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Summer and Fall 2020 Graduate Seminars

*Summer 2020*

ENG505: Shakespeare                

Daniel Kempton


Course Description:

The course will study the representation of “Otherness” (e.g., the woman, Moor, Jew, Oriental, American) in Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing, Othello, The Merchant of Venice, Anthony and Cleopatra, and The Tempest. Our study will set the plays in their historical context and make use of contemporary critical theory. As we read the plays themselves, we will also consider important cinematic productions and adaptations.


Norton Shakespeare. Stephen Greenblatt, general editor, 3rd ed., W. W. Norton, 2015.

ISBN 978-0393934991

Note: Any edition of Shakespeare is acceptable (single volume or individual volumes for each play), though the Norton Shakespeare has especially useful editorial apparatus.

*Fall 2020* 


ENG 505-01: Shakespeare
T 5:00-7:50 p.m.

Professor Thomas Olsen: olsent@newpaltz.edu


Course Description:

This course is a graduate-level introduction to Shakespeare. In addition to a selection of plays and poems, the course will also focus on the cultural atmosphere of Shakespeare’s age, including topics such as basic theater history, the social relationships between men and women, the organization of early modern England’s economic and political life, the early publication of Shakespeare’s works in print, and other subjects that bear on our topic. The course will also take up issues related to early modern ideas concerning authorship and creativity, as well as the ways Shakespeare used prior sources to write his “original” works, and in turn how he became a “source” for later authors and artists. There will be an emphasis on cinematic and literary adaptations of Shakespeare, as well as to the sources Shakespeare used in writing his own works.


Poems and plays for the course will be probably be drawn from this list: Venus and Adonis, Richard II, 1 Henry IV, Henry V, Titus Andronicus, Coriolanus, Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, The Comedy of Errors, As You Like It, The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing, The Taming of the Shrew, The Tempest, and Twelfth Night (this list may change, especially if there is an area performance of a Shakespeare play; the final list will be sent to registered students toward the end of the summer).


Requirements will probably include one paper of medium length (10 pp.), a midterm and/or final examination, a presentation with a partner, and/or other smaller writing and response assignments (subject to minor changes and finalized on the course syllabus). We will read several critical essays as part of the course; they will be posted to Blackboard.



Required Texts (ordered @ College Bookstore, but available elsewhere, new and used):

You will need a high-quality edition of the works of Shakespeare. I have ordered the 3rd edition of Stephen Greenblatt et. al, eds. The Norton Shakespeare, in the easier-to-carry 2-volume format (Norton, 978-0-393-26402-9). However, any prior edition in any format of The Norton Shakespeare is acceptable. So are any high-quality 1-volume or single-play critical editions (Arden, Cambridge, Norton, Oxford, Riverside, etc.). Please contact me before making a major purchase; some budget editions will not serve you well for this course and are false economies. Please do not plan to read for this course on a phone or tablet.

Russ McDonald, The Bedford Companion to Shakespeare, 2nd ed. (Bedford, 978-0312248802)

Additional readings and materials will be available on Blackboard, YouTube, and Vimeo.


ENG 515-01: Modern Theories of Writing

Tuesday: 5:00-7:50 p.m.

Matthew Newcomb: newcombm@newpaltz.edu


Course Description:

This course will both prepare you to teach writing in a theoretically-informed way and involve you in contemporary research and conversations about writing, composition, and rhetoric.  While the course will cover some key historical figures for composition studies (Aristotle, Plato, Quintilian), the majority of the time will be spent on key debates and issues in the field of composition studies as it has existed since the first Conference on College Composition and Communication in the middle of the twentieth century.  Those topics will likely include (but are not limited to) the rhetorical situation, theories of argument, the role of composition courses, assessment concerns, new technologies and writing, the role of the author, approaches to grammar and style, public and cultural aspects of writing, and writing across the curriculum.  Many readings will be key journal articles and academic books from the last several decades.  Students will also gain a larger historical understanding of the movements within composition studies and will be encouraged to develop and try alternative theories and strategies in their writing and in their teaching of writing.  Students will enact their own research into the field of composition and will prepare materials for teaching writing as well (such as lesson plans, syllabi, textbook reviews, and/or assignment sheets). We will also spend time talking about our current composition courses and sharing ideas for immediate teaching.

