Spring 2015 Course Offerings

I will post the day and time that registration opens for the spring whenever I receive that information. For now, here is a look at the seven courses schedule to run in the spring, along with the professors running them:

ENGL 508: History of Drama in English:
  • Dr. Richard Medoff

This course will study selected dramatic works from the vantage of the cultures of the historical epochs they are embedded in. It will use a chronological approach, beginning with the drama in England: the medieval mystery cycles and morality plays; the emergence of secular drama in the 16th century and earlier 17th century, focusing on the precursors and contemporaries of Shakespeare; Restoration drama; the development of sentimentalism and the adaptation of drama to an increasingly middle class audience in the 18th Century; the closet drama of the Romantic era; 19th-century melodrama in Britain and America; and the emergence of the modern theater in the United Kingdom and the United States. 3 credits.

ENGL 514: James and Lawrence:
  • Dr. Sean Dugan

I have long been interested and intrigued by the question of how one attains personal and social freedom in a society that seems to reward conformity. Is it possible? Or, does one pay a price, social, professional, emotional, for such attempts? Two writers from two different worlds–the American Henry James, the son of a wealthy philosopher, and the English D.H. Lawrence, the son of a coal miner and a factory worker–differ in writing style and subject yet explore the complexities of an industrialized society and personal relationships. We will read novels and short stories by each, including Lawrence’s The Rainbow and Women in Love, James’s The Ambassadors and Portrait of a Lady, as well as selected short stories. We will explore the stylistics, the characterization, and the themes in order to answer the question of how one resolves, if at all, conflicting demands of society’s expectations and the an individual’s quest for an understanding of self and of happiness. 3 credits.

ENGL 515: Sport Literature:
  • Dr. David Kilpatrick
Why do we tell stories about sport? Why does sport so readily offer itself to storytelling? What is sport? What is literature? How do these distinct cultural spheres interact and inform one another?
Sport is arguably the most popular cultural sphere in contemporary society. Sport means so much to so many yet so few have come to terms with the meaning of sport. If sport reveals character (ethos) that is because we make meaning of sport through narrative conventions. While we process sport as literature with the stories we tell, of our heroes and/or ourselves, this mimetic impulse uses narrative to represent and interpret sporting events as well as inspire texts of creative nonfiction and fiction that extend sport beyond the physical action in time and space to the imagined action in the space of literature.
Often sport and literature are viewed as antithetical cultural modes. The ontotheological tradition is grounded in the binary opposition of the spiritual and physical. Consequently, representations of the body and its actions are viewed as a corruptive influence, distracting from spiritual/intellectual concerns. Sport literature challenges this binary, rejecting the dualism of mind and body as reductive and simplistic, rejecting the prejudice of high and low culture. Throughout this course we will consider: What methodologies might sport studies mimic or borrow from literary criticism? Are there unique and/or dominant narrative trends or concerns that appear in literary texts that address sporting subjects? How have representations of sport changed through time? Do certain sports lend themselves more readily to literature than others? Do certain sports inspire certain types of literature? Should sport literature be understood as a distinct genre and how might genre studies facilitate the scholarly engagement with sport literature? 3 credits.
ENGL 521: Themes and Genres of Medieval Literature:
  • Dr. David Fritz

This medieval literature course lays the foundation of the underpinnings of Western society’s literature for centuries after the first utterances of Anglo-Saxon literature became written. This class examines the literature of both women and men from The Book of Marjorie Kempe to The Canterbury Tales. We will see how the influence of the church is seminal in preserving and in perpetuating the literature of this time. That said, medieval literature offers today’s student a foundational knowledge of literature as well as an exploration into oft-neglected authors whose works didn’t make it into the canon. 3 credits.

ENGL 540: Magic in Literature:
  • Dr. Boria Sax

This course examines alchemy, together with related activities that now impress us as “magical,” as a virtually all-inclusive discipline which laid much of the foundation for later literature, art, and science. It looks at the beginnings of alchemy in the ancient world, and how these developed, along with the revival of Classical learning, in the Renaissance. Finally, it looks at the continuing influence of magic in Romantic, Modern, and Post-Modern literature and culture. Readings include works by Hesiod, Ben Johnson, Shakespeare, E. T. A. Hoffmann, J. R. Rowling and others. Textbooks include The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age by Frances Yates. 3 credits.

