Spring 2016 Courses

The course descriptions below are to the best of our knowledge the most recent available. The descriptions from previous years can be found at UChicago Catalogs or on department websites.  Many of these courses are cross-listed with other departments, but they are listed under the parent department here.

English Language & Literature

Introduction to Modernism (ENGL 11904)

Between 1900 and 1945, literature and the other arts experienced a series of dramatic transformations, the nature and consequences of which we are still trying to understand today. Writers, artists, and musicians experimented with radically new modes of representation and expression while photography, radio, film, and transatlantic periodicals offered radically new experiences of media. Two world wars, widespread economic crises, rapid urbanization, and gradual decolonization drastically altered people’s lives around the globe. In this course, we will study some key literary texts written in English during this period of upheaval and transformation (and, as time permits, we might also consider related developments in the literature of languages other than English). You will encounter poetry, prose fiction, essays, and the occasional manifesto. While the literary formation we call “modernism” has much to do with certain movements, such as Imagism, and certain magazines and publishing houses, such as The Little Review and the Hogarth Press, this course assumes that there is no single, definitive “Modernism.” We will study canonical modernists such as Ezra Pound, TS Eliot, and Virginia Woolf, but we will devote equal attention to lesser-known writers such as Jean Toomer and Lorine Niedecker. All of the writers we study can be described as “innovative,” but the character of their innovations varies widely. Over the course of the quarter, we will try to keep one eye on big-M Modernism while also attending to the nuances and fascinations of numerous smaller modernisms. Throughout, our chief goal will be to cultivate modes of reading responsive to the strange and shifting challenges these writers present. 

Instructor: Patrick Morrissey


Sidney, Spenser, Shakespeare (ENGL 17513)

This course will compare and contrast these three Renaissance writers’ erotic poetry, pastorals, and epic writings focusing on their diverse conceptions of authorship and literary career, the purposes of literary production, and conceptions of audience.

Instructor: Joshua Scodel


Introduction to British Romantic Literature (ENGL 20222)

This survey of one of English literature’s richest periods will include selections from several Romantic poets, including Burns, Charlotte Smith, Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Keats, and Byron. We will also read letters by Keats and others; selections from Mary Wollstonecraft’s travel narrative Letters from Sweden, Norway, and Denmark; and novels by Maria Edgeworth, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, and Jane Austen.

Instructor: Michael Hansen


Making Poetry, Poetic Making (ENGL 26209)

Making Poetry, Poetic Making: 19th C Poetic Making Through Anthologies: This course surveys poetic form in the American 19th century while also challenging how poets make their way into the American canon. We will focus particularly on the political, social, racial, and historical forces that shape poetry anthologies. Readings include Whitman, Dickinson, Longfellow, and Dunbar. Students compile an original anthology as their final project.

Instructor: Alexander Jacobs


Frank O'Hara & Friends (ENGL 34801)

Few poets have stimulated enthusiasm and critical reflection as variously as Frank O'Hara. His critique of the post-Romantic English language lyric led to a social lyric practice that deeply influenced poets of succeeding generations. His collaborations and friendships with visual artists and his promotion of their careers, his casual openness about his gay sexuality, his exemplary engagement with the urban milieu, his centrality to a group of poets including Barbara Guest, John Ashbery, James Schuyler and Kenneth Koch, his response to the politics of race and decolonization and friendship with Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka, are but some of the attributes which make O'Hara a key figure for mid-century American culture. And he wrote some of the most thrilling poetry of his or any time. The opportunities and angles for exploring his extraordinary work, including the active friendship which meant his early death left so many desolate, are legion, and this course will encourage exploration, research and inventive presentation.

Instructor: John Wilkinson


Women, Writing, and Spirituality in Colonial America (ENGL 43901)

We will analyze the writings, speeches, public performances, devotional objects and practices, and the recorded testimonies of selected American women religionists and authors, focusing on the relationship between spirituality, gender, literary production, and alternative practices of gaining a public “voice.” We will read a variety of genres, including trial transcripts, heresiographies, advice manuals, conversion and captivity narratives, letters, poems, and diaries. Our selections will be attentive to such issues as class affiliation, the production of public and "domestic" utterance, and the disciplining of female speech. Among the authors included: Anne Bradstreet, Mary Rowlandson, Anne Lee, Emily Dickinson. We will also explore the trials of Anne Hutchinson, the disruptive religious performances of Quakers, and Shaker expressive modes of spirit drawing and dancing.

