Category Archives: Course Information

ENGL 560 Cultural Impact of Black Lives Matter Is Now Open to ALL Students, Including Those Who Took 560 Literary Accretion of Black Lives Matter

Previously on this blog I wrote that those who had taken 560 Literary Accretion of Black Lives could not take the 560 Cultural Impact of Black Lives Matter, since it seemed at the time that the courses would be the same or too similar. That has changed, and now ALL students can take this 560 Cultural Impact course, including those who previously took the Literary Accretion course. This is because Dr. Morales has been working on the new syllabus and description for Cultural Impact, and has shared that this new course will involve all new readings. In fact those who took Literary Accretion should find Cultural Impact particularly interesting. Here is the new course description Dr. Morales has provided:

In the fall of 2020, ENGL 560 the “Literary Accretion of Black Lives Matter” viewed the movement through foundational literature that presaged a global phenomenon. This new course for the spring 2022, the “Cultural Impact of Black Lives Matter,” looks at the early “progress” [statis?] of this movement in American culture focusing on the arts and literature. Columnist Perry Bacon says we are in the midst of a Black Renaissance. The 138-year-old Metropolitan opera in NY reopened its doors with Terrance Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up My Bones, a first for a black composer. Tanzanian Abdulrazak Gurnah became the first black since Toni Morrison to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. The NYT’s  fall theatre preview lead with “Broadway Is Brimming With Black Playwrights. But for How Long?” However, November’s [2021] gubernatorial race in Virginia saw the Republican, Glenn Youngkin, win the cultural wars using Toni Morrison’s Beloved as his whipping horse. There is a burgeoning backlash against “wokespeak” as even liberals complain of its use [“I’m exhausted by the constant need to be wary or you’ll instantly be labeled racist or anti-trans.”] The final question for the previous “Literary Accretion” course was “is this a momentary period of protest or a defining movement ushering in profound change?” “Cultural Impact of Black Lives Matter” will further investigate this with a variety of readings and media presentations.

Spring 2022 Registration Opens Wednesday 11/3 (Priority 10/27)

General registration for spring 2022 will open on 11/3 at approximately 9am eastern; it opens when the Registrar toggles it on that morning, which will be about 9am eastern. Priority registration opens earlier on 10/27. Priority is mostly for undergrad honors students and athletes but it also includes grad veterans and active military, so anyone who meets that criteria should contact Erika Tremblay in PACT (etremblay@mercy.edu) about priority registration access. Registering for courses promptly early on the day when registration opens is the only way to ensure you get your preferred schedule. Some courses fill up fast; some even fill up within a few hours. So if you have courses you know you want to take this spring, I would set an alarm.

One change to the tentative schedule provided in last month’s welcome post is that the Shakespeare course won’t be running. That course will now likely run in fall 2022. Spring course descriptions are as follows:

  • 510 Theory and Practice of Expository Writing (Dr. Proszak)

In this course, students learn about how writing has been studied and theorized across writing studies and related disciplines. The course specifically focuses on cultural issues endemic to writing and how race, ethnicity, gender, and class enter into conversations on writing instruction and assessment. Students who take this course will understand how writing functions across contexts and communities, including within higher education. All course texts will be scanned or available online. Readings will include chapters from A Short History of Writing InstructionNaming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies and chapters from texts on the open-access WAC Clearinghouse, including Situating Writing ProcessesWriting Assessment, Social Justice, and the Advancement of OpportunityGenre in a Changing WorldFulfills the Writing & Literary Forms field requirement or an elective.

  • 514 Borges & Cortázar – Argentine Literature (Dr. Reissig-Vasile)

This course examines the major contributions that the Argentine writers Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortázar have made to world literature. Argentina was not only the first country in Latin America with an urban culture but also the place where European modernity had a significant impact. Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortázar echoed and continued the experiments of modern European literature but gave to that tradition a particularly South American perspective. Issues such as politics and censorship, the fantastic in literature, and urban and rural conflicts will be examined through some of the major works of these (and perhaps of other) Argentinian writers. Fulfills an elective by default, but upon request can work for a Lit Group 2 field requirement.