ENGL 545: Literature of the Left Bank, Paris:
  • Dr. Christopher Loots

This course will examine the people, culture, and modernist writings of the expatriate community of the Parisian Left Bank during the early and mid twentieth century. This will include an exploration of the significance of Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare & Company bookstore and lending library, and of intellectual and artistic salons such as those of Natalie Barney and Gertrude Stein. The course will additionally consider the doings and writings of expatriate authors moving through or closely associated with the Left Bank’s modernist enterprise: e.g., Edith Wharton, Mina Loy, Ernest Hemingway, Andre Breton, Nancy Cunard, Zelda Fitzgerald, James Joyce, H.D., Janet Flanner, and James Baldwin. An emphasis will be placed on studying the cultural geography of this location which attracted many of the world’s great artists and gave rise to numerous works now considered twentieth century literary masterpieces. In addition to reading primary sources of our authors, we’ll read throughout the semester from Shari Benstock’s Women of the Left Bank: Paris, 1900-1940. 3 credits.

ENGL 560: Afropolitanism:
  • Dr. Donald Morales

The term “Afropolitanism,” a word coined by Taiye Selasi in a 2005 essay, is generally defined as young, well-educated African, and by extension, Caribbean artists with global and multicultural sensibilities who have settled in a number of cosmopolitan capitals in Europe and North America. In the literary world, these artists have produced intriguing works that describe their hybrid status and identity but also defy categorization–Selasi argues, “the practice of categorizing literature by the continent from which its creators come is past its prime at best.” “Afropolitanism,” has also engendered a lot of criticism and controversy. Kenyan writer, Binyavanga Wainaina, labels it an “empty style and culture commodification.” This course tackles the concept of “Afropolitanism” in a variety of ways. In addition to introducing the student to a new generation of African/Caribbean writers–Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie [Americanah], Zadie Smith [On Beauty], Edwidge Danticat [Dew Breaker], Teju Cole [Open City], Taiye Selasi [Ghana Must Go], there is also the opportunity to include transplanted dramatists [Roy Williams, Kwame Kwei-Armah, Debbie Tucker Green, Bola Agbaje] in London who have created a number of powerful dramas around the same subject. 3 credits.

Regarding some changes you might see to course numbers for Spring 2015:

Hi everyone, I don’t yet have the info on when the spring registration opens (when I do find out I will post the date and precise minute it opens here on this blog). But I will share with you in the next blog post the seven courses we will be running for the Spring 2015 semester. First though, as some changes are scheduled to be implemented before the spring, let me here share with you some information about what you might see, and why.

Currently the curriculum and requirement structure looks like this:

  • ENGL 500: Theory and Practice of Literary Criticism (required)
  • ENGL 501-502: British Literature pre-1700 courses
  • ENGL 503-504: British Literature Post-1700 courses
  • ENGL 505-509: Eligible as electives
  • ENGL 510: Theory and Practice of Expository Writing (required)
  • ENGL 511, 512, 513: American Literature
  • ENGL 514: Major Author Shell (in which runs any new author-specific course on an experimental basis
  • ENGL 515 Topic Course Shell (in which runs any new course on an experimental basis)
  • ENGL 516: Thesis Seminar (required)

As you can see, all of the courses are tightly packed together from 500 to 516. This has worked well up to now but moving forward we wanted to open up the numbering a bit so that the curriculum could grow, and so that related courses would remain close to one another while doing so. The Registrar has allowed us to expand our graduate catalog range throughout 500-599. In the spring, then, catalog numbers and groupings will look like this:

