Past course descriptions (syllabi included).
ENGL 092: Literary History II –
This introductory course examines British, U.S., and global Anglophone literary history from the late-eighteenth century to the near present. Instead of proceeding chronologically and attempting to survey the literary-historical field comprehensively, we will read across time to reflect on three major themes that claim a special hold on the literary enterprise during this period: 1) the histories and legacies of slavery and colonialism; 2) the modern self and its relationship to language, culture, and society; and 3) the workings of human history and memory. Along the way, we will consider some of the primary historical and cultural developments of the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries that literature in English both responded to and helped shape: industrialization and modernization; the consolidation and spread of global capitalism; slavery, colonialism, and empire; war and revolution; the emergence and fragmentation of national literary and cultural traditions; and the dissemination of the English language around the globe. Our readings will include works by William Wordsworth, Mary Shelley, Frederick Douglass, Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Joseph Conrad, Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, Derek Walcott, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Marilynne Robinson, and Edward P. Jones.
ENGL 175: U.S. Literary History I: American Emergence, 1682-1900 –
This course examines U.S. literary history before 1900, surveying American literature in the context of broader social and intellectual developments. Throughout the semester we will focus on four themes that figure centrally in the emergence of American writing: 1) citizenship and the contested ideal of the American self; 2) nationhood and the cultivation of national literary and cultural traditions; 3) literature’s relationship to revolution, political protest, and social change; and 4) the realities and legacies of slavery, emancipation, and American empire. Authors include Rowlandson, Rowson, Child, Apess, Walker, Douglass, Hawthorne, Emerson, Whitman, Dickinson, Melville, Stowe, Twain, and Chesnutt. The semester will culminate with a reading of Moby-Dick. This course requires two essays and a final exam, as well as regular response writings throughout the term.
ENGL 205: U.S. Literary History II: America Unfinished, 1900-Present –
This course examines U.S. literary history after 1900, surveying American literary production in the context of broader social and artistic developments. Over the course of the semester, we will address many of the principal historical contexts for understanding the development of U.S. literature and culture during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, focusing on 1) debates about immigration, citizenship, and American democracy; 2) the persistence of social inequality and racial discrimination; 3) the rise of new technologies of communication and mass entertainment; and 4) the globalization of American culture and identity. Authors include Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Richard Wright, Carlos Bulosan, Vladimir Nabokov, James Baldwin, Flannery O’Connor, Toni Morrison, Raymond Carver, Don DeLillo, and Junot Diaz. This course requires occasional response writings, two critical essays, and a final exam. Students do not need to have taken U.S. Literary History I to enroll.
ENGL 254: Reading Invisible Man –
This course considers Ralph Ellison’s classic 1952 novel Invisible Man within and against the literary, philosophical, and vernacular traditions that influenced its composition. Not only will we read Ellison’s writings (both fiction and non-fiction) in detail, we will also examine many of the cultural sources on which Invisible Man draws: music by Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Rushing, and Charlie Parker; fiction by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Edgar Allan Poe, Richard Wright, Mark Twain, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, and William Faulkner; and writings by Frederick Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Sigmund Freud, and T.S. Eliot. We will have two main goals throughout the course of the semester: first, to understand Ellison’s complex vision of the African American experience; second, to understand the centrality of that experience to modern American life and art.
ENGL 370: US Culture: The Depression Era –
In the United States, the phrase “Great Depression” calls to mind an unusually vivid mix of images: itinerant sharecroppers and ramshackle houses, unemployment lines and labor strikes, fireside chats and WPA murals. Drawing on a wide variety of source materials, this course examines the Depression Era in myth and reality. It also considers why the period retains a powerful hold on national memory in our era of economic uncertainty. Writings by Carlos Bulosan, William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston, Tillie Olsen, and Richard Wright; photographs by Margaret Bourke-White, Walker Evans, and Dorothea Lange; films by Busby Berkeley, Frank Capra, Howard Hawks, and Preston Sturges—among many others. Students interested in interdisciplinary approaches to American culture and history are particularly encouraged to enroll.