  • 515 Graphic Novel (Dr. Medoff)

In this course we will explore the ways in which meanings emerge in several celebrated texts of the graphic novel genre, as well as some emerging classics. Our readings of these texts will be informed by a diversity of theoretical perspectives, including visual culture studies, postmodernism and intersectionality. We will interrogate the relationships between the concepts “graphic novel” or “comic book” and “popular culture,” with each of us bringing our lived experiences to our readings and discussions. Through in-depth studies of several primary texts, including Watchmen, Maus, Fun Home, and V for Vendetta, we will learn how graphic novelists use and manipulate historical and contemporary social issues as the building blocks for their art. Fulfills an elective by default, but upon request can work for the Writing & Literary Forms field requirement.

  • 522 Humanism in Renaissance Texts (Dr. Fritz)

This course will focus on humanism and the concepts arising from it in relation to the production and appreciation of literature during the Renaissance. The revival of interest in the arts and ideas of Greco-Roman antiquity and the dependence of Renaissance thought on classical themes will be among the issues discussed. Readings could include (but aren’t limited to) works by Shakespeare, Marlowe, Machiavelli, More, and Spenser, among others. Fulfills a Literature Group 1 field requirement or an elective.

  • 523 Tragedy (Dr. Kilpatrick)

This course explores the history and theory of tragedy as both dramatic genre and philosophical motif. Beginning with its origins in ancient Greek ritual, the course traces a history of the genre to the present, with emphasis on the classical and English literary traditions. The course considers such elements as: the relationship between tragedy and the tragic; the role tragedy plays in the histories of Western drama and ideas; ways in which tragedy is distinct from other dramatic genres, such as comedy and melodrama; the essential elements of tragedy; comparisons between Classical and Elizabethan tragedy; and the possibility of modern tragedy. Fulfills a Literature Group 1 field requirement or an elective.

  • 524 Reason & Imagination (Dr. Sax)

This study of English literature between 1650 and 1850 examines Neoclassicism and Romanticism as two opposed aesthetic and philosophical stances. It traces the political, ideological, and literary roots of Neoclassicism in the English “Glorious Revolution” of 1688, the late seventeenth-century growth of rationalism and empirical science, followed by the flowering of Neoclassicism and then the shift in sensibility that led to the emergence of Romanticism. Fulfills a Literature Group 1 field requirement or an elective.

  • 543 The American Renaissance (Dr. Loots)

This course will study representative American writings from “The American Renaissance,” a period during the mid-nineteenth century (roughly 1832 to 1865) which saw the rise of the first truly non-Colonial, non-Revolutionary body of national literature; a literature which no longer concerned itself with European precedent, engagement, or approval. When F.O. Matthiessen coined the term “The American Renaissance” in 1941 he did so in light of five monumental American works by five different writers, all produced within five years (1850-55): Emerson (Representative Men), Thoreau (Walden), Melville (Moby Dick), Hawthorne (The Scarlet Letter), and Whitman (Leaves of Grass). Since Matthiessen’s time the notion of an American Renaissance has come to encompass a greater diversity of works, writers, and perspectives from this era. In this course we’ll read selections from across this American Renaissance, most likely engaging works by: Harriett Jacobs; Frederick Douglass; Harriet Beecher Stowe; Frances Harper; Sojourner Truth; Margaret Fuller; Sara Willis (Fanny Fern); as well as Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman and Melville.  Fulfills either a Literature Group 2 field requirement or an elective

  • 560 Cultural Impact of Black Lives Matter (Dr. Morales)

NOW OPEN TO ALL STUDENTS including those who previously took 560 Literary Accretion of Black Lives Matter.

