San Jose State University : Department of English & Comparative Literature

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Fall 2008 Courses - Graduate


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201 Materials and Methods of Literary Research (Prof. Fleck)

Graduate School Boot Camp (Tues, 7-9:45pm)

In this required course, students will practice the skills necessary for survival in the SJSU Masters Program. Students will learn the basics of bibliography and the resources available for conducting thorough literary research. An introduction to literary history and a smattering of theoretical approaches will be included as well. Students will make several presentations, work together on several group projects, and complete one longer essay.

201C  Materials and Methods of Literary Production (Prof. Soldofsky)

(Tues, 7-9:45pm)

This course introduces Creative Writing graduate students to the resources, traditions, techniques, and culture associated with the field of Creative Writing both inside and outside academia.  The class will study the role of the individual writer within the literary and academic communities, and explore various forms of literary activity that commonly support "the literary life."  A creative writer's work is both a personal journey toward increasingly masterful artistic expression as well as an increasing understanding of what the literary world requires of a writer as a professional. In 201C students will learn to use dominant and alternative literary magazines and publishers, book review indexes, academic journals, and online and other electronic resources.  Students will produce a brief annotated bibliography of a contemporary writer, write a book review (for a magazine you have researched), a personal essay, a conference paper, and a book proposal.  By means of this course, they will learn to apply their knowledge of these of real-world tasks to their own writing, in their other courses, and in fulfilling the MFA requirements. This course is a co-requisite for students in the MFA program to be taken with their first graduate writing workshop or first graduate literature seminar.  The course fulfills the Graduate Studies requirement in written communication.

203  Narrative Craft and Theory (Prof. Engell)  

(Tues, 4-6:45pm)

We will study several short stories and one novel by each of the following:  Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charles Chesnutt, Willa Cather, Eudora Welty, and T.C. Boyle. (The five novels are The Blithedale Romance, The Marrow of Tradition, My Antonia, The Optimist's Daughter, and The Tortilla Curtain.)   We will focus on learning about the differences in the narrative craft of the story and the novel through studying both short and book-length fiction as created by each writer.  Though we will discuss developments in narrative theory, the primary emphasis will be on craft.  Every student will deliver five focused oral presentations, each accompanied by a handout and a short two-page critical essay.  Every student will write two pieces of fiction 5-12 pages long, each of which will emulate the narrative style and techniques of one of the author's studied.  This is a course designed for both M.F.A. and M.A. students.  

227 Seminar in Comedy: Men’s Parts, Women’s Roles: Transvestite Comedy through the Restoration (Prof. Eastwood)

(Mon, 7-9:45pm)

Until 1660, all theatrical roles were played by men.  So, when Romeo and Juliet breathlessly say goodbye on the balcony, the audience accepts the performance of femininity offered by the boy under the dress.  But in Shakespeare’s comedies, the performance of gender becomes itself the focus, as the playwright gives us characters like Rosalind, Portia, and Viola who, while playing the role of “women,” assume “male” identities, and try to pass (with varying degrees of conviction) as men.  In Middleton and Dekker’s The Roaring Girl, the title character was based on a well-known actual 17th century transvestite—Mary Firth—who roamed the streets of London dressed as a man.  When women took the stage in 1660, they played male roles as well, acting in “breeches parts,” as well as the traditional female characters. 

This course approaches the dramatic mode of comedy from a critical perspective that takes such issues into account and historicizes them.  Some questions that will guide our reading include: Do these performances destabilize gender difference, or reaffirm it?  How much of a role does sexual desire play in such performances?  How might these performances have responded to social controversies over the role of women in the early modern period?  What is the relationship between cross-dressing on the street and cross-dressing on stage?  What is the relationship between role-playing on stage, and the development and transformation of sexual identity?  Since we will be reading plays by men and women, how might the gender of the author shape the performance of gender by her/his characters on stage? 

Beginning with a solid grounding in the genre of comedy, we will read plays from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.  The reading list will probably include (but won’t be limited to) the following:

Shakespeare: As You Like It, Twelfth Night, The Merchant of Venice, and The Merry Wives of Windsor. Other Authors:Middleton and Dekker’s The Roaring Girl (and Moll Firth’s autobiography); Beumont and Fletcher, The Maid’s Tragedy; Ben Johnson’s Epiocene or the Silent Woman; Aphra Behn’s The Widow Ranter ; Thomas Southerne’s Sir Anthony Love or the Rambling Lady; Charlotte Charke’s  The Art of Management (and her autobiography); Henry Fielding, The Historical Register for the Year 1736; Charles Shadewell, The Humors of the Army; or the Female Officer; Critical texts by Judith Butler, Marjorie Garber, Stephen Orgel, Kathryn Shevelow, and others.