Instructor: Janice Knight


Assemblage (ENGL 65007)

Assemblage Theory/Practice: Assemblage names a composition practice in the plastic, visual, and literary arts. It also names a mode of conceptualizing non-aesthetic forms. This course will begin by focusing on the different semantic and pragmatic values of assemblage in archaeology, architecture, anthropology, human geography, and social theory (where Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of agencement has played an especially prominent role). We will then turn our attention to an art exhibition, “The Art of Assemblage” (MOMA, 1961); to the work of particular artists (Joseph Cornell, Robert Rauschenberg, Louise Nevelson); and to William Carlos William’s “compiled” epic, Paterson (1946-1963). The course’s overarching question asks: How might we understand the relation between assemblage as an artistic practice and assemblage deployed as an analytical concept? And how we do we assess the discrepancies between organic and inorganic form? We will move out from the primary cases, and move backwards and forwards from the 1960s—out to Language poetry and language art, backwards to Coleridge’s theory of “organic form” and Poe’s “Philosophy of Composition,” and forwards to some text-based digital fiction and some contemporary art installations. Students will give one short and one long presentation, and will write a final paper (on an object or archive from any historical period).

Instructor: Bill Brown


Comparative Literature

Poetry and Theory: Mallarmé (CMLT 43351)

This course will undertake a close reading (in French) of seminal texts (essays and translation as well as poems) by Mallarmé. We will also read older critical interpretations (Mauron, Sartre, H. Friedrich, Robert Greer Cohn, Scherer, J-P Richard, Poulet, eg) and more contemporary theorists (Derrida, Blanchot, De Man, Jameson, Johnson, Kristeva, Rancière, bersani, Zizek). Finally, we will read him in conjunction with some other, more or less overtly philosophical texts (Heidegger, Badiou, Nietzsche, Meschonnic, e.g.). Reading knowledge of French is REQUIRED, though the course will be conducted in English.

Instructors: Françoise Meltzer and Jean-Luc Marion


Allegory in the Western Tradition. (CMLT 25015)

What kinds of power can a text have? Is it possible for language and literature to do far more than instruct and entertain? Indeed, might it be possible for a text to give us access to types of knowledge that a human being would otherwise be unable to obtain? In what ways can the study of allegory help us to better understand how (and why) other cultures interpret the world in ways that differ from our own? And how do we, as readers, respond when we reach the apparent limits of our texts? To ask such questions as these—particularly in the case of allegory—involves much more than asking what a text means. Indeed, although the question of meaning is fundamental to allegory, to view a text as allegorical is to view a text as possessing some kind of power or insight that can transform the way in which we view the world (or, even, the divine) and our relation to it. In fact, for generations of thinkers—from the earliest interpreters of Homer to the Early Modern Period and beyond—allegory represents literature at its most dynamic and powerful. The study of allegory and the history of its interpretation provides us, therefore, with the unique opportunity to examine how generations of authors and interpreters have pushed their respective arts to their limit, as if attempting to communicate with words an idea that, by its very nature, defies verbalization.

Readings for this course will include the following: Plato’s Republic (in particular, the Allegory of the Cave), Virgil’s Aeneid, Chaucer’s dream-vision poetry, Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene, William Blake, and Italo Calvino. 

Instructor: David Orsborn


Committee on Social Thought

Antigone (SCTH 31221)                                            

Antigone: heroine or harridan? political dissident or family loyalist? Harbinger of the free subject or captive of archaic gender norms? Speaking truth to power or preserving traditional privilege? Sophocles’ Antigone has been good to think with since its first production in the fifth century BCE. From ancient commentators through Hegel to contemporary gender theorists like Judith Butler, readers have grappled with what Butler calls “Antigone’s Claim.” The play’s exploration of gender, kinship, citizenship, law, resistance to authority, family vs. the state, and religion (among other issues) has proved especially compelling for modern thought. We will supplement our reading of the play with modern commentary grounded in literary interpretation and cultural poetics, as well as philosophy and political theory. We will end by considering three modern re-imaginings of Antigone: Jean Anouilh’s Antigone, Athol Fugard’s The Island, and Ellen McLaughlin’s Kissing the Floor. Although no knowledge of Greek is required for this course, there will be assignment options for those who wish to do reading in Greek.

Requirements: weekly readings and posting on Chalk; class presentation; final paper.

This course will be taught the first five weeks of the quarter.

