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Spring 2014 Course Descriptions

English 4950  Literary History

English 4950 Section 001       CRN 31652

Literary History    1100-1215 TR

This senior capstone course allows an opportunity to reflect on your studies as an English major. A large portion of your major has been organized around the idea of literary periods, and it’s also likely that you have confronted literary periods or historical contexts in some of your other courses as well. We will begin the course by examining the reasons for this kind of historical organization, common characteristics of Anglo-American periodization, and some of the related problems and controversies associated with historical periodization.  In this first part of the course, we will also be reading some selected texts to accompany our discussion, reading that may help you fill in historical gaps.

More importantly, this preliminary study will set the stage for the second part of the course—indeed the heart of the course—where we will be focused more centrally on what it means to read a literary text historically as well as the opposing question:  how might we re-think literary history? We will be asking provocative questions in both a theoretical and material way, questions such as: how has reading or readers changed over time? Do we know? How has print technology and the digital age affected how we understand the literary text? Is “meaning” something that stays the same or changes? How might we find that out? Do newer movements like “transatlanticism” or “global literary history” or “translational literary history” provide better or just different categories for understanding the dynamics of literary change?

During the second part of this course, students will also be developing research topics and will be encouraged to find topics related to their course of interest or career plans. Requirements of the course include: 2 short papers, 1 research paper, oral reports, final exam.  (Group 4)