Tentative Required Texts:

Berlin, James A. Rhetoric and Reality: Writing Studies in American Colleges 1900-1985.

Southern Illinois UP, 1987.

Miller, Susan. Ed. The Norton Book of Composition Studies. W.W. Norton, 2009.


ENG 522-01:  Modernity and Modernism in Britain, or Modernism and the Nonhuman

M 5-7:50

Vicki Tromanhauser:  tromanhv@newpaltz.edu


Course Description:

The turn of the twentieth century brought changes in the way humans conceived of their own being—changes inspired by new military technology and developments in the evolutionary, psychoanalytic, and life sciences. Figurations of the nonhuman in literature mark the places in which a series of conceptual boundaries, and the hierarchies that attend them, come under threat of erasure, whether of gender, race, class, or species.  British modernism introduces some promising strategies for representing the animal and material aspects of our being.  In this seminar we’ll explore the ways in which British writers of the early twentieth century, and some who follow them, explore what is in the human more than the human, at once unsettling humanist species priorities while recuperating the nonhuman as a potentially rich source of creativity, intuition, and emotional connection with others.  As an imaginative medium that enables readers to inhabit other consciousnesses and modes of being by generating a virtual experience of the nonhuman, modernist literature has a vital role to play in engendering a fuller ethical awareness of humanity’s entanglement with other orders of being.  In our exploration of poetry, drama, and prose fiction, we’ll think about the practices in which the relations between human and nonhuman orders of being come into greatest tension:  surgery, combat, imperialism, witchcraft, eating, and animal rescue.


The Texts (provisional): 

H. G. Wells, The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896)

E. M. Forster, Howards End (1910)

T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land (1922)

Sylvia Townsend Warner, Loly Willowes; or The Loving Huntsman (1926)

Virginia Woolf, Orlando (1929)

Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot (1953)

J. M. Coetzee, Disgrace (1999)

And a selection of Great War poetry and prose




ENG552.01 - Advanced Research Methods for MA Students (1 credit, online)

Prof. Jackie George

Course Description:

This is a 1-credit course designed to introduce you to the methods and tools of research in the study of literature at the graduate level. Going beyond the fundamental skills of locating and evaluating sources covered at the undergraduate level, ENG552 will help you develop a critical understanding of how scholarly knowledge is organized and disseminated in the English discipline. It will also introduce you to archival study and to advanced library database and catalog search methods. You will develop your research skills by completing assignments designed to not only make you a stronger researcher, but to help you advance in one or more of the other graduate seminars you are taking this semester. 


Required Text

MLA Handbook, 8th edition, Modern Language Association of America, 2016


ENG572: Studies in Medieval Literature (Online)

Daniel Kempton kemptond@newpaltz.edu


Course Description:

Our topic will be medieval romance. We will read two of the most important examples of the genre in English, the “Knight’s Tale” and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” and we will briefly trace the background of the English tradition from troubadour lyrics through Marie de France’s Lais. One of our major concerns will be the way that the chivalric narrative represented and supported the military aristocracy of the period and the way that this narrative was challenged by counter-narratives originating in other social estates. This contest is played out in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. As a spokesman for the aristocracy, the pilgrim Knight appropriately tells the first tale, but the pilgrim Miller, a spokesman for the peasantry, immediately offers a rebuttal to the Knight’s vision of social order, and other pilgrims, such as the Wife of Bath and the Franklin, subsequently join the debate. Chaucer will be read in the original Middle English. We will also study early modern responses to medieval love lyrics and romance narratives in sixteenth-century English sonnets and in Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida.



Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. Selected and edited by V. A. Kolve and Glending Olson, 3nd ed., Norton, 2018. ISBN 978-1324000563

Marie de France, Lais, translated by Glyn S. Burgess and Keith Busby, Penguin, 1999.

ISBN 978-0140447590

Shakespeare, William. Troilus and Cressida, edited by David Bevington, Bloomsbury Arden Shakespeare, 2015. ISBN 978-1472584748

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, edited and translated by Marie Boroff, Norton, 2009. 