  • ENGL 500 stays the same.
  • ENGL 505-510, and 517, are now together considered the “Writing and Literary Forms” grouping.
  • ENGL 514 and 515 remain as shells in which to run experimental courses. Courses running with these codes will default to electives, or can, as applicable, be slotted to work for degree requirements. So for example the Afropolitanism course running as a 515 in the spring will default to an elective, but I can easily (and am happy to) make it count for a Literature Group 2 requirement in the new structure (see below), or an American requirement in the old structure. Sames goes for the spring 515 James and Lawrence, which I could make count as either a Group 1 or Group 2 requirement (again, see just below for an explanation of these two groups). Substitutions like that can happen simply by asking me.
  • ENGL 521-540. Literature Group 1. Courses in Group 1 will tend toward British and European literature but not be bound by this, and can involve other literatures as well. And no course in this group is necessarily bound by era anymore. So a course such as Tragedy can cover materials from Classical to Modern eras and still make sense within this grouping. (The existing ENGL 501, 502, 503 and 504 will be renumbered to fit into this group as ENGL 521, 522, 524, and 526).
  • ENGL 541-560. Literature Group 2. Courses in Group 2 will tend toward American literature but not be bound by this, and can involve other literatures as well. And so courses that study Caribbean literature, or which mix American and Japanese literature, might fit well in this group. (The existing ENGL 511 and 512 will be renumbered to fit into this group as ENGL 541 and 542).
  • ENGL 561-598. Courses with these numbers will be eligible for electives.
  • ENGL 516 Thesis Seminar becomes ENGL 599 Master’s Thesis Tutorial. Other than the number and title the course functions in exactly the same way as it always has. In this way the culminating course in the program is 599, the last course in the graduate level 500-599 course number range.

The ten-course degree audit, meaning the chart of the 10 course requirements you would need to fulfill to complete the MA degree, will look like this:

  1. ENGL 500
  2. ENGL 505, 506, 507, 508, 509, 510, or 517
  3. ENGL 521-540 (any course in this range)
  4. ENGL 541-560 (any course in this range)
  5. ENGL 521-560 (any course in this range)
  6. Elective (any course from 501-598)
  7. Elective (any course from 501-598)
  8. Elective (any course from 501-598)
  9. Elective (any course from 501-598)
  10. ENGL 599

There will be some adjustments behind-the-scenes here during the change-over as I go through your transcripts and make notes on how your courses work toward your degree. As I’ve said, you will lose absolutely nothing, and will if anything find your progress to the degree easier and filled with more choices. As a final note, all of this is contingent upon these changes actually being implemented in time for spring. We have been told that it will. Your graduate advisors won’t yet know about this or how it will play out, so you should contact me with any questions. Cloots@mercy.edu.

Welcome to the 2014-15 School Year:

Welcome, everyone, to the 2014-15 school year of the Mercy College Master of Arts in English Literature program. I hope all of you have had a fine summer and are returning (or coming for the first time) to our virtual campus full of curiosity and energy.

For some of you this online learning environment might be a new thing. Even for some of you who have been with us for a time, the online learning environment presents its own set of challenges. I hope you’ll keep an eye out for one another in your virtual classrooms, for anyone who seems to be struggling with the technical (or other) aspects of virtual learning, and that you won’t hesitate to reach out to one another to say hello and see if you might be of some help. Of course there are a number of technical support features available (look in the left-hand menu of your Blackboard sections for helpful links). And you should feel free to contact your professors with specific issues and questions. But even just a note to another student through the Blackboard email feature can sometimes make the difference between a student feeling like they’re on a virtual island, and feeling like they’re connecting to the course and to the student community.

One thing I’d like us to work on increasing this year is the feeling of an online student community. And toward that end the faculty are working on some initiatives behind the scenes (still trying get approval for an informal, non-Blackboard real-time chat room for all MA students). In the meantime I encourage each of you to try and build your own student-to-student connections in the class and outside of it. Trade email addresses, trade phone numbers if you’re comfortable doing that; create informal study groups on your own, through your own email or skype exchanges.

Of course all of you should know that as the Program Head I am here for you. And each of you can write to me at any time if you have any questions, issues, worries, or comments concerning your experience or progress in the program. Additionally, although each of you has an academic advisor, I can also assist each of you in understanding program requirements and course selection. I’m happy to hear from you, and happy to talk or (much more easily) trade emails. I work with the advising department to try and make sure each one of you is taken care of and is on track for the degree. Just think of me as your personal faculty advisor.

