Project & Senior Seminars

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This page is devoted to helping Literature Majors consider choices for Project and Senior Seminars. Below find a list of Project Seminars (ENGLIT 1900) and Senior Seminars (ENGLIT 1910) being offered for the upcoming term. Please note that these descriptions are provisional and may undergo some changes: they are meant only to give you an idea of who will be teaching what seminars to help you plan your next term.

Fall 2019 Project Seminar 

ENGLIT 1900: Project Seminar: Water: Planet, Politics, Poetics Shalini Puri, TH 2:30-3:45

Our planet faces a water crisis. This course undertakes an interdisciplinary exploration of political and artistic responses to the crisis. Our archive will include literature ranging from satire to tragedy, eco-thriller, and beyond; film and other visual arts; advertising and info-graphics; environmental humanities, sociology, anthropology, and history.  Some examples of what we’ll study: climate change and the anthropocene; the 2002 water wars in Bolivia, the impact of bottled water and soft drink industries in the US and in India; privatization and contamination of water, unequal access and distribution, over-consumption and scarcity globally; changes in the cultural meanings of water; sustainable models of development and artistic representations of alternative futures. Students will work in a variety of genres and media. Assignments will include several short creative and critical writing as well as one longer paper devoted to an interdisciplinary case-study.


ENGLIT 1900: Project Seminar: Weird Science and Victorian Literature Amy Murray Twyning, MW 4:30-5:45

Are ghosts purely figments of the imagination or effects of a real physical cause? Can you be infected by vampirism? Can you change animal cognition by altering the body? These are examples of the kinds of questions that emerge in Victorian literature where new science and technology meet superstition, folklore, and ancient cultural traditions. In this course, we will examine texts in which scientific knowledge is shaped by cultural tradition and in which cultural tradition is questioned and/or validated by scientific discourse. We will engage critically with such problems as the uses and misuses of Darwinian thought, various philosophies of the relationship between the mind and body, the ways that interpretations of scientific thought are reshaped for cultural consumption, how the occult was subjected to empirical investigation, and others. In short, we look at the ways in which Victorian culture used science and scientific methods to examine the “weird,” as well as the weird science that emerged from such investigations. Our core set of texts will include Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, ghost stories by Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Charlotte Riddell, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Students will also do historical and critical research on a related topic in order to produce unique pieces of scholarship. For example, students may want to compare the cultural impact of Victorian epidemiology to contemporary science-culture interactions, etc. Or students may be interested in tracing the history and permutations of the vampire figure. A study of the uses of ocular anatomy to validate or debunk spiritual apparitions would be another possibility. There are any number of other projects that could emerge from our study of the course texts.


ENGLIT 1910: Senior Seminar: Travels in the Novel Marylou Gramm, 4:30-5:45

While travel writing traverses English literature—from Chaucer’s Canterbury pilgrims to Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads—fictional journeys contributed above all to the rise of the novel. This senior seminar explores how fictional travel narratives shaped the novel, innovating its (memoir, epistolary, journalistic, and interpolated) forms, themes, and psychological characters. Studying cultural contexts, we examine how this most modern of genres embodies and engages with colonialism, political revolution, scientific voyages of discovery, religious skepticism, battles for racial, class and gender equality, industrialization, and mass literacy. We track, from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries, diverse forms of prose fictions such as Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World, Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Jonathan Swift’s Guilliver’s Travels, Francois de Graffigny’s Letters from a Peruvian Woman, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. They take us to new and imaginary continents and offer startling views of familiar landscapes; “there is no frigate like a book.” In addition to reading assiduously and writing weekly interpretative analyses about shared course texts, students will create and present a multi-media capstone research project that culminates in a substantial digital or print essay about a twentieth or twenty-first century travel novel of their choice. These projects will bring students’ own travels (geographical, virtual or textual) into conversation with that novel while illuminating how it is formed and informed by its distinct cultural milieu and intertextual predecessors.


ENGLIT 1910: Senior Seminar: The New Southern Gothic Elizabeth Rodriguez-Fielder, TH 11-12:15

This course takes a multiethnic, transnational approach to the literary genre of Southern Gothic and will be of interest to students wanting to write capstone projects on topics such as gothic literature, southern and/or rural literature and culture, speculative fiction, fantasy, new weird fiction, occult/spirituality, and any projects that challenge genre and champion marginalized voices. There will be plenty of ghosts, swamps, and what Flannery O’Conner called “freaks,” but we will be considering how contemporary authors such as Jesmyn Ward, Suzan Lori Parks, Natasha Trethewey, Jeff VanderMeer, Maryse Conde, LeAnne Howe, Chip Livingston, Cristina Garcia and Marlon James have expanded the scope of what counts as both “southern” and “gothic.” We will focus on conjure cultures, specters of colonialism, and the politics of circum-Caribbean ritual practices. Beyond fiction, the course will include Latinx performance art, Affrilachian visual art, films such as Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust and Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight and music as classic as Bobbie Gentry and as contemporary as John Christopher Wineglass’s Casop: A Requiem for Rice. You will write a seminar paper of literary/cultural criticism on a topic of your choice at midterm and the final project will be something creative, fun, collaborative, and weird.