Reading and Writing About Literature (ENGL 100 Section 003)

Why Fairy Tales Still Matter

September 2017, MWF 11:00-12:00

What, exactly, is a fairy tale? Why do some remain popular even two or three hundred years after they were first published? And why do modern writers so often return to the form, sometimes to rewrite old tales and sometimes to compose brand-new ones? In this course, we will address these questions by reading and discussing a variety of classic tales by the Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault, and Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont as well as modern versions of those tales by Emma Donoghue and Francesca Lia Block. We’ll end the term by examining a recent tale by Neil Gaiman that seems to have no literary predecessors. In lectures and discussions we’ll consider how fairy tales have been adapted to meet the needs of distinct historical periods, and how different critical approaches to the same text can yield entirely different—even competing—interpretations.

Literature in English to the 18th Century (ENGL 220 Section 003)

Kicking God Off Stage: Literary Form and the Rise of Humanism

September 2017, MWF 1:00-2:00

In this course we will examine major literary works from the 14th to the 17th century, with a focus on how changes in literary form reflect an increasingly human-centred view of natural order. In discussions and lectures we will examine work by Chaucer, Marlowe, and Shakespeare as well as a number of anonymous writers. The historical organization of the material will enable students to gain insight into both the development of literary style and the relationship of each work to its period.

Children’s Literature (ENGL 468A Section 002)

Seven Ways of Thinking About Fairy Tales (And Their Children)

September 2017 MWF 3:00-4:00


Children’s literature is an unusual field of study.  Children rarely write children’s books, nor have they produced a body of research on children’s literature.  Instead, adult authors write for imagined child readers, and adult academics pursue research based on the foundations of consciously (or unconsciously) constructed models of childhood. Our class will grapple with this defining problem of children’s literature—the difficulty of constructing the child reader—by applying a variety of critical approaches to European fairy tales and their descendants. We’ll begin by reading fairy tales that were published in England, Germany, France, and Russia in the 17th to 19th century. We’ll then turn to modern versions of these tales and finish by examining recent novels and graphic novels that adapt conventions of traditional fairy tales to explore the complexities of modern life. In a nod to the folklorist Max Lüthi, who saw sevens nearly everywhere he looked, I’ve chosen the following approaches for our class: interactions between text and image, socio-historical criticism, formalism, psychoanalytic theory, feminism, adaptation theory, and reader response theory. Readings will include a variety of traditional tales as well as modern works by Emma Donoghue, Francesca Lia Block, Philip Pullman, Neil Gaiman, and Bill Willingham

Literature in English 18th Century to the Present ENGL 221 (010)

Women and Men in the Literary Canon

January 2018, MWF 2:00-3:00

In this course we will examine paired works by women and men who were contemporaries, or nearly so—Aphra Behn and the Earl of Rochester, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and Alexander Pope, and Emily Brontë and Charles Dickens, among others. Keeping in mind that in almost every case the female writer initially attracted less (in most cases much less) attention than her male counterpart, we will consider, first, what a predominantly ‘male’ literary canon looks like, and, second, how including women writers transforms that canon.


Studies in an Eighteenth-Century Genre ENGL 358 (002)

Children in Time: Reading, Education, and the Making of Modern Childhood in Eighteenth-Century England

January 2018, MWF 12:00-1:00

Willem Wissing and John Vandervaart, Master Montagu Drake (1689)

Willem Wissing and John Vandervaart, Master Montagu Drake (1689)

Joseph Wright, The Wood Children (1789)











The century that separates the portraits of Montagu Drake and the Wood children saw many changes in how children were understood and treated. By the end of the eighteenth century, for example, almost no one took seriously any more John Locke’s belief that children should be prepared for the demands of adult life through cold baths, hard beds, and leaky shoes; and, as Lawrence Stone notes, parental practices of giving more than one child the same name and recycling the names of dead children had more or less died out. In this course, we will examine how seventeenth- and eighteenth-century beliefs about childhood influenced writing for and about children and adolescents. We will consider such matters as parent-child relations, the models of education proposed by John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau, the rise of literature for young readers, and the commodification of childhood. Throughout the course, we will place particular emphasis on the connections between the educational theory of the time and children’s reading.

Children’s Literature (ENGL 468A Section 004)

Today’s Dreams as Tomorrow’s Nightmares: Recent Young-Adult Dystopias and the Regulation of Youth

January 2018, MWF 10:00-11:00

The last two decades have seen a sharp rise in the popularity of literary dystopias aimed at adolescents. In these books, young protagonists are surveilled as terrorists, trained to be passive consumers, forced to engage in macabre versions of reality TV, and even vivisected to provide body parts and organs for transplant. Taking as our starting point the idea that dystopias represent the unintended consequences of utopian aspirations, this course will offer a survey of alternate futures in which attempts to address modern-day concerns—terrorism, race relations, reproductive rights, consumerism—lead to nightmarish futures in which social stability rests upon the regulation, and often exploitation, of the young. The reading list will include recent young-adult novels by Cory Doctorow, M.T. Anderson, Neal Shusterman, Scott Westerfeld, Patrick Ness, and Brian K. Vaughan.