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Spring 2018 Graduate Seminars

ENG 524-01: Virginia Woolf

M 5:00-7:50

Stella Deen: deenm@newpaltz.edu


Course Description:

This course will engage us in intensive study and enjoyment of Virginia Woolf’s fiction and nonfiction. We will supplement our study of Virginia Woolf's major novels and essays with her memoirs, with selected criticism of her oeuvre, and with excursions into her reading of works by her contemporaries. Our study will concentrate on Woolf's engagement with contemporary reality: we will consider her ongoing ambition to convey “reality” in fiction; her engagement with contemporary writers; and her contributions to contemporary social and political questions.


Texts may include:

The Voyage Out 
Jacob's Room
Mrs. Dalloway
To the Lighthouse
A Room of One's Own
The Waves
Three Guineas
Between the Acts
Moments of Being
The Common Reader, First Series
The Second Common Reader


ENG 526: 21st Century Literature (NEW COURSE!)

W 5-7:50

Professor Mary Holland: hollandm@newpaltz.edu


Course Description:

Open a novel written in the last decade or so. It might not look much like the novels you’re used to reading. Chances are it will incorporate images, strange textual choices, a startlingly diverse palette of colors in print and even paper. Those novels that do look more traditionally novelistic will still startle the reader who looks more closely, noticing things like narrative line, perspective, and overall structure. True, there is nothing new under the sun, but novels in the twenty-first century tend to gather an unprecedentedly rich arsenal of literary tools and use and combine them in ways that feel new and fresh and productive. More striking still are the affirming uses to which these novels put their tools, in the wake of a postmodern literature that often felt flat, dead-end, nihilistic. What is happening to the novel in the twenty-first century? How does it address the problems defined by fiction at the end of the twentieth century? How do its attempts to solve these problems force it into new shapes, narratives, and imagined possibilities for fiction and its readers?

            In this course, we will address these and other questions while we read seven novels by some of today’s most exciting writers. Informing our readings will be critical essays on the novels and novelists, as well as excerpts of cultural, sociological, and theoretical perspectives on the novel in the twenty-first century. Critics are beginning to ask, with increasing urgency, what happens after postmodernism? Have we indeed left postmodernism behind? What is this thing that’s happening now? Our own in-depth study of literature in the twenty-first century will allow us to begin to answer these questions ourselves, putting our class in the middle of what I think is one of the most exciting critical discussions happening today.



Barnes, Julian. The Sense of an Ending. Knopf, 2011.

Danielewski, Mark. House of Leaves. Pantheon, 2000.

DeLillo, Don. Zero K. Scribner, 2016.

Egan, Jennifer. A Visit from the Goon Squad. Knopf, 2010.

McEwan, Ian. Atonement. Anchor Books, 2001.

Mitchell, David. Cloud Atlas. Random House, 2004.

Ozeki, Ruth. A Tale for the Time Being. Penguin, 2013.


ENG 533-01 American Fiction in the Nineteenth Century

T 5:00 pm – 7:50 pm

Professor Crystal Donkor: donkorc@newpaltz.edu

Course Description:

This course is a study of the dynamic world of nineteenth century American fiction and its engagement with the most preoccupying debate of the century: race. Race was at the center of literary inquiry for black and white writers alike, each taking to the novel, periodical, or magazine to sort out the nation’s fraught racial past, muddied racial present, and to contemplate its still uncertain racial future. This course will study two formulations of the race conversation that dominated in the literature: notions of race and womanhood and questions of race and citizenship. Although these writers explored similar themes in texts like William Dean Howells’s Imperative Duty (1891) and Julia C. Collins’s The Curse of Caste, Or, The Slave Bride (1865), their representations of the most popular racial debates of the day in their fiction varied according to who was telling the story. Together, we will unearth the nuanced styles of these and other black and white nineteenth century fiction writers as they tell seemingly similar tales of racial discovery, intrigue, and fallen womanhood. Our readings of recent and foundational critical scholarship in the field will anchor our discussion of course texts. Finally, our two-unit course study will culminate in a final project with two options: one reflecting a traditional research route in the form of an annotated bibliography and the other being a curriculum development option.



