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Spring 2020 Graduate Seminars

ENG 501.01 Introduction to Old English,  M 5:00-7:50

Daniel Kempton

Course Description:

An introduction to Old English language and literature and to the history and culture of Anglo-Saxon England. A secondary focus of the course will be modern English translations and adaptations of Old English texts, with special attention to Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf.


A Guide to Old English, edited by Bruce Mitchell and Fred C. Robinson, 8th ed., Wiley-Blackwell, 2012. ISBN: 978-0470671078

Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney, Norton, 2001. ISBN: 978-0393320978

ENG 504 English Literature of the Sixteenth Century, T 5:00-7:50

James Schiffer: schiffej@newpaltz.edu

Course Description:

This course offers a graduate-level introduction to the study of sixteenth century English literature, as well as important scholarship of the period.  We will examine a number of works in their broader historical, cultural, and literary contexts.  I am particularly interested in examining the development of English lyric poetry from the works of John Skelton, Sir Thomas Wyatt, and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey to the sonnets of Sir Philip Sidney and William Shakespeare. 

Other works we shall likely read (this list is tentative!):

Edmund Spenser, Book I of The Faerie Queene

Sir Philip Sidney, The Defense of Poesy

Christopher Marlowe, Hero and Leander

Shakespeare, Venus and Adonis

Sir Thomas More, Utopia 

Thomas Nashe, The Unfortunate Traveler

ENG505 Shakespeare, R 5:00-7:50

Cyrus Mulready   

Course Description:

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

ENG 524: Virginia Woolf, M 5-7:50

Vicki Tromanhauser:  tromanhv@newpaltz.edu

Course Description:

Woolf is a writer who was intellectually experimental and playful—reading widely in the sciences, philosophy, and literature of her time—and who invites us to be intellectually ambitious through her writings.  As we read her major novels, short fiction, essays, memoirs, and polemical writings, we’ll explore how her stylistic innovations suggest new conceptual models not only for her modernist moment but for our own time by raising questions about culture’s entanglement with nature, its scripting of sexuality, and its conception of life in and around the human experience.  Woolf’s aesthetic works offer a place to engage with the material and ethical relations between life and matter, embodiment and environment, and human and nonhuman worlds.  In this light, Woolf’s writing is exemplary of recent critical developments in feminist, posthumanist, and materialist theory, and as such these new approaches to thought will help to frame our discussions of the “many-sided” truth in her work.

The Texts:

The Voyage Out

Moments of Being

Jacob’s Room

Mrs. Dalloway

To the Lighthouse

A Room of One’s Own


The Waves

Three Guineas

Between the Acts

ENG553: Career Seminar for MA Students in English, R 3:30P-4:20P               

Cyrus Mulready                         

Course Description:

What career opportunities are available for students with an advanced degree in the humanities? How do I describe the skills I have acquired in graduate school? How can I best present myself as a candidate for jobs in a range of fields? Do I need a PhD. or other graduate program in order to accomplish my goals? This practicum is designed to help MA students answer these fundamental questions as it provides crucial professional development and career discernment. The practicum will provide hands-on activities, collaborative exercises, and close mentorship from the instructor and others at the college to assist students not only in finding a job once they graduate, but also in identifying meaningful career paths.


Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans (Knopf, ISBN: 1101875321)

ENG 560 Forms of Autobiography, W 5:00-7:50

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

Course Description:

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 Nora Krug.  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: 

Virginia Woolf, Moments of Being

Roxanne Gay, Hunger

Maggie Nelson Bluets

Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle

Jacqueline Woodson, Another Brooklyn

Jacqueline Woodson, brown girl dreaming

Another memoir will be chosen by the class. 

ENG 585: Studies in Contemporary Criticism and Theory—Anthropocene Nonhumanities, T 5:00-7:50 PM

Professor Jed Mayer: mayere@newpaltz.edu

Course Description:

The mark of humans may now be read in all earthly things, from the strata of the lithosphere to the upper reaches of the stratosphere. The Anthropocene, as many have proposed we call this too-human geological and climatological era, calls for a radical reconsideration of the nonhuman world and humanity’s place within it. Human-induced climate change and the sixth extinction have irreparably harmed nonhuman populations and ecosystems, yet humans must also reckon with the destructive climatic forces for which we are in large part responsible. The nonhuman is at once more vulnerable and more destructive than at any time within human history. And yet as we struggle to articulate the nonhuman, to speak responsibly for endangered species and ecologies, they continue to elude representation. Vaster than mega-hurricanes, smaller than microplastics, Anthropocene nonhumanities call for fresh approaches and new epistemologies. In this seminar we will survey some of the most generative recent developments in critical theory, as we consider the ways in which modes of literary representation have attended to the nonhuman, and how they might offer us cognitive direction for our shared future.