This course explores the dynamics of the racial turmoil that has disrupted this nation in ways much like during the civil rights era of the sixties. The question arises: is this a momentary period of protest or a In the fall of 2020, ENGL 560 the “Literary Accretion of Black Lives Matter” viewed the movement through foundational literature that presaged a global phenomenon. This new course for the spring 2022, the “Cultural Impact of Black Lives Matter,” looks at the early “progress” [statis?] of this movement in American culture focusing on the arts and literature. Columnist Perry Bacon says we are in the midst of a Black Renaissance. The 138-year-old Metropolitan opera in NY reopened its doors with Terrance Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up My Bones, a first for a black composer. Tanzanian Abdulrazak Gurnah became the first black since Toni Morrison to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. The NYT’s  fall theatre preview lead with “Broadway Is Brimming With Black Playwrights. But for How Long?” However, November’s [2021] gubernatorial race in Virginia saw the Republican, Glenn Youngkin, win the cultural wars using Toni Morrison’s Beloved as his whipping horse. There is a burgeoning backlash against “wokespeak” as even liberals complain of its use [“I’m exhausted by the constant need to be wary or you’ll instantly be labeled racist or anti-trans.”] The final question for the previous “Literary Accretion” course was “is this a momentary period of protest or a defining movement ushering in profound change?” “Cultural Impact of Black Lives Matter” will further investigate this with a variety of readings and media presentations. Fulfills a Literature Group 2 field requirement or an elective.


Note: students throughout their MA career can take multiple instances of different courses running by the course codes of 514, 515, 540, and 560. These are generic catalog codes under which many newer and experimental courses cycle into the schedule. So for example a student could take 540 Magic in Literature and 540 Shakespeare & Film and both courses would count for the degree, since they are different courses even though they are running by the same catalog number.

Book-order info for these spring 2022 courses will be provided here on the blog in a future post.

Semester Begins Wednesday 9/8

Just a reminder to the graduate community that the fall 2021 semester begins on Wednesday 9/8, aka tomorrow from the time of writing this. I will be sharing a welcome letter to the community here on the blog later this week, but for now I just want to wish everyone a great first day of the semester. Please note that there is no particular time during the day on 9/8 when a course must open. Some professors will open their course first thing in the morning, others might open the course in the evening after getting home from the campus. All courses will open sometime on 9/8.

new Fall Course now on the schedule: 542 African-American Lit [update]

Because our graduate English program is attracting a large amount of interest and well-qualified applicants, and because our fall offerings are almost at capacity with nearly two months to go before the school-year begins, we have added an additional course to the fall schedule: ENGL 542 African-American Literature.

Dr. Morales is running the course. Note that this 542 course is in the catalog as “Classics of African-American Lit” but Dr. Morales is mixing it up a bit so that the course can enfold contemporary situations and texts. The course description Dr. Morales has provided for this fall instance is as follows:

  • African-American literature has become an expansive field over the last several decades, which puts an instructor in a difficult position selecting texts and delimiting themes. As a result, this ENGL 542 African-American Literature course will focus on 20th and 21st century works, while thematically staying current with 21st century issues such as the critical race theory, 1619 project, confederate monuments–[re-slavery], reparations, Juneteenth, black identity. and more. The course will incorporate theoretical statements of DuBois, Locke, Hurston, Schuyler, Hughes, Thurman, Wright, Ellison, Baldwin, Gayle, Baraka, Morrison, Wilson. Students will analyze select 20th-century literary works, a list which is still being determined but could possibly include James Weldon Johnson’s Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, Jean Toomer’s Cane, Nella Larsen’s Passing, Richard Wright’s The Man Who lived Underground, along with select plays and poetry; and more recent works, possibly (and for example) Kaitlyn Greenidge’s historical fictional work, Libertie [2021], which parenthetically explores the draft race riots [1863] and repatriation of African Americans to Haiti. The reading list is still in the works, and will be shared in August, but all readings will work within the theme and description expressed here.

Note that students enrolled in existing fall courses who are interested in dropping from one of those courses to add this 542 African-American Lit course can do so. Students can change up their schedule however much they like (as long as available seats exist) up until the start of any semester. The only students who cannot take this course are students who have taken 542 previously. For help with or questions about enrolling in 542 or changing your existing course schedule, contact Erika Tremblay at etremblay@mercy.edu.

Book orders for fall 2021 courses (So far) (Updated 7/7)

Below is some info regarding book orders for fall 2021 courses. This will be updated throughout the summer as professors finalize their courses. Note that in many cases professors will supplement these materials with links, PDFs, and other materials provided in Blackboard during the semester. So what you’re seeing here might not spell all of what you’ll be studying in any particular class. The college’s online bookstore is here. Books do not need to be purchased from the college store. The MA program recommends supporting your local bookseller, if one still exists; or using Powells.com for new books, or Alibris.com for used books.

