LIT 3028

 SoundSCAPES OF American Literature

Alexandre Benson

   Th       4:40-7:00 pm




Cross-listed: American Studies; Environmental & Urban Studies, Experimental Humanities  We often use sonic terms—voice, tone, echo, resonance—to describe literary texts, even as we set writing in opposition to the noisy, melodious stuff of speech and song. This paradox raises some knotty questions of aesthetics, sensation, and media, questions that become still more complicated in the context of American literature from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century. Over this period, shifts in migration, labor, transport, and the built environment radically alter what cities sound like, while audio recording and reproduction technologies reconfigure the forms and functions of popular music. American poets, novelists, and essayists, meanwhile, experiment with new ways of writing sound: new rhythms, new structures of narrative voice, new ideas about sonic experience as a function of cultural difference and of ability. To get a sense of these experiments, we’ll concentrate on moments in which technology, identity, environment, and hearing tightly interweave (as when the train whistles past Thoreau at Walden Pond). We’ll track the adaptation of literary texts across media, from print to performance to phonograph (as when Abbey Lincoln sings a Paul Laurence Dunbar poem). And we’ll engage with the theoretical questions that emerge around terms like “soundscape” itself--a concept first coined as a way of describing the noise of urban infrastructure, even as it nods to traditions of pastoral aesthetics. As a Junior Seminar, the course will emphasize methods of research and argumentation that will be of use not only in literary sound studies, but also in Senior Projects in the humanities more generally. Likely figures: James Baldwin, John Cage, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Charlie Chaplin, Emily Dickinson, William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston, and Helen Keller. This course is a Literature Junior  Seminar course. Class size: 12



LIT 3147

 T.S. Eliot & THE POETICS OF Modernity

Matthew Mutter

 T           4:40-7:00 pm

OLIN 101



Cross-listed: American Studies  This course will use the poetry, philosophy, and cultural criticism of T.S. Eliot as a framework for exploring the multiple intellectual challenges of modernity. We will begin by investigating the cultural contexts out of which literary modernism arose—the crisis of liberal progressivism in the wake of WWI, the exhaustion of Romanticism and philosophical Idealism, the fragmentation of social norms and the experience of anomie and ennui—as well as specific influences on Eliot’s early work (Baudelaire, Laforgue, Pound, Santayana, Freud, and Durkheim). With steady attention to his interlocutors, we will trace the development of Eliot’s poetic and philosophical project from the radical critique of modern epistemology in his dissertation to his later contemplative poems and plays. Along the way we will explore the ongoing tensions Eliot strived to negotiate: tradition v. poetic innovation and a comprehensive philosophical skepticism; the desire for psychological and cultural integration v. the acknowledgement of fragmentation; and a sustained attraction to (and profound knowledge of) the religious ideas of the East v. his immersion in Christian mysticism. The course will also aim to understand Eliot’s remarkable self-revisions throughout his career and the vagaries of Eliot’s reputation as a critic and poet in the 20th and 21st centuries.  Class size: 15



LIT 3205


Joseph Luzzi

M           1:30-3:50 pm

OLIN 310



What makes Dante’s Divine Comedy so essential to our lives today, even though it was written seven centuries ago? This course will explore the fascinating world of Dante’s epic poem in all its cultural and historical richness, as we consider Dante’s relation to his beloved hometown of Florence, his lacerating experience of exile, and his lifelong devotion to his muse Beatrice, among many other issues. We will pay special attention to the originality and brilliance of Dante’s poetic vision, as we see how he transformed his great poem into one of the most influential works in literary history, both in Italy and throughout the world. Course/reading in English. This course counts as pre-1800 offering. Class size: 15



LIT 323

 BEYOND LOLITA: Nabokov AND THE Language of Desire

Olga Voronina

M           1:30-3:50 pm

OLIN 306



This course invites students to contemplate the legendary eroticism of Nabokov’s masterwork not only as a matter of plot, characterization, or dialogue, but also as a linguistic phenomenon. The aesthetics of sexual desire for Nabokov is inseparable from language – a physiological, cognitive, and symbolic medium that can affect the reader both on the level of sound (alliteration, friction, tension, etc.) as well as through figurative speech, with its multiplicity of connotations and allusions (hidden messages are like taboos: we desire to break them). Lolita, the novel we will be reading and re-reading in class, was written in English, which Nabokov acquired and adopted, rather than being born into. We will investigate the impact Nabokov’s complicated relationship with the language had on his writing techniques and stylistic choices. We will also explore strategies of narrative concealment Nabokov used in order to seduce, mislead, and even morally blind his readers. Among the texts offered for study and discussion, there will be Lolita’s prototexts, such as fairy-tales and Arthurian legends; works by William Shakespeare, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Edgar Allan Poe, Lewis Carroll, and John Ruskin; Russian classical literature (Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tostoy, Anton Chekhov); German, French, and American pulp fiction; and the author’s own novels and short stories, either written in English (Bend Sinister, “A Fairy-Tale”, “Colette”) or self-translated from the Russian (Laughter in the Dark). This course is a Literature Junior  Seminar course.  Class size: 16



LIT 341

 The Book Before Print

Marisa Libbon

 T           1:30-3:50 pm

OLIN 107



Cross-listed: Medieval Studies; Experimental Humanities  What were books like before the invention of print? What was the experience of reading them? How did they shape and how were they shaped by the world in which they were produced? And how do we know? In 1476 William Caxton set up England’s first printing press. Prior to the arrival of this new technology—which the sixteenth-century writer John Foxe deemed miraculous—English books were made of vellum (animal skin) and were written and decorated by hand. In this course, we’ll study early English books both as cultural objects and literary archives, dividing our time between investigating how pre-print English manuscript-books were made and read, and studying their contents, including the popular literature of medieval England and the painted illuminations that accompanied it: epics, lyrics, histories, romances, all of which will be made available in modern printed editions. Our work will raise questions about the relationship between material form and literary content; the intersection of image and text; the development and preservation of literary and visual artifacts; the ethical and practical problems of producing modern printed editions of handwritten texts; and the proximity of anonymous pre-print culture to the so-called Internet Age.  This is a pre-1800 Literature course offering. Class size: 15



