The Junior Seminars in criticism are intended especially for moderated junior literature majors. The seminars will introduce students to current thinking in the field, emphasizing how particular methods and ideas can be employed in linking literary texts to their contexts. Intended too is a deep exploration of writing about literature at some length, in the form of a 20-25 pp. paper, developed over the course of most of the semester.



LIT  3043   


Alexandre Benson

M . . . .


OLIN 309


Cross-listed:  American Studies  This seminar offers an intensive reading of Herman Melville’s prose and poetry, from his first novel, Typee, to the posthumously published Billy Budd. We will follow the mutations of a career that produced both hugely popular adventure novels and commercially disastrous narrative experiments (including Moby-Dick; or, the Whale, to which we will devote extended attention mid-semester). At the same time, we will track the topics of concern that persist across this body of work: labor, rhetoric, sexuality, the sublime, faith, and revolt. (Junior Seminar course)  Class size: 15



LIT  3139   


Marina van Zuylen

. . W . .


OLIN 308


How do we acquire cultural and social capital?  What are the subtle mechanisms by which symbolic power is transferred? The books we read, the tastes we acquire, and the ambitions we hold make us into insiders or outcasts, depending on where we stand.  Do social structures inevitably reproduce themselves or can we ever hope to start over? Using literary and philosophical texts, this class will explore the tenuous process of passing from one condition to another.  Whether this integrative process involves race, country, sexuality, gender, or socio-economics, it explodes the notion of a stable and unchanging self and focuses on border zones of culture and being.  We will explore the threatening and liberating resonances of hybrid states and deterritorialized sensibility. Double-consciousness (W.E.B. Du Bois), double temporality (Spinoza), and double diaspora are some terms that will help us study the pain and loss involved in the plasticity of self, in the broken and rebuilt habits at the heart of our desire to be accepted.  Readings from Bourdieu's Distinction, RancièreThe Ignorant Schoolmaster, Nella Larsen, Passing, Henry James, The Europeans, W. D. Howells, The Rise of Silas Lapham, Thomas Hardy, The Return of the Native, Carlyle, Past and Present, Annie ErnauxA Man's Place, Foucault, HerculineBarbin, Wharton, House of Mirth, Virginia Woolf Orlando, Nathalie SarrauteThe Golden FruitsDidier EribonReturning to Reims. This course is a literature junior seminar. Class size: 15



LIT  3252   

 The Danger of Romance

Karen Sullivan

. . . . F


OLIN 310


Cross-listed:  Medieval Studies Throughout its history, romance has been criticized for the effects it has upon its readers. Dante Alighieri’s Francesca ends up in Hell for eternity because she has read the romance of Lancelot, Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote tilts after windmills because he has been reading romances, and Gustave Flaubert’s Emma Bovary veers into adulterous affairs because she has indulged in similar reading matter. The alternate world presented by romance—with its knights errant, beautiful princesses, fantastic animals, enchanted forests, and decentralized geography—can seem more attractive than our own mundane world and, in doing so, can threaten to distract us from this world and our responsibilities within it. Over the semester, we will be reading the major works of romance literature and, in doing so, will be considering the uncertain moral status of this genre. What function does romance play in our imaginative life? What is “escapism,” and is it necessarily undesirable? Is the danger of romance ultimately the danger of literature or even of the imagination itself? Texts to be read include classical romances; medieval Arthurian romances; Renaissance romance epics; and modern novels that emerge out of the romance tradition. This course counts as pre-1800 offering and as a literature junior seminar. It is open to all upper-college students in all concentrations. Class size: 15



LIT  379   

 Emily Dickinson

Philip Pardi

. T . . .

. . . Th .





Although frequently depicted as working in relative isolation, Emily Dickinson was in fact vitally connected to the world around her. This seminar will be devoted to a close and careful reading of Dickinson’s poetry in the context of the historical moment and literary world of which she was a part. By exploring how her work participates in the poetic practices and intellectual currents of her day, we will seek to sharpen our understanding of her unique, even radical, contribution to American poetry. Note that we will meet for an extra hour each week: early in the semester, we'll use these sessions to focus intensely on a single poem; later in the semester, we'll turn our attention to developing the final paper. Open to all moderated students but preference will be given to literature majors. This course is a literature junior seminar.    Class size: 14