ENGL 500 DLA (Dr. Kilpatrick)

  • Leitch, Vincent B., et al, eds. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. W.W. Norton, 2010. ISBN: 9780393932928.

ENGL 500 DLB (Dr. Sax)

  • Leitch, Vincent B., et al, eds. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. W.W. Norton, 2010. ISBN: 9780393932928.
  • Shakespeare, William. Complete Sonnets. Dover, 1991, ISBN: 9780486266862.

ENGL 509 Perspectives on the Essay (Dr. Keckler)

  • Atwan, Robert, et al, eds. Best American Essays 2020. ISBN 9780358359913.

ENGL 515 Magic in Literature (Dr. Sax)

  • Hesiod. Theogony & Works and Days. Trans. M. L. West. New York: Oxford UP, 1991. ISBN:  9780192817884.
  • Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: Scholastic, 1997. ISBN 0439708184.
  • Roob, Alexander. Alchemy and Mysticism. Tachen: London, 2009. ISBN: 9783836517690 Updated: 9783836549363.
  • Sax, Boria. Imaginary Animals: The Monstrous, the Wondrous and the Human. London: Reaktion Books, 2013. ISBN: 1780231733.
  • Shakespeare, William. Twelfth Night. New York: Penguin, 2000. ISBN: 9780743482776. Updated: 978-0140714890.
  • Yates, Frances, The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age. New York: Routledge, 2003. ISBN: 0415254094.

ENGL 540 Vice to Virtue: Seven Deadly Sins Then & Now (Dr. Ward)

  • Marie de France: Poetry (First Edition) (Norton Critical Editions), (ISBN: 9780393932683) 
  • The Selected Canterbury Tales (ISBN: 9780393341782) 
  • Nine Medieval Romances of Magic (ISBN: 9781551119977) 
  • Piers Plowman: The C Version (ISBN: 9780812215618)

ENGL 545 Lit of the Left Bank Paris (Dr. Loots)

Much will be provided in Blackboard in the form of PDFs (e.g. stories by Edith Wharton, selections from Joyce’s Ulysses, poetry by H.D., fiction by Zelda Fitzgerald, essays and poems by Richard Wright, etc.). Students do not need to secure the specific editions listed below; any edition will do:

  • Baldwin, James. Giovanni’s Room. Vintage, 2013. ISBN: 9780345806567
  • Benstock, Shari. Women of the Left Bank Paris: 1900-1940. University of Texas Press, 1987. ISBN: 9780292790407. (This is out of print but there are dozens of used copies for sale on Alibris.com for cheap.)
  • Breton, Andre. Nadja. Grove Press, 1994. ISBN: 9780802150264
  • Hemingway, Ernest. A Moveable Feast – Restored Edition. Scribner, 2010. ISBN: 9781439182710. (If you have the original edition, that works fine too.)
  • Loy, Mina. The Lost Lunar Baedeker: Poems of Mina Loy. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997. ISBN: 9780374525071
  • Stein, Gertrude. Selected Writings of Gertrude Stein. Vintage, 1990. ISBN: 9780679724643. (We’ll be studying The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas.)

Recommended additional materials for those who want to go even deeper into the lit and culture of this era:

  • Baldwin, James. Notes of a Native Son. Beacon, 2012. ISBN: 9780807006238. (We won’t be studying this but it’s relevant to our units on Baldwin and Wright.)
  • Cunard, Nancy. The Poems of Nancy Cunard. Bodleian Library, 2005. ISBN: 9781842331071. (I will provide PDFs of what poetry in this we’ll be studying, but you might want to own the book.)
  • H.D. Trilogy: The Walls Do Not Fall; Tribute to the Angels; The Flowering of the Rod. New Directions, 1988. ISBN: 9780811213998. (I will provide PDFs of what poetry in this we’ll be studying, but you might want to own the book.)
  • Hemingway, Ernest. The Sun Also Rises. Scribner, 2014. ISBN: 9781476764528. (We won’t be studying this but it’s relevant to our unit on Hemingway.)
  • Fitzgerald, F Scott. Tender is the Night. Scribner, 1995. ISBN 9780684801544. (We won’t be studying this but it’s relevant to our unit on Zelda.)
  • Fitzgerald, Zelda. The Collected Writings of Zelda Fitzgerald. University of Alabama Press, 1997. (I will be providing a PDF of the Zelda work we’re studying, but if you’re interested in her you should own this.)
  • Wright, Richard. Native Son. Perennial Classics, 2005. ISBN: 9780060837563. (We won’t be studying this but it’s relevant to our unit on Wright.)