Required Texts (subject to change):

Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights

John Clare, “I Am”: The Selected Poetry

Thomas Hardy, The Woodlanders

Marlen Haushofer, The Wall

Marianne Moore, Poems

Carol Swain, Gast

Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation


ENG 586: Studies in Contemporary Literature: Contemporary Realisms W 5-7:50

Professor Mary Holland: hollandm@newpaltz.edu

Course Description:

            Generally, when we hear “realism” we think of “normal” fiction—that is, fiction that starts at the beginning and moves methodically to the end, offering round characters, rising action, clear conflict and resolution along the way. It is fiction that delivers “nothing more or less than a true representation of the world” (as William Dean Howells famously said). Anything that diverges from that formula we might call “anti-realistic” (or maybe just “weird”), and we tend to see it as being more about its own language and devices than it is about the “real” world. As with most facile binaries, this one is dead wrong. It oversimplifies both traditional realism and the many contemporary versions of it that are currently being misread and underappreciated. In fact, all fiction is fundamentally false, a representation and not the real thing. There is no one way to write “realistically,” but rather endless ways to make the real world feel present in representation, and to craft in language ways of connecting the reader to the real world, to other real people. Nineteenth-century “realism” is only one of those ways, even if it managed to claim the label “realism” first.

In this course, we will restore “realism” to the period-specific designation that has been lost, spending the first week or so examining traditional, nineteenth-century realism in theory and fiction. The rest of the course will explore a variety of contemporary versions of realism—fiction that aims to reproduce or connect us to the real world using surprising, challenging, and delightful techniques and contexts, including metafiction, poststructuralism, quantum mechanics, and material aspects of books. You do not need a background in any of these terms or contexts to enjoy this course; my own background in quantum mechanics, for example, is seriously limited. All you need is an interest in (or at least patience for) “weird” fiction, and curiosity about the course’s central questions: how does fiction create a bridge between word and world? How do its methods for doing so change over time, and according to what cultural, philosophical, or literary innovations? That is, as reality changes, how must fiction change with it?

Texts will include some assortment of the following:

Carson, Anne. Nox

Chiang, Ted. “Story of Your Life”

Cusk, Rachel. Transit

Danielewski, Mark. House of Leaves

DeLillo, Don. The Body Artist

Knausgaard, Karl Ove. Excerpts from My Struggle

Leguin, Ursula. “Schrödinger’s Cat”

Ozeki, Ruth. A Tale for the Time Being

Tomasula, Steve. VAS: An Opera in Flatland or The Book of Portraiture

Wallace, David Foster. The Pale King, and stories from Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and Oblivion

Essays and short stories by Howells, Twain, James, and Wharton.

Selections of digital literature, possibly including Jennifer Egan, “Black Box”; William Gibson, Agrippa;

Eli Horowitz et al, The Silent History; William Poundstone, “Project for the Tachistoscope [Bottomless Pit]”


ENG593.01, The Contemporary Scottish Novel, T 6.30-9.20 pm

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:

Laidlaw (1977) by William McIlvanney
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
A Darker Domain (2009) by Val McDermid
Autumn (2016) by Ali Smith

ENG 593-02: Graduate Fiction Workshop R 5:00-7:50

Mr. Kristopher Jansma: jansmak@newpaltz.edu

Course Description:

In this workshop course, students will share and critique original works of fiction in a constructive environment dedicated to discovering, or rediscovering, the “fun” in our writing process. Through conversation and readings emphasizing the role of “work as play” in fiction, you will, “go deep inside yourself and illuminate precisely the stuff you don’t want to see or let anyone else see […] precisely the stuff all writers and readers everywhere share and respond to, feel.” We will also engage in weekly constructive critiques that will help each writer to create and revise such stories. Our discussions will revolve around close readings of student work, with readings and exercises chosen to suit the particular nature of the class's projects. One-on-one conferences will be held biweekly to give more personal feedback.

Required Texts:

Six Memos for the Next Millennium, Italo Calvino