ENG 560: Forms of Autobiogaphy

Thursday  5:00-7:50

SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor Dr. Jan Zlotnik Schmidt:  schmidtj@newpaltz.edu

This course will focus on contemporary multiethnic women’s autobiography and memoirs published in the last ten years.  The course include selected classic autobiographical essays by such writers as Dorothy Allison, Judith Ortiz Cofer, Joan Didion, Lucy Grealey, bell hooks, Maxine Hong  Kingston, Audre Lorde, Rebecca Solnit, Terry Tempest Williams and Alice Walker as well as works by a new generation of memoirists such as Eula Bliss, Roxanne Gay,  Daisy Hernandez, and Sarah Manguso.  The course also will focus on full-length memoirs, beginning with Virginia Woolf’s Moments of Being, a landmark work which embodies and contemplates the complex process of autobiographical writing.  Next the class will explore various contemporary multiethnic autobiographies and watch one autobiographical film.  Students will have the opportunity to write their own memoir excerpts as a means of examining contemporary approaches to the form.   Complementary critical essays by feminist theorists will be included. 

Selected Texts: 

Raquel Cepeda, Bird of Paradise

Roxanne Gay, Hunger

Maggie Nelson Bluets or The Argonauts

Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle

Jacqueline Woodson, Another Brooklyn

Jacqueline Woodson, brown girl dreaming and  Another Brooklyn


ENG573: Special Topics in Shakespeare—Making Shakespeare

Professor Cyrus Mulready

W 5:00-7:50


In almost all regards Shakespeare’s reputation today is so well-established that it seems indisputable. Indeed, so secure is the status of Shakespeare as a cultural artifact that we have nearly lost sight of the many centuries of “making” that have gone into the creation of this icon and the promulgation of his works. This course will attempt to recapture the many processes of composition, production, transmission, institutionalization, and transformation that tell the story of Shakespeare’s creation since the sixteenth century. We will learn from and build upon the insights of scholars who approach Shakespeare from materialist, economic, historical, and sociological points of view. How “timeless” is Shakespeare, really? How has the interpretation and shaping of his plays and poems shifted through time? To what extent have modern editors, critics, and theater professionals altered the work and our perception of the author in order to perpetuate the idea of Shakespeare as an ageless classic? And what can we gain in our understanding and appreciation of Shakespeare’s art when we look back to its origins and the acts of “making” that have gone into the plays and poems? Work for the course will include a series of short assignments and a longer final essay.



The Norton Shakespeare, 3rd Edition (or another similar edited volume of Shakespeare’s works)

Additional readings to be provided electronically



ENG578-01: Studies in Victorian Literature – Reading the Victorian Animal

R 5:00P-7:50

Professor Jed Mayer: mayere@newpaltz.edu


Course Description:

In the nineteenth century animals came to play a variety of new and unexpected roles in British cultural life. Domestic pets proliferated in cities as never before, people of all classes flocked to zoos and menageries, physiologists experimented on animals, animal rights activists protested such experiments, and evolutionary theory revealed that humans are also animals. Victorian literature reflects this broad cultural interest in the nonhuman, and in this course we will trace animal presences in the novel, the development of which as a literary form is closely linked with the development of sympathetic attitudes towards animals. We will also consider the uncertain boundary between the human and nonhuman animal, examining the ways in which the Victorians considered issues of gender, class, and race with reference to the nonhuman world. By turns domesticated and wild, friendly and ruthless, the Victorian animal appears in many guises, and in this course we will develop strategies for reading these creatures in all their variety and complexity.


Required Texts (subject to change):

Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights

Wilkie Collins, Heart and Science

Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles

Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d’Urbervilles

Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Books

Richard Marsh, The Beetle

Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

H. G. Wells, The Island of Doctor Moreau

Virginia Woolf, Flush: A Biography


ENG593.01: The Contemporary Scottish Novel  

T 6.30-9.20 p.m.  

Professor Fiona Paton patonf@newpaltz.edu


Course Description:

Since the 1980s, Scottish literature has developed in unprecedented and even shocking ways. This course will examine the major new voices to emerge in the Scottish novel, in styles that range from existential noir, crime fiction (or “tartan noir”), science fiction, fantasy, and traditional realism. Lectures will provide background on post-1979 Scottish politics, including devolution and several (failed) referendums on independence, while the primary readings will offer a startling range of ways of thinking about Scottish identity in the 21st century. Course requirements include midterm and final exams, an oral presentation, and a research paper.


The novels will include: 

Lanark (1981) by Alasdair Gray

The Busconductor Hines (1984) by James Kelman

The Bridge (1986) by Iain Banks

Trainspotting (1993) by Irvine Welsh

Morvern Caller (1995) by Alan Warner

So I Am Glad (1995) by A.L. Kennedy

Fleshmarket Close (2005) by Ian Rankin

A Darker Domain (2009) by Val McDermid

Autumn (2016) by Ali Smith