ENGL 560 Hip Hop Lit & Culture (Dr. Horton)

  • Decoded by Jay-Z (ISBN 9780812981155)
  • Rap on Trial: Race, Lyrics, and Guilt in America by Andrea Dennis and Erik Nielsen (ISBN 9781620973400)
  • The Plot against Hip Hop by Nelson George (ISBN 9781617750243)

Book-Order Info for Summer Courses

Below is some info about required materials for summer courses:

For ENGL 514 History of Textual Transmission, some materials will be available online and provided as links or PDFs, but there is one required book that will form the backbone of the course:

  • Michelle Levy and Tom Mole, eds., The Broadview Reader in Book History. ISBN: 978-1-55481-088-8.

ENGL 515 Mastering the Past – Literature & National Myths will require:

  • Euripides, The Trojan Women, trans. Alan Shapiro (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). ISBN: 978-0195179101.
  • Heym, Stefan, The King David Report (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1998), ISBN: 978-0810115378.
  • Ishiguro, Kazuo, The Buried Giant (New York: Vintage: 2016). ISBN: 978-0307455796.
  • Giuseppe de Lampedusa, The Leopard, trans. Archibald Colquhuon (New York: Pantheon, 2007). ISBN: 978-0375714795.
  • Sebald, W. G., The Natural History of Destruction, trans. Anthea Bell (New York: Modern Library, 2004). ISBN: 978-0375756573.
  • Alexander Solzhenitsyn. A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, no translator given (New York: Penguin/Berkeley, 2009). ISBN: 978-0451228147.

ENGL 517 Creative Writing will require:

  • Atwood, Margaret, Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing (Anchor Press, South Shore, MA, 2003). ISBN:  978-1400032600

And ENGL 525 Victorian Literature will require:

  • Braddon, Mary Elizabeth. Lady Audley’s Secret. Broadview Literary Texts, 2003. ISBN 978-1-55111-357-9.
  • Eliot, George. The Mill on the Floss. Dover Thrift Editions, 2003. ISBN 978-0-486-42680-8.
  • Dickens, Charles. Hard Times. Dover Thrift Editions, 2001. ISBN 978-0-486-41920-6
  • Stevenson, Robert Louis. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. 2019. ISBN 978-0-486-26688-6.

Fourth Summer Course Added to Schedule: ENGL 517 Creative Writing

Because our three originally-scheduled summer courses are full, and we have a number of people on the waitlists for seats, we have added a fourth course to the summer schedule. It is the program’s ENGL 517 Creative Writing course. It will be run by Dr. Sax. Everyone in the program interested in creative writing is welcome to enroll, no matter if you have any experience with creative writing. The course meets the Writing & Literary Forms requirement by default, and works as an elective.

UPDATED Summer and Fall 2021 Schedules and Registration Info

General registration for Summer and Fall 2021 opens simultaneously on 3/22; however early registration for veterans opens on 3/15. Registration typically begins about 9am eastern time. It is not on a timer and begins only when the Registrar personally activates the system, so it might not be at 9am sharp but it should start around that time. (Veterans who want to check that they are registered as such with the college should contact Erika Tremblay at etremblay@mercy.edu.)

Some courses do fill up quickly, some even early on the first day of registration. If a course you are interested in is full by the time you go to register, you can get on the waitlist for the course. Being on the waitlist often works out, but it’s best to register for the next-best courses you see available and get on the waitlist for preferred courses, just in case the waitlist does not work out. Instructions for using the waitlist can be had by contacting the MA program’s PACT advisor Erika Tremblay at etremblay@mercy.edu. Note that being on the waitlist does not automatically place you into the course if a seat opens up; instead, the waitlist system sends an email to your college email address if a seat opens alerting you that you have 24 hours to claim the seat. If you don’t claim the seat within that window of time, the next person on the waitlist will get the email and the 24-hour window. If no one on the waitlist claims the seat in time, the vacant seat opens up to general registration.