Instructor: Laura Slatkin


Contemporary Poems in English (SCTH 36013)                    

We will consider ten contemporary poets, reading one book of poems each week supplemented by essays. The poets represent widely varying aesthetics and different backgrounds: United States, Canada, England, Northern Ireland. Poets to be studied: Mark Strand, Louise Glück, Geoffrey Hill, Susan Howe, Yusef Komunyakaa, D.A. Powell, Alice Oswald, Henri Cole, Lisa Robertson, and Michael Longley. Open to advanced undergrads

Instructor: Rosanna Warren


Center for Disciplinary Innovation

Writing Images/Picturing Words (CDIN 44319)

What is the relationship between reading and looking? To what extent are all texts images, and all images texts? What are the cognitive, phenomenological, social, and aesthetic consequences of foregrounding the pictorial aspect of alphabetical characters? How do textual and visual images compare to our mental visualizations? In this arts studio course, students will construct original works of literary and visual art that "picture language" in order to investigate the overlapping functions of text and image. Studying works by contemporary visual artists like Alison Knowles and Jenny Holzer, and practicing poets such as Susan Howe and Tan Lin, we will frame our artistic and literary practice within the ongoing conversation between word and image in modern culture. The course will feature visits to our studio by contemporary poets and visual artists, who will provide critiques of student work and discussion of their own ongoing projects. Faculty members working at the intersection of word and image will also visit the class to help us frame our creative practice within a critical, historical, and theoretical context. Students will submit a final project, which may be accompanied by a critical background essay, at the end of the term.

Instructors: Srikanth Reddy; Jessica Stockholder

Creative Writing

Fundamentals of Poetry (CRWR 10305 / 30305)

This class will introduce students to the basic principles of poetic craft through a lens of formal and free verse poetry. Moving from formal to free verse approaches, students will examine the rigors of language in each, will reflect on how formality or its absence influences the process of writing, and will consider how form and structure affect, and are themselves, expression. Moving historically and considering the major shifts in the history of the English language, we will begin with highly structured forms—the sonnet, the pantoum, and the ghazal—and then consider looser forms—the quatrain and accentual verse—and finally free verse—looking at organic form, prose poetry, and found forms. Students will be encouraged to work within a form’s strictures but will also feel free to experiment with a form’s given rules. In this workshop intensive course, we will spend a short portion of class talking about each form generally and about the examples in each week’s reading, but we will use student work as a jumping-off point for our discussions and dedicate the majority of class to workshop. Students’ final projects will consist of a final portfolio of revised work.

Instructor: Ariana Nash


Special Topics in Poetry: Poetry Chapbooks: From Thesis to Book (CRWR 13014 / 33014)

This course is designed for students who have either written creative BA theses or chapbook-length manuscripts. We will investigate the poetry chapbook as both text and texture by attending closely to the content and construction of the medium. Using students’ manuscripts-in-progress, we spend the first three weeks polishing and refining manuscript drafts. We will attempt to contextualize our efforts in the history and theories of chapbooks, editions, editing, artist’s books, and so on. Then we will move to production, where we will each use InDesign to lay out the contents of a book; we will also explore multiple technologies (old and new) to design our books’ formats and covers.  The course will culminate at the BA thesis readings, where we will celebrate each writer’s chapbook and distribute the books to a wider public.

Instructor: Stephanie Anderson

PQ: Instructor consent required. To apply, submit a writing sample. Once given consent, attendance on the first day is mandatory.

Advanced Poetry Workshop (CRWR 23100 / 43100)

In this course, we will examine a range of formal, theoretical, and sociopolitical currents in contemporary poetry as a means of provoking and informing our own creative work.  The class will be a workshop first and foremost, with a range of prompts designed to defamiliarize ourselves from our own habits, as well as ample space to continue developing in-progress writings. On the premise that creative work is also social, and that writing aimed at self-expression is never conducted in a vacuum, we will also be reading expansively, while trying our hands at responses to the texts of others. We will examine a range of contemporary poems and essays on poetics by writers with varying commitments to the art, with occasional intervention by visiting and local writers (Tan Lin, Bernadette Mayer, and Fred Moten), in order to immerse ourselves in some of the questions of contemporary poetics being debated today. Throughout the semester, we will read one another’s writing within the broad context of contemporary American poetics, while making room for the vagaries and tripwires of developing an individual practice. Attendance at at least two readings and/or poetics lectures will be essential.

Instructor: Jennifer Scappettone

PQ: Instructor consent required. To apply, submit a writing sample. Once given consent, attendance on the first day is mandatory.


Advanced Poetry Workshop: The Long Poem (CRWR 23110/43110)

In this course, you will propose and then begin to execute the composition of a long poem. Your proposals will focus not only on quality of inspiration in subject and idea, but also on formal concerns (in what manner to write a long poem), and issues of feasibility. The goal of the course is to have you on your way to completing your own long poem by the end of ten weeks, aided by extensive reading of long-form poetry for class discussions, and intensive mutual scrutiny of the projects of everyone involved in the class. Readings will include long poems by Wordsworth, Hopkins, Mallarmé, Loy, H.D., Moore, Jeffers, Huidobro, Césaire, Johnson, Carson, Oswald, Bitsui, Rehm, Eckermann, Clark, and Glomski.

Instructor: Peter O’Leary

PQ: Instructor consent required. To apply, submit a writing sample. Once given consent, attendance on the first day is mandatory.