            ISBN 978-0393930252


ENG 585-01: Studies in Contemporary Criticism and Theory—Anthropocene Nonhumanities

R 5:00-7:50 PM

Credit Hours: 3


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 study some of the more influential philosophical perspectives on the nonhuman, as well as the more generative recent developments in critical theory, and 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:

The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, 3rd ed.

Marlen Haushofer, The Wall

Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation




ENG 593 Adaptation and Rewriting 

W 5-7.50

Professor Michelle Woods: woodsm@newpaltz.edu


Course Description:

 We either love or hate adaptations, judge them through an evaluative and emotional lens: what worked, what didn’t, what they got wrong, and what they even got more wrong. This course wants to rethink how we read adaptations and to question whether these texts can be useful hermeneutic tools. Can adaptations, in other words, make us reread the originals? Can they open up the textuality of the originals and make us question what we mean by the original? Can they make us rethink literary judgment and canonicity? We’ll read theory from the new schools of adaptation studies and translation studies, which are rethinking how we read both adaptations and the original texts. Modules will include: The Simpsons rewrite David Foster Wallace’s “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again”; Leo Tolstoy puts Beethoven to paper in “The Kreutzer Sonata” and his wife, Sophia, horrified at her husband’s misogyny, writes a story, “Whose Fault?” as a riposte; Shakespeare’s Macbeth, its origins, Nikolai Leskov’s “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk” Shostakovich’s opera (that Stalin walked out of it) based on Leskov’s story and Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood; Euripides’ Medea, Marina Carr’s Irish traveller retelling, The Bog of Cats and Toni Morrison’s Beloved; Jean Rhys’s pre-text to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane EyreWide Sargasso Sea; as well as ekphrastic poetry (Ocean Vuong, Seamus Heaney) and rewritings of fairy-tales.


Likely Texts:

Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Marina Carr, The Bog of Cats

Euripides, Medea

Nikolai Leskov, “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk”

Toni Morrison, Beloved

Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea

Leo Tolstoy, “The Kreutzer Sonata”

Sophia Tolstaya, “Whose Fault?”

The Simpsons, “Totally Fun Thing That Bart Will Never Do”

William Shakespeare, Macbeth

David Foster Wallace, “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again”



ENG 593 - Approaches to Narrative Film

Christopher Link (linkc@newpaltz.edu)

M 5:00-7:50 p.m. (plus film screenings, Online OR via seated screenings TBD)

This special topics course is offered, in part, with the aim of developing a standing film studies course at the graduate level in English. As an advanced, graduate-level introduction to the critical study of film, the course will provide students with a foundational understanding of basic elements of film language and theory, but students will also engage in more sophisticated examinations of filmic discourse and in-depth criticism of specific works, with an emphasis on feature-length narrative films, both classic and contemporary. The anticipated thematic focus for Fall 2020 is “Cinema as Reverie: Dreams, Memory, and Desire” and will feature cinematic works by such celebrated filmmakers as Alfred Hitchcock, Frederico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman, and Andrei Tarkovsky. Other works will include selected short films and clips, more recent films from the past two decades, and films by filmmakers traditionally underrepresented in Hollywood. Critical readings will include selections by Freud (from The Interpretation of Dreams), Bachelard (from The Poetics of Reverie), Christian Metz (from Film Language and The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and Cinema), and Laura Mulvey (“Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”), among others.  Online film viewing OR a separate day/time for group film screenings will be determined.


Anticipated Course Texts (available for purchase at the campus bookstore or online):

Charles Barr, Vertigo (BFI Film Classics)

Mar Diestro-Dópido, Pan’s Labyrinth (BFI Film Classics)

Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams

Christian Metz, The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and the Cinema

(A number of additional critical essays will be posted to Blackboard)


Anticipated Course Films (TBD / Subject to Change)

Rear Window (1954, dir. Alfred Hitchcock)

Vertigo (1958, dir. Alfred Hitchcock)

8 ½ (1963, dir. Federico Fellini)

Wild Strawberries (1957, dir. Ingmar Bergman)

The Mirror (1974, dir. Andrei Tarkovsky)

Daughters of the Dust (1991, dir. Julie Dash)