Below are the course offerings for fall and summer, listed in that order. Note that we always run a shorter summer schedule because many students in the MA program don’t take summer courses, and prefer to follow the traditional fall/spring pattern. Currently we have six courses scheduled for fall. If those six courses fill up well ahead of September then a seventh course will be offered, but for now we are estimating that six courses will suffice.

FALL 2021

ENGL 500: Theory of Criticism (Dr. David Kilpatrick – DLA section; Dr. Boria Sax, DLB section)
    • An introduction to some of the major movements and figures of the theory of criticism. The question “what is literature?” is a primary concern of this course. Such an inquiry necessarily engages other, closely affiliated signifiers such as work/text, writing, reading, interpretation, and signification itself. After brief encounters with ancient antecedents and seminal moderns, influential contemporary approaches to the question concerning literature and its cultural significance will be engaged. An assessment of the relative strengths and weaknesses of current trends in the practice of literary criticism, and their theoretical groundwork, is the ultimate objective of this course.

NOTE 1: The professor of the DLA section of this course plans to hold optional weekly supplementary zoom sessions. The specifics will be shared by the professor at the start of the semester. Attending such zoom sessions is not required, as all courses in the MA program are asynchronous in order to best accommodate the schedules and lives of our graduate students. Such zoom sessions will only every be optional and supplementary to the core course requirements.

NOTE 2: This is the program’s core course, meaning the course that everyone must take and for which there are no alternative course options. This course runs once each fall semester, so if you’re aiming to graduate at the end of fall 2021, spring 2022, or summer 2022 and have not yet completed 500, you must enroll in this for fall 2021. The next instance of the course will be fall 2022.

NOTE 3: Registration for this course requires a permit, which the Program Director will give to anyone on-pace to complete their degree prior to fall 2022. Contact your PACT mentor Erika Tremblay (etremblay@mercy.edu) or the Program Director (cloots@mercy.edu) to request a permit.

ENGL 509: Perspectives on the Essay (Dr. Kristen Keckler)

The course studies the essay as a distinct literary genre; some of its characteristics and types; some of its history; and some of its role in reflecting authorial consciousness. Further, this course examines the taxonomy of the essay in terms of its medium (verse or prose), its tone and level of formality, its organizational strategies, and its relationship to its audience and to particular modes of literary production (diary, letter, manuscript, book, magazine, newspaper, podcast, blog, etc.). 3 credits. (Fulfills either the Writing & Literary Forms requirement or an elective.)

ENGL 515: 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 typically include works by Hesiod, Ben Johnson, Shakespeare, E. T. A. Hoffmann, J. K. Rowling and others. Textbooks include The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age by Frances Yates. 3 credits. (Fulfills an elective by default, but can work for a Literature Group 1 requirement if needed.)

NOTE: The MA program cycles numerous different courses under the catalog codes of 514, 515, 540, and 560. Students can take multiple instances of 514, 515, 540, and 560 courses as long as the title of the course is not the same as before. This Magic and Literature course ran most recently as 540. You cannot take this course again if you took it earlier as 540.

ENGL 540: Medieval Literature: Seven Deadly Sins – Then and Now  (Dr. Jessica Ward)

This course brings together a wide range of late medieval texts in Middle English and in translation, including Arthurian legends and bawdy romances, in order to understand how this historical period, so far removed from our own, conceived of the seven deadly sins. While this course focuses on medieval literature, our semester long question concerns how our own conceptions of the vices are different or similar to that of their manifestations in the texts we read. We interrogate the ways in which the medieval writers explore their own culture and a cluster of enduringly engaging issues: ethical, sexual, theological, and political. 3 sem hrs. 3 crs. (Fulfills a Literature Group 1 requirement or an elective.)

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

This course examines the diverse people, culture, and writings of the expatriate community of the Parisian Left Bank during the modernist movements of the early- and mid-twentieth century. Authors covered typically include Edith Wharton, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Hilda Doolittle, Andre Breton, Mina Loy, Nancy Cunard, Zelda Fitzgerald, Richard Wright, and James Baldwin, among others. In the course of our studies we will consider 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. An emphasis will be placed on studying the cultural geography of this Paris location which attracted so many of the world’s great writers and artists and gave rise to so many works now considered twentieth century literary masterpieces. 3 credits. (Fulfills a Literature Group 2 requirement or an elective.)

