COURSE DESCRIPTIONS

Topics in Science and Literature

 Decades ago, C. P. Snow confronted literary and science scholars with the theory that they have separated into “two cultures,” a controversial thesis that concerns intellectual divisions both across and within academic disciplines. In this course, we will take up this challenge by examining how science and literature function as integral parts of culture. Key questions for the course include: what is the relationship between scientific creation and science fiction? How does evolutionary theory function as a globalizing narrative? What is the role of communal practices (such as the construction of paradigms) in shaping the directions of research? What are the local consequences of global scientific and literary achievements? How do societies write biology? Through this comparative approach, we will explore how literary representations influence and reflect developments in science. By examining the ways in which these different fields develop within shared historical contexts, we will gain a better understanding of science and literature as material practices and cultural formations.

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Literatures of the Sea

  Through the interplay of literary theory and marine science, this course charts the varied social and environmental contexts converging in literatures of the sea. Functioning variously as physical setting, character, as well as psychological environment, the sea provides a common focus for writers around the world from ancient times through the present. A wide range of historical and regional literatures will inform our investigations of the ways in which early maritime works influence contemporary representations of the sea. And, by comparing canonical and popular texts, the course will explore not only how authors represent the history of life by, on, and in the sea but also how such representations play an active role in shaping present and future marine ecologies. Readings may include texts by Rachael Carson, Daniel Defoe, Julie Dash, Linda Greenlaw, Homer, Sarah Orne Jewett, Herman Melville, Yukio Mishima, Derek Walcott, and Virginia Woolf. Some versions of this course will have a component related to the Marine Science Education and Research Center.

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Animals, Literature, and Culture

  This course examines how animals define the crossroads of literary representations and cultural formations. Writers have always turned to animal life to find moving symbols of human conditions and, with the insights of animal science research, more recently to gain a broader understanding of cognition and social development. By investigating this history of literary animal studies, this course aims to account for why species differences, especially between humans and animals, remain among the most enduring markers of social difference. In telling stories of dogs, for instance, as variously gods, pets, meat, or pests, humans mark irreconcilable cultural differences among themselves as well as set the limits of what (and who) counts as natural object and cultural subject. As we consider how species boundaries also intersect with historical constructions of gender, race, class, sex, and ethnicity, our readings and discussions will also illuminate how animal literatures model emerging forms of identity and society.

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ENG 110 English Composition

 This course introduces you to college writing through theories and practices of literary, cultural, and textual studies. Your main tasks will be learning how to frame complex ideas in writing and revising your writing to present coherent arguments to specific audiences. The course is process-based, anchored by three major essay assignments in which you will use writing as a tool of inquiry into common concerns. As part of each major assignment, you will read and respond to essays and stories that will help you to gain an understanding of some key terms and concepts as well as a range of rhetorical models. Each assignment also requires you to produce multiple drafts due by specified dates; after the first draft of each one, you will read, respond to, and incorporate responses of other classmates to revise your writing in the drafting process. In addition to these major writing assignments, the course requires that you complete two shorter writing projects: the first a diagnostic essay to be discussed at our first class meeting and the last a cumulative final project, for which you must save copies of your work all semester. In short, you will work constantly throughout the semester to develop your skills as a thinker, reader, and writer.

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ENG 206 Introduction to Literary Theory and Criticism

 This course introduces students to the traditions of critical interpretation with particular attention devoted to more recent developments in the field of literary interpretation. The course examines the extent to which the meanings of (and what counts as) literary texts are determined by formalist, structuralist, poststructuralist, feminist, new historicist, marxist, and other theoretical approaches. The goals of the course include practicing methods of literary and textual analysis as well as gaining a clear understanding of their cultural and historical foundations. As part of this course, students will produce several short response papers, prepare and deliver an oral presentation to the class, and complete a comprehensive final examination.

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ENG 226 Irish Literature and Culture in Ireland

 After a semester-long series of readings, films, and discussions at the University Campus with Professor Joseph Mahoney, the class will spend two weeks traveling to the heart of Eire, the legendary southwest coast of Ireland. Included in the tour will be the Clare coastline, including the music village of Doolin, the Cliffs of Moher, and the antiquities of the Burren. We will move on to County Kerry, the archeological wonders of Dingle Peninsula, then to the “Ring of Kerry,” Bantry Bay, and the stunning harbor village of Kinsale. The journey ends with two days in and about Cork City, including the “Queenstown Experience” at the heritage center of Cobh, the last port for the Titanic. Students, in addition to studying “Irish Renaissance” writers and filmmakers, will keep a photo journal of their personal insights (and future memories). Professor Susan McHugh will assist Professor Mahoney in mentoring students through this project and join the group in documenting the journey through the Emerald Isle.

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