ENGL 478: Capstone in American Culture: Mass Media –
This interdisciplinary course in American cultural studies explores novels, essays, and films that take “the media” and “the masses” as points of imaginative departure. Focusing on the United States from the 1920s to the present (but with some important trips to Germany, Canada, France, Brazil, and the post-apocalyptic future along the way), we will consider a wide variety of texts that address the media’s power to inform and delude, persuade and seduce, galvanize and atomize, terrify and entertain. Films by Orson Welles, Charlie Chaplin, Billy Wilder, Alfred Hitchcock, Francis Ford Coppola, Sidney Lumet, and Pixar; novels by Nathanael West, Sloan Wilson, and Don DeLillo; plus selected critical and historical readings. Two basic questions will guide our approach throughout the semester. What constitutes “information” in an age of proliferating cultural data? How do understandings of American “community” change in response to increased technological connectivity? In addition to an extended research paper, this course requires eight mandatory film screenings outside of class. Students who are concentrators in Georgetown’s program in Film and Media Studies may be admitted by permission of the instructor.
ENGL 692 (graduate seminar): Mass Media and the American Mind –
“Media,” in the words of Friedrich Kittler, “determine our situation.” During the twentieth century, cinema, radio, and television—as well as that abstract network of information-shaping institutions known simply as “The Media”—colonized how we came to understand the world around us. Today, in the twenty-first century, the digital revolution is fundamentally altering how we (or, at least, some of us) produce and consume cultural information. This interdisciplinary course uses novels, essays, films, and even a few court cases to examine the centrality of mass media to modern life. In the process, it also serves as an introduction to major ideas, debates, and themes in contemporary Literature and Media Studies. Focusing on the United States from the 1920s to the present (but with some important trips to Germany, Canada, France, Brazil, and the post-apocalyptic future along the way), we will consider a wide variety of texts that address the media’s power to inform and delude, persuade and seduce, galvanize and atomize, terrify and entertain. Novels by Nathanael West, Sloan Wilson, and Don DeLillo; films by Orson Welles, Charlie Chaplin, Billy Wilder, Alfred Hitchcock, Francis Ford Coppola, Sidney Lumet, Pixar, and Werner Herzog; theory and criticism by Benedict Anderson, Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Harold Innis, C. Wright Mills, Marshall McLuhan, Jean Baudrillard, Noam Chomsky, and Alan Liu—among many others.
FMST 401: Film and Media Studies Capstone –
FMST 401, “Film and Media Studies Capstone,” is the second half of a two-semester seminar that Film and Media Studies concentrators take during their final year of coursework. The course is designed with two goals in mind. The first goal is the completion of a successful capstone project, which students plan and execute in consultation with their faculty advisers. To this end, seminar participants will meet weekly to discuss each other’s projects and present their own work-in-progress for evaluation. The second goal of the seminar is to encourage reflective engagement on the medium of film itself—a necessary step for any student doing advanced critical or creative work in the field. To this end, participants will also be expected to complete weekly assignments that demand close attention to the language of films and the fundamentals of film theory, as well as extensive consideration of other audiovisual forms. Weekly assignments will pair films by Francis Ford Coppola, Alfred Hitchcock, Spike Lee, Fritz Lang, Errol Morris, F.W. Murnau, Yazujiro Ozu, Pixar, Jean Renoir, Preston Sturges, and Jacques Tati with theoretical essays by Jean-Louis Baudry, André Bazin, Jay David Bolter, David Bordwell, Michel Chion, Sergei Eisenstein, Richard Grusin, Laura Mulvey, Janet Staiger, and Kristin Thompson, among others.The semester will culminate with a public event, during which seminar participants showcase portions of their work to members of the Georgetown community.
WRIT 015: Film and Writing –
This course looks to the medium of cinema to help students develop as writers and thinkers. “Film and Writing” is not a comprehensive survey of film masterpieces. Nor will the assignments on our syllabus attempt to encompass any single tradition or period in the history of cinema. Rather, the course examines a set of aesthetically significant feature-length films to help students learn the language of film style and appreciate the cultural power of motion pictures. In the process, we will develop tools to help us understand how images make meaning, and we will consider how thinking critically about film can improve our approach to written communication. Films on our screening list will include: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene), Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee), M (Fritz Lang), His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks), The Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir), Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock), The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola), and Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog)—among several others. Students will also have the opportunity to choose a contemporary film to work with for three writing projects due in the second half of the semester.