ENGL 560: Hip Hop Literature & Culture (Dr. Dana Horton)

Hip hop is a global phenomenon. It started as a form of black expression in the Bronx, NY and has morphed into an international, multicultural powerhouse. This course introduces students to hip hop culture by examining some of the major concepts and political issues that shape the culture. Through listening to hip hop music, analyzing lyrics, reading articles, and watching documentaries, students will learn more about the themes and debates within the culture. This course will take a cultural-studies approach to studying hip hop; will consider the history and politics of New York City in the 1960s-70s as this is crucial to understanding hip hop’s birth, as well as the connection amongst space, power, inequality, and racial dynamics. Questions we will consider include: What is hip hop culture? What are the similarities and differences between old-school hip hop and contemporary hip hop? Why are hip hop lyrics often taken at face value when many rappers exaggerate and lie? Why are some hip hop sub-genres prone to using lyrics and imagery that is misogynistic and/or homophobic? What do you think about prosecutors who use hip hop lyrics against rappers in court? How has hip hop’s large international presence changed the genre and culture? What can we learn about American history and culture through studying hip hop? (Fulfills a Literature Group 2 requirement or an elective.)

NOTE: Please understand that because we will examine the unedited versions of lyrics, music videos, and artwork, the course materials will contain language that is profane, offensive, violent, and/or controversial. Prior familiarity with hip hop is not required, but being open to learning more about hip hop is a must. Please approach the course material with an open mind.

SUMMER 2021

ENGL 514: An Introduction to the History of Textual Transmission (Dr. Jessica Ward)

This course introduces students to critical bibliography, a fast-growing and emerging field that seeks to bring the bibliographic tradition into dialogue with the critical and theoretical insights of twenty-first century humanities scholarship. Students explore the creation of texts across centuries and technologies—from manuscripts to e-books—and consider how meaning and materiality relate. (Fulfills an elective by default but can work for a Literature Group 1 or 2 requirement if needed.)

ENGL 515: Mastering the Past, Literature and National Myths (Dr. Boria Sax)

Every country likes to see itself as heir of to a glorious past, filled with heroic and ultimately successful struggles against oppression. But the construction of such a narrative always leads to the repression or trivialization of uncomfortable aspects of the past. Important authors of Antiquity such as Homer and Virgil have created national myths, while others such as Sophocles and Euripides have challenged them. If the myths themselves can often serve to rationalize complaisance, injustice and chauvinism, correcting them involves hazards as well. It can reopen old resentments, leave people disoriented, and open the way for other, similarly dangerous illusions. This course will look at the contrasting ways in which modern and contemporary writers have tried to come to terms with the collective past, and will likely include readings by Faulkner (USA), Sebald (Germany), Solzhenitsyn (Russia), Lampedusa (Italy) and Ishiguro (Britain and Japan). Students will endeavor to evaluate their intellectual strategies, especially in the light of current controversies such as whether we should continue to display statues that commemorate dubious legacies. Questions to be addressed will include: Can we ever truly come to terms with the past? Can the brutalities of history ever be redeemed or compensated for? What lessons, if any, can we legitimately learn from history? Are some aspects of history better left forgotten? (Fulfills an elective by default but can work for a Literature Group 2 requirement if needed.)

ENGL 525: Victorian Age in Literature (Dr. Sean Dugan)

This course will explore representative literature and the culture of the Victorian Age (1837 – 1901), a period of exploration, industrialization, empire, and imperialism. The poetry and novels of Tennyson, Carroll, the Brontes, Eliot, Wilde, and others will be considered from a variety of critical approaches. Particular attention will be given to the importance of gender, class, and societal expectations. (Fulfills a Literature Group 1 field requirement or an elective.)

Second Update Re: 546 Working Women: New Course Description & Book Info

Dr. Horton has moved at light speed to put together a new description and reading list for ENGL 546. Here is the new description followed by the new book list:

According to a 2020 article in The Washington Post by Dr. Alicia Sesser Modestino, “one out of four women who reported becoming unemployed during the pandemic said it was because of a lack of child care — twice the rate among men.” In this course, we will turn to American literature to help us understand and dissect this alarming statistic.

