s bear the marks of his modernist inheritance, even his earliest poems interrogate modernist premises and attitudes . Many scholars have viewed him as one of the first postmodern poets.  

Born British, he moved to the United States in 1930 and became an American citizen. He was highly influenced by American modernist poets and was an important member of twentieth-century American literary circles.

Auden has been a controversial poet and I would like to include the—political, aesthetic, cultural, sexual–controversies surrounding him in my course. His poetry –starting with his 1928 self-published collection of poems—will form the nexus of the course. Auden is notorious for revising and changing his poems, so it is hard to find a “stable” text to study. We will use these first editions of his collections as our primary texts. We will also study earlier versions of the poems in these volumes which were published in periodicals and his later revised versions of these poems.  

Students will gain a sophisticated sense of poetry, the publication of poetry, and the issues at stake in generic criticism as well as historical and cultural criticism by studying the different versions of Auden’s poetry in the context of his prolific prose writings including his earliest contributions to publications at Oxford University through Commencement addresses in the 1930s and 1940s and up until the late 1960s.

We will also look at the works of Auden’s contemporaries in order to give his work a context. These contemporaries may include Christopher Isherwood, Rebecca West, and Stephen Spender.
Assignments will include response papers, class presentations, a book review of a scholarly work about W. H. Auden, and a research paper which will be proceeded by a prospectus and an annotated bibliography.

Irreality and Imagination in Modern American Poetry (Fall 2013, Billitteri)

A survey of the literary and intellectual history of poetic movements of the American avant-gardes of the twentieth- and twentieth-first century (Imagism, Harlem Renaissance, Objectivism, Projectivism, New York School, Language Poetry). Authors examined* will include: Charles Bernstein, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Creeley, Barbara Guest, Lyn Hejinian, Marianne Moore, Lorine Niedecker, Charles Olson, George Oppen, Claudia Rankine, Wallace Stevens, Melvin B. Tolson, and William Carlos Williams. Poet Blau DuPlessis will visit the seminar during the last week in October. *Please note: this list is not all-inclusive and is subject to change.*

We will look at the common intellectual history of the desire (explicitly articulated by way of aesthetic and/or programmatic commitments, or implicitly assumed, by way of aesthetic legacy or poetic affiliation) to construct a poetics of reality (a poetics that reflect the epistemic multiplicity of the real in all its discordant manifestations) and the awareness of the potential disarticulation of reality in the workings of language. Here’s a brief list of the pertinent topics we will consider:

  • Reality as temporal construct: the present (see subsets below), the actual (see subset below).

―Poetics of the present as the everyday (the quotidian, the vernacular, the ugly).

―Poetics of the present as spatial construct (the landscape, the environment).

―Poetics of the present as situational construct (embodiment, situatedness of writing).

―Poetics of the actual (discourse of authenticity, pervasive appeal to intuition).

  • Possibility/impossibility of representing extra-linguistic, limits of linguistic representation.
  • The reach of poetic mimesis or aesthetic representation: poetic language vis-à-vis ordinary language.
  • Contrast between the perception of the poetic imagination as a simultaneous process of creation (of images or “reality-effects”) and decreation (irreality, de-materialization of the real).

Seminar participants are expected to write weekly short papers (two to three pages), an annotated bibliography (ten to fifteen entries) and a final research project (fifteen pages).


ENG 693: Teaching College Composition 

Prerequisite(s): Graduate standing and appointment as a teaching assistant in the department of English

Course typically offered: Fall

Course description: A study of the theory and practice of college instruction.  Required of all teaching assistants in the department of English during their first teaching semester.


ENG 697: Independent Reading/Writing

Prerequisite(s): Department Consent Required

Course description: This course is arranged through the Graduate Coordinator and is available to current graduate students in English only.

Credits: 1-6

Please contact the English Department Administrative Specialist, Ellen Manzo, to enroll in a section of ENG 697 with your chosen faculty advisor.


ENG 699: Graduate Thesis

Prerequisite(s): 6 hours of graduate study in English or permission of the instructor.

Course description: This course is arranged through the Graduate Coordinator and is available to current graduate students in English only. Credits: 1-6