Courses

ENGL1191: British Literature: To Be Or Not To Be

Instructor

Self-designed Course

Cornell University

Fall 2016

Course Catalog Description: “To be or not to be, that is the question,” Hamlet says. Perhaps it’s the wrong one. Perhaps the right question, the more daunting question is: “What does it mean to be at all?” Early Modern philosopher René Descartes argued: “I think therefore I am.” Can the Self be chalked up to the brain, a barrage of neural impulses? Does it reside between your ears, or in your heart, your soul, or somewhere else? Today’s rapid shifts in identity, technology, and science force us to grapple with these same questions once again. We will explore Early Modern answers from religion, philosophy, literature, medicine, and the belief of souls and ghosts for clues to answer the most poignant question of all: what it means to be you. The six major writing assignments will include critical summary, argument analysis, personal reflection, literary analysis, philosophical argumentation, and close reading. Note: The work in this course contributed to receiving two teaching awards for the academic year 2016/2017.


ENGL 2880: Expository Writing: Secrets, Surveillance, & You

Instructor

Self-designed Course

Cornell University

Fall 2015Spring 2016

Course Catalog Description: Political secrets call to mind spies like James Bond or Jason Bourne. What if the protagonist of the drama of political secrets is not some fantastical secret agent, but you? Drones, hackers, and secret court hearings have become part of our infrastructure of knowledge-making and governing. This is done in your name, to keep you safe. This course will explore the relationship between political secrets, transparency, knowledge, and individuality. We will discuss literary texts like the story of Judas, In Cold Blood, Darkness at Noon, and A Most Wanted Man, investigative journalism about Wikileaks and the Snowden documents, and films like Zero Dark Thirty and Imitation Game. In the end, we all have to choose which secrets to tell, which to keep.


ENGL 1147: Mystery in the Story: Golden Age Detectives

Instructor

Self-designed Course

Cornell University

Fall 2014Spring 2015

Course Catalog Description:  What makes a mystery? In this course, we'll study and write about the classic mystery tale: intricately plotted stories of suspense, filled with clues, red herrings, careful psychology, and above all deduction. After covering classic writers like Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, and Dorothy Sayers, we will contrast those Golden Age Mysteries with their successors, including parodies by E.W. Hornung, a hardboiled mystery by Dashiell Hammett, later iterations of the Oxford mystery by Colin Dexter, and the postmodern approach of Mark Haddon. We will investigate the genre's relationship to spy fiction, in the persons and books of J.C. Mastermann and John Le Carré. Finally, we will turn to various recent television series including Sherlock, Bletchley Circle, Endeavour, and The Wire. All this will help us look at the way mystery stories hold together, the desires and fears that drive them, the types of thinking they reveal, and the secrets they tell -- or try to keep hidden.


ENGL 2901: Utopia, From Thomas More to Science Fiction

Teaching Assistant for Prof. Jenny Mann

Cornell University

Spring 2017

Course Catalog Description: A "utopia" is an imaginary world, a fantastical "no-place" that conveys important truths about the real world. This course surveys the literary genre of utopia from the Renaissance to today, focusing on writers who invent new worlds through fiction. In Thomas More's Utopia, we explore utopia's emergence in the sixteenth century in response to European political upheaval and New World exploration, then turn to how British and American writers transform utopian visions in the following centuries. Finally, we consider how utopia is re-worked in science fiction's paradoxical emphasis on both fantasy and realism. Topics include the politics of gender and the purpose of technology in a perfect society, and the wildly inventive forms of utopian fiction by Shakespeare, Margaret Cavendish, Jonathan Swift, Aldous Huxley, Ursula LeGuin, and Philip K. Dick. Note: The work in this course contributed to receiving two teaching awards for the year 2017.