Let’s talk about some program news:

As those who read this blog know, we’ve been working behind the scenes here on a slightly evolved program structure that will give you more freedom and choice when it comes to determining how you will earn your degree. That was approved by the College this past spring and I’ve received word that the Registrar is updating our program information in her system right now, and that the new structure will take effect in Spring 2015. How will that effect you and your progress toward the degree? Either not at all, or only positively. The changes only expand the options students have for meeting degree requirements.

So for example all students in the current/old structure are required to complete ENGL 510, Theory and Practice of Expository Writing. That’s a fine class, and we’ll still continue to offer it. But it’s always bothered some of us here that there are no alternatives to it. It can provide invaluable preparation for students who aspire to teach composition and expository writing, but that doesn’t describe the ambitions of every student in our program. Some of you are creative writers and are here primarily to hone and inspire your craft. Some of you are really here just for literary study, and might not want to devote one of your ten required courses to a class more associated with a Composition and Rhetoric pursuit. We know for a fact that many of you agree, based on the surveys and polls I sent around last year (I sent survey links to all of the student email addresses on file with Mercy). And so in Spring 2015, rather than being required to take 510, you will have a choice of courses to take to complete what we’re calling your “Writing and Literary Forms” requirement. You may take 510 to meet that requirement, or you may elect to take Advanced Creative Writing instead; or to take any one of the literary forms courses we offer (on the epic, poetic, essay, narrative, and dramatic forms). All of the upcoming changes will be just like this: expansion of choices. No one will lose anything. All completed or in-progress work will count toward your degree as it has.

Throughout this school year I will post updates and other information about these changes on this blog, as they are implemented. Once we have the final word from the Registrar I will finalize the draft of the Student Handbook currently available on the left-hand side of this blog, and will replace that draft with an official Student Handbook that will detail every little thing you might want to know about all of this. And as we roll out the new structure, you can and should of course contact me personally at any time with any questions you have about any of it. I will make sure you’re taken care of, and that your progress to your degree will be clear.

Upcoming course offerings:

Within the next week I will be posting here the Spring 2015 course offerings. There will be seven courses total. In addition to some program standards, we’ll be running a selection of eclectic courses which I hope you’ll find interesting. As a quick preview: Professor Sax will be running a Magic in Literature course. Professors Sax is one of the world’s foremost scholars on animals in literature, and on esoteric, hermetic, and mythological literatures. Dr. Kilpatrick, who over the past year has presented and attended conferences from Istanbul to England on topics involving the philosophy of sport, will be leading a special running of the course Sport Literature. Professor Dugan will be running a new course focusing just on the writings of Henry James and D. H. Lawrence. And Professor Emeritus Donald Morales will do our program a great boon when he returns to teach a course on the subject and literature of Afropolitanism, on which he has been presenting this year at conferences in Ghana, England, and Finland. Check here soon for a complete list of Spring 2015 courses, and for more details about what each one of these courses will cover. I’ll also share with you the day and time that spring registration opens.

As you proceed into your classes this school year, I want each of you to recognize and be proud of the fact that you are an adventurer, are an explorer. It takes a certain courage and an adventurous spirit to pursue a graduate degree in the arts. As with adventurers from ages past, it’s likely that some of you have people in your life who don’t quite understand or appreciate your pursuit. It’s often difficult to explain to someone else just why literature and the study of it is so important to you; why your pursuit does matter, deeply. There are some practical ends that the M.A. can lead to: with it you can apply to full-time professorships at junior colleges and other teaching opportunities; it can look good on a resume when applying to traditional English-based careers like editing, publishing, and various writing positions. But aside from all of that, and very often before all of that, I think the first burst which propels someone into graduate literary study is a pure love of literature, of words, of writing, and of thinking. You don’t have to explain your love of these things here among the virtual halls and your fellow students and faculty. You are among friends. You have only to get into the joyous work of reading, thinking, discussing, and exploring these things together with one another. Have a great year everyone,

Christopher Loots
Program Head, Master of Arts in English Literature