The concept of American women in the workforce has seen many transformations from 1865 to the present due to various social and political movements. With the passing of the Emancipation Proclamation and the ending of the Industrial Revolution, the period around 1865 saw an increase of women taking positions outside of the domestic sphere. In 2020, as Modestino’s article demonstrates, we are seeing how social media and working from home adds another complex chapter to the history of working women in the United States. We will discuss the social, economic, and racial factors since 1865 that influenced women’s role in the American workforce. We will take a cultural studies approach to this topic – in addition to reading literature (fiction, short stories, poetry, biographies, and essays), we will examine scholarly and news articles, documentaries, films, television shows, and music to help us deconstruct the definitions of “women,” “working,” and “The United States.” We will interrogate the shifting definitions of the term “gender” and start with gender as a concept, a social construction reflecting differentials of power and opportunity.

The goal of this course is for students to understand the literature, history, and benchmarks of major events in the lives of women, as well as challenge American cultural conceptions of work. Throughout the semester, we will discuss the following questions:

  • What is your personal definition of “work”?
  • How does American culture privilege some forms of work while marginalizing others, specifically work performed by women of color?
  • How has the American definition of work changed from 1865 to the present, specifically with the influx of “work from home” positions?
  • What influence did the various waves of feminism have on the American workforce?
  • How do stereotypes of womanhood influence the types of careers women choose?
  • How does American literature reinforce and/or challenge stereotypes of working women?
  • What messages do children and teenagers receive about women’s role in the workforce?

Required Texts:

For students who may not want to buy the physical books, most of these are available for free online or through your local library.

  • Wilson, Harriet. Our Nig: Sketches from the Life of a Free Black. ISBN-13: 978-0486445618
  • Hurst, Fannie. Imitation of Life: ISBN-13: 978-0822333241
  • Martin, Ann M. Kristy’s Great Idea. ISBN-13: 978-1743813294
  • Tademy, Lalita. Cane River. ISBN-13: 978-0446615884
  • Weisberger, Lauren. The Devil Wears Prada: A Novel. ISBN-13: 978-0767914765
  • Cisneros, Sandra. The House on Mango Street. ISBN: ISBN-13: 978-0679734772
  • Ng, Celeste. Little Fires Everywhere. ISBN-13: 978-0735224315

A Netflix account is also required, as we will watch a few documentaries and television shows on this platform. Other texts will be available on Blackboard as PDFs.

Recommended but not required texts:

  • Carey, Elaine. Women Drug Traffickers: Mules, Bosses, and Organized Crime. ISBN-13: 978-0826351982
  • Ware, Susan. Modern American Women: A Documentary History, Second Edition. ISBN: 978-0072418200.
  • Baxandall, Rosalyn Fraad, and Linda Gordon. America’s Working Women: A Documentary History, 1600 to the Present. ISBN: 039303653

There is still one open seat in the course, so anyone who isn’t in the course now and finds this interesting should consider grabbing the last seat. You can add/drop courses from your schedule without issue up until the semester begins on 1/20.

546 Professor Change – Book Change Coming

Students in ENGL 546 Working Women in the USA this spring semester please take note: due to an unexpected crisis, the original professor of the course, Dr. Gogol, has just informed us that she is taking leave from all teaching in spring 2021. Fortunately, Dr. Dana Horton stepped up immediately to take over this 546 course, and thereby saved it from being canceled, which is normally the fate of specialty courses like this if something like this happens on the eve of the semester. So I just need to say thank you to Dr. Horton for taking this extraordinary action and rescuing this class. I also want to wish Dr. Gogol the best.

Practically speaking this means that Dr. Gogol’s book order will (almost certainly) no longer be relevant, since no two professors will ever run the same graduate course, not even one by the same title; each professor will assign and teach works that are in their particular area of specialty, while still keeping the theme/title of the course in mind. Right now, at this moment, Dr. Horton is working quickly to put together her own reading list and schedule, and will share that list with me as soon as it is done. I will update this post with Dr. Horton’s book order for 546 as soon as I receive it, which should be by this Friday, possibly sooner.

If anyone has any questions or issues please contact me at cloots@mercy.edu.