232 British Romanticism: Madness and British Romanticism (Prof. Harris)

"Hail, awful Madness, hail!" – Thomas Penrose, "Madness" (1775; 1808) (Thurs, 7-9:45pm)

According to Thomas Arnold, in Observations Concerning . . . Madness (1782-86) "[s]ome of the most powerful causes of . . . Insanity are –religion,–love,–commerce, and the various passions which attend the desire, pursuit, and acquisition of riches,–every species of  luxury,–and all violent and permanent attachments whatever" (15, 25). By 1798, the definition of madness was revised to include the social, political and cultural upheaval that was caused by the Industrial Revolution and the disintegration of Enlightenment reason. Advances in science and technology as well as experimentation in literary genres signaled this change and the acceptance of insanity as a medical condition sparked a debate about the disease’s victims and society’s responsibility. In other words, madness became a disease caused by all facets of British society. In this course, we will investigate the demarcations of madness in poetry, novels, short stories and historical accounts published 1780 to 1837. We will begin with Arnold’s  Observations and literary accounts of that famous insane asylum, Bedlam/Bethlem. Arnold proposes that the British are more susceptible to madness (or insanity) because its citizens are allowed to better themselves by "acquiring opulence." This, in turn, gives "birth to the desires, fears, anxieties, disappointments, and other affections which accompany the pursuit, or possession, of riches" (21). We’ll see if this is true. Authors may include Charlotte Smith, William Wordsworth, Samuel T. Coleridge, Felicia Hemans, Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, Dorothy Wordsworth, Lord Byron, William Blake, Mary Lamb, Sir Walter Scott, Mary Robinson, Lady Caroline Lamb, among others. This course serves as both an introduction to Romantic studies as well as an exploration of particular themes within its literature. Assignments include brief essays, weekly reading responses, an oral presentation and a long research essay.

240  Poetry Writing Workshop: Poetry as Spiritual Journey (Prof. Karim)

(Thurs, 4-6:45pm)

In this graduate poetry workshop we will attempt to understand and realize in our work, the close link between poetry and the journey of the spirit. We will draw inspiration from poetry of many great spiritual and religious traditions--from poet-mystics like Rumi and Hafez of Iran, to Basho of Japan, to the great Chinese poets Lao Tzu and Li Po as well as Christian mystics such St. Tomas of Aquinas and Blake. Beyond the explicitly spiritual and religious poets, we'll also read the works of other contemporary poets who transform the human experiences of love, loss, death, joy, revelation, and beauty and capture them in language and various poetic forms. We will have a daily practice of poetry writing and will have regular workshop of poems. We will also visit several sites of spiritual contemplation--these might include visits to the Buddhist Church of San Jose, Filoli, the Coast, or Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco. By the end of the course, you  will have amassed a formidable collection of poems, and a journal where you've reflected on the spiritual journey of your writing practice.

English 241: Fiction Writing Workshop (Prof. Taylor)

(Wed, 7-9:45pm)

This course is a graduate fiction writing workshop. Participants will submit work on a regular schedule, with each student having his or her work discussed at least three times over the course of the semester. For pedagogical reasons, students are strongly encouraged to submit short stories. One of the three submissions may be a substantial revision. Regular assigned readings of published work will supplement our discussion.

English 241 is a course required for students in the MFA program whose primary or secondary genre is fiction.  Students in the MA program who write fiction at the advanced level may also be admitted (space permitting) with the instructor's permission.  The course may be repeated twice for credit. Conditionally classified graduate students must also obtain the instructor's permission to enroll in the course.

242 Nonfiction Writing Workshop (Prof. Miller)

(Thurs, 4-6:45pm)

In this course we will explore the many facets of Creative Nonfiction, a genre that mixes the accuracy of factual reportage with the techniques of fiction writing and the reflective insights of the essayist.  The various works we write in this class will leave a nonfiction record of our worlds as we see them today, experimenting with memoir, biography, travel writing and features.  Students will be assigned short pieces each week to prime the creative pump and generate new ideas.  Workshops will be devoted to critiquing your work in a supportive, constructive environment.  And as the MFA is a professional degree, we will begin your metamorphosis into becoming a professional writer.

255 California Visions: Conquering, Questing, Conserving (Prof. Shillinglaw)

(Wed, 4-6:45pm)

California is the golden land, where padres and miners and immigrants found visionary space—or did not. Focusing on key 19th and 20th century texts (and two films), we will discuss the peoples and visions of California and how land use, water rights, ethnic diversity, and ecological sensibilities shaped the state. Texts may include: The Literature of California, Hicks, Houston, Kingston, Young; Ramona, Helen Hunt Jackson; The Octopus, Frank Norris; The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler; The Day of the Locust, Nathanael West; Big Sur, Jack Kerouac; Cannery Row, John Steinbeck; China Men, Maxine Hong Kingston.  Selected readings from Cadillac Desert, Marc Reisner; Slouching Toward Bethlehem, Joan Didion; and Robinson Jeffers’s poetry. Films students should be familiar with include Chinatown and Mulholland Drive.

256  Twentieth Century British Literature (Prof. Wilson)

(Mon, 4-6;45pm)

The first half of the course will be devoted to a study of novels by Conrad, Joyce, Lawrence, Woolf, Beckett, and Amis. The second will cover the poetry of Yeats, Auden, Thomas, Larkin, Heaney, McGuckian, Carson, and Muldoon.

259 Seminar in Composition Studies (Prof. Cullen) 

(Mon, 7-9:45pm)

English 259 is a prerequisite or co-requisite for Teaching Associates and is highly recommended for any student, M.A. or M.F.A., who contemplates teaching writing as part of her or his career.  The course will address a broad range of topics in composition studies, including how students write and revise, how teachers evaluate compositions, and how instructors can design effective courses for a diverse student community.  The seminar will address both highly practical issues (grading, plagiarism, holistic scoring, etc.) and those with a more theoretical flavor (liberating education, second-language acquisition, and many more).  The focus will be on college composition, but individual students may investigate writing instruction at other levels.  The required reading load will be relatively light by graduate seminar standards, so expect to do very substantial independent research.  Major assignments will include a seminar paper/project and a presentation or two to the class.  Students will also be required to observe at least two college writing classes.


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