LIT 359


Celia Bland

   Th       1:30-3:50 pm

OLIN 107



This course circumnavigates the detective novel as a literary genre, reflecting upon class, race, and gender with readings from a wide variety of novels, stories, and theoretical essays. It will offer hypothetical and practical studies in questioning, puzzling, and deducing, with scenes that experiment with narrative structure and, most particularly, linguistic style. Along the way, these texts comment upon violence, but even more emphatically, upon guilt and the search for safety in an insecure world. In a series of weekly writing assignments, students will explore the genre in analyses addressed to a public audience of non-academics. These assignments – on plot, perspective, motivation, characterization, and cultural assumptions -- will ask students not only to practice literary criticism, but also to translate their critical insights into a language accessible to non-academics. Working collaboratively, we will learn from each other, creating a community of writers and learners.  Class size: 12



LIT 367


Brittney Edmonds

   W        1:30 – 3:50 pm

HEG 201





Cross-listed: American Studies; Theater and Performance  This seminar examines the politics of black satire as a performative medium, and it traces a genealogy of black comedic performance practices in the tradition of African-American satire and politically insurgent humor. Course participants will explore multiple modes of satirical performance in relation to critical aesthetic movements and historical periods from the 19th century to the present day. Special emphasis will be placed on interrogating the politics of African-American blackface minstrelsy as satire. The seminar will also emphasize an examination of post-Civil Rights black satire in theatre, films, sketch comedy programs, visual art, political cartoons, novels, and popular music culture. Course participants will place theories of humor and signifying (by Ellison, Gates, Watkins, Freud and others) in conversation with the performances of Williams and Walker, Nina Simone, Richard Pryor, Kara Walker, Paul Beatty, Suzan-Lori Parks, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle and others. Class size: 15



LIT 380

 Poetry and Attentiveness

Philip Pardi

    F        10:00-5:00 pm




Cross-listed: Experimental Humanities; Written Arts  The premise of this course is that poetry invites us to attend to the world—and to our experience of the world—in profound and possibly revelatory ways. We will accept this invitation and immerse ourselves in the possibilities created by such attentiveness. The heart of our work together will involve reading and responding to an eclectic list of poets. Readings will include poetry, criticism, and one (lengthy) biography of a poet; writing assignments will include creative pieces, short and long critical responses, and a semester-long notebook of observations and reflections. Poets whose work we will read with care include Basho, Langston Hughes, John Keats, Marianne Moore, Eileen Myles, Marilyn Nelson, Frank O'Hara, and several poets of the Chinese T'ang Dynasty. In addition, we will take up the question of attentiveness itself: what does it mean to truly “pay” attention? What is it like to spend a full hour with a 4-line poem? What is it like to go for a walk, alone, without technology, for an hour, committed merely to walking and noticing? In this part of the course, we will practice, read, and write about our own ability to truly immerse ourselves in what we read and what we experience. We will also consider our tendency to get distracted, bored, or angsty. Note on Course Format: this course meets once a week for seven hours. At the beginning of each session, we will all turn in our phones, laptops, smart watches, etc. That is, we will agree to be completely offline for the duration of the seven hours. Thus, not only will we read and write about poetry and ponder the nature of attention and distraction, we will also live, and perhaps wrestle, in their midst.  Class size: 15



LIT 393


Justus Rosenberg

   T         10:10-12:30 pm

OLIN 107



A close reading and textual analysis of plays considered milestones in the history of the theater.  In this course we isolate and examine the artistic, social and psychological components that made these works become part of the literary canon.   Have they lasted because they conjure up fantasies of escape, or make its readers and viewers face dilemmas inherent in certain social conditions or archetypical conflicts?   What was it exactly that made them so shocking when first performed?  The language, theme, style, staging?  We also explore the theatre as a literary genre that goes beyond the writing.  For a meaningful and effective performance, all aspects of the play, directing, acting, staging, lighting will be considered.  This course is part of the World Literature offering.  Class size: 15


LIT 405

 Senior Colloquium: Literature

Cole Heinowitz

M           4:40-6:00 pm

ASP 302



1 credit  Literature Majors writing a project are required to enroll in the year-long Senior Colloquium.   Senior Colloquium is an integral part of the Senior Project.  An opportunity to share working methods, knowledge, skills and resources among students, the colloquium explicitly addresses challenges arising from research and writing on this scale, and presentation of works in progress.  A pragmatic focus on the nuts and bolts of the project will be complemented with life-after-Bard skills workshops, along with a review of internship and grant-writing opportunities in the discipline. Senior Colloquium is designed to create a productive network of association for student scholars and critics: small working groups foster intellectual community, providing individual writers with a wide range of support throughout this culminating year of undergraduate study in the major.  Class size: 22


Cross-listed courses:



FREN 354

 Literature of Private Life

Marina van Zuylen

  W         1:30-3:50 pm






Cross-listed: Gender and Sexuality Studies; Literature  Class size: 15



REL 231

 Great Jewish Books

Samuel Secunda

M  W      3:10-4:30 pm

OLIN 204



Cross-listed: Jewish Studies; Literature  Class size: 20



SPAN 301

 Intro to Spanish Literature

Patricia Lopez-Gay

  W  F     1:30-2:50 pm




Cross-listed: Experimental Humanities; Latin American and Iberian Studies; Literature  Class size: 15