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006, dir. Guillermo del Toro)

Blue Velvet (1986, dir. David Lynch) and/or Mulholland Dr. (2001, dir. David Lynch)

Un chien andalou [short film] (1929, dir. Luis Buñuel)

Meshes of the Afternoon [short film] (1943, dir. Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid)


Other Possible Alternate Films (one or more of the following films may be selected in addition to or in place of those noted above): The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920, dir. Robert Wiene), Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962, dir. Agnès Varda), The Trial (1962, dir. Orson Welles), Pierrot le Fou (1965, dir. Jean-Luc Godard), Despair (1978, dir. Rainer Maria Fassbinder), Until the End of the World (1991, dir. Wim Wenders), Orlando (1993, dir. Sally Potter), Waking Life (2001, dir. Richard Linklater), My Winnipeg (2007, dir. Guy Madden), Persepolis (2007, dir. Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi), The Headless Woman (2008, dir. Lucrecia Martel), Inception (2010, dir. Christopher Nolan), Get Out (2017, dir. Jordan Peele), I Am Not a Witch (2018, dir. Rungano Nyoni), The Lighthouse (2019, dir. Robert Eggers)


ENG 593-01:  Poetics                                                                                  

W 5:00-7:40 p.m.

Professor Thomas Festa: festat@newpaltz.edu

This seminar may be used to satisfy the pre-1800 requirement with the professor’s approval.


Centered on five groundbreaking poetry collections and selections from a pair of major American poets, this course charts the development of a distinctly contemporary poetics that meditates the book as a medium. Apocalypse, prophecy, autobiography, lament, eco-consciousness, political complaint—these recurrent topics intersect with lyric genres and experimental poetics across the range of these texts, all of which exhibit a demonstrable and profound engagement with the traditions of verse, including precedents from early modern English forebears to indigenous pre-modern oral narration and myth and postmodern “spoken word” performance. Listening to the poets read will add further dimension and complexity to our consideration of these modern poets and their poems. A range of secondary texts including author- and genre-based criticism and investigations of the theory of lyric will provide the platform for student-led discussions.




Robert Lowell, Life Studies (1959) and For the Union Dead (1964)

Sylvia Plath, Ariel (1965)

W.S. Merwin, The Lice (1967)

Terrence Hayes, American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin (2018)

James Merrill, Poems, ed. Langdon Hammer

Jorie Graham, From the New World


ENG 593: Special Topics: Plague and Apocalypse in Contemporary Fiction

W 5-7:40

Professor Mary Holland: hollandm@newpaltz.edu

Course Description:

            The truth may be stranger than fiction, but today’s surreal truth arrives in a world whose fiction had already imagined it. Long before COVID-19 reshaped daily experience and triggered existential crises about the tenuousness of our individual lives and of human culture as we know it, writers were imagining stories of apocalypse and plague. As we have multiplied our methods for causing apocalypse—nuclear weapons, genetic engineering, exacerbated climate change, hubristic denial of vulnerability at our highest levels of power—apocalyptic narratives have become increasingly common, so that now they constitute their own sub-genre in contemporary literature. In this course, we will read a variety of novels about plague and apocalypse from the postmodern and contemporary periods, considering the existential angst they share, and the ways in which changes in technology, science, and ideas about human nature inflect that angst differently over time. We will also examine the generic and technical characteristics that mark them as participating in the continual experimental evolution of fiction, asking how increasingly urgent fears about our vulnerability to forces of nature and to our own greedy need for “progress” are beginning to define contemporary literature. Meanwhile, and most importantly, we will use our reading to reflect on our own experiences of those needs and vulnerabilities.


Texts will likely include


  • Atwood, Margaret. Oryx and Crake (2003)
  • Beckett, Samuel. Endgame (1957)
  • Camus, Albert. The Plague (1947)
  • Marcus, Ben. The Flame Alphabet (2012)
  • McCarthy, Cormac. The Road (2006)
  • Mitchell, David. Cloud Atlas (2004)
  • Saramago, José. Blindness (1995)
  • Schulman, Audrey. Theory of Bastards (2019)
  • Whitehead, Colson. Zone One (2011)