ENGL 3270: Shakespeare: The Late Plays

Course Reader for Prof. Philip Lorenz

Cornell University

Spring 2015

Course Catalog Description: The course focuses on Shakespeare's middle to late plays, from the "problem comedies," through the great tragedies, and romances. While we will pay particular attention to questions of dramatic form and historical context, the primary concentration will be on careful close readings of the play-texts themselves in relation to issues of power, politics, and performance. One of the commonplaces in Shakespeare criticism is a division between Shakespeare on the page and on the stage. Throughout the semester, we will consider what this difference could mean. On the way, we will encounter problems linked to art, sexuality, violence, identity, emotion, the body, family, God, the nation, nature and money (not necessarily in that order) - to name a few.


ENGL XXXX: Sacred Books as Literature

Self-designed Potential Future Course

Prospective Course Catalog Description: Nearly four billion of the world’s inhabitants adhere to one of the three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These religions and their sacred books have shaped global culture for thousands of years, with their ideas about creation, divine order, ethics, faith, salvation, history, and apocalypse. This course considers selections from the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scriptures -- not theologically, but as literature, examining their images, stories, themes, differences, similarities, as well as their textual histories and their cultural afterlives in art, drama, and literary history.


ENGL XXXX: Furious Knights and Faerie Queenes

Self-designed Potential Future Course

Prospective Course Catalog Description: They say that all is fair in love and war, but they don’t tell you it’s all literary. This course traces the chivalric romance from Ovid’s Metamorphoses via the Matters of France and Britain to the genre’s fullest expressions in the Renaissance: Boiardo’s Orlando Innamorato, Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, Spenser’s Faerie Queene, and Cervantes’ Don Quixote. We will read selections from these major works, and discuss elements of historical fiction and fantasy, late medieval and early modern warfare, gender and conceptions of love, allegory and satire, and the emergence of national identities.


ENGL XXXX: A Brief History of Secrets

Self-designed Potential Future Course

Prospective Course Catalog Description: The Early Modern period has often been called the Age of Secrecy. It is an age of high political intrigue, religious conflict and persecution, arcane sciences, and breathtaking cultural and scientific innovation. It is also the age that defined the types of secrecy that still inform our political and civic lives. This course will trace the three main types of secrets of the era: the mysterious, the arcane, and the political secret. We will turn to literature ranging from early fantasy novels about alchemy to plays by Marlowe, Shakespeare, and Jonson, from popular broadside ballads to handbooks for alchemists and spies, poems by Donne and essays by Milton, all in order to lift the veil on what secrets are, how they operate, and how their historical forms still affect us today. On the way, we will learn much about the thought world of Early Moderns that will instruct us how we in the 21st century have come to treat issues like privacy, political secrecy, information, censorship, and transparency -- and even what makes us ourselves.


ENGL XXXX: Eros and the Sonnet

Self-designed Potential Future Course

Prospective Course Catalog Description: From Plato’s Symposium and Phaedrus to Marion’s Erotic Phenomenon, philosophy has attempted to grapple with the question of the real through the idea of eros, or love. This attempt finds its literary counterpart in the sonnet, which has endured for centuries as the West’s most recognizable poetic form, using the theme of love to explore the deeper philosophical questions of existence and make both careful and bold arguments about reality. This course will trace the sonnet from its inception at the Sicilian court of “the first ruler of the modern type,” Frederick II. of Hohenstaufen, to the late early modern poets Milton and Cavendish. On the way, we will also read selections from Da Lentini, Dante, Petrarch, Wyatt, Howard, Sidney, Spenser, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Raleigh, Queen Elizabeth, Donne, and Herbert. Special attention will be paid to close reading and to literature as material for philosophical arguments.


Other Potential Course Topics: Literary Theory (History & Contemporary), Milton, Defoe, Marlowe, Metaphysical Poets & Cavaliers, Early Modern Science & Literature, Early Modern Intercultural Transmission, Arabic Legacies in Early Modern Literature, Philosophy & Literature, Religion & Literature, Philosophy of Information, Media Theory, Ancient & Early Modern Rhetoric, Renaissance Magic, Restoration Literature, Reformation Literature & Heterodoxies, Early Feminisms, Political Theology, History of the Book, Digital Humanities. Enrollment-Oriented Special Topics: Game of Thrones (with Shakespeare), Harry Potter (with Faust and Faustus), History of Fantasy Literature, The Inklings.