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English and Comparative Literature Masters Seminar

Fall 2019 English GR5001 Section 002

This MA seminar (1) provides an episodic overview of developments in Anglophone literary studies, (2) introduces students to advanced research methods in the field, and (3) develops familiarity with professional norms and practices.

Since these topics greatly exceed the capacity of a single semester, our goal will be to establish a framework that will continue to grow and consolidate throughout your professional career. Each week we will read and discuss several essays (stand-alone or book chapters), representative of a decade---starting with the turn of the twentieth century and ending in the twenty-first. Some of these will turn out to be canonical, while others represent still inchoate directions for future research. Throughout we will pay attention not only to what is being said, but how. I am interested here in the work of literary scholarship---its expertise and possibilities as a discipline.

Students should expect to participate actively in weekly discussions, in-class and online, and to complete regular short written skill-building assignments. Together, we will reflect on the morphology of common academic forms---such as the essay, book, conference paper, journal, archive, and press---as well as share effective strategies for brainstorming, researching, organizing, writing, editing, and bringing your projects to completion.

Grading Requirements

  • 25% Participation (class + online)
  • 50% Written Assignments
  • 25% Final Presentation

Modalities of Engagement

  • We will seek to create a respectful and supportive environment for our community. Consult the xpMethods lab-culture document for core principles.

  • Please bring a paper copy of each reading to the class. The use of electronic devices will be limited to specific exercises.

  • Links to most readings will be provided. However, you are ultimately responsible for procuring the reading materials. Whenever possible, seek documents in context of their publication. I also strongly encourage that you purchase those texts that are relevant to your interests.

  • We will not always have time to discuss every text assigned. Regardless, you are responsible for the entirety of the material. Pursue your curiosity by expanding the selection to cover TOCs, introductions, and conclusions.

  • When not feeling well, you have the option to engage from home. Rest and recover before coming back to class, especially during the flu season. There is no penalty for doing so. An absence for any reason can always be remedied through online participation above the weekly minimum.

  • Consult Columbia's guidelines on Academic Integrity and Responsible Conduct of Research.


  • Northwest Corner 502
  • Courseworks
  • Piazza
  • Office hours at Philosophy 408b by appointment.

Week 0

Introductions, goals, class requirements. Limitations of the format. Our ways of reading. Theme, method, archive exercise.

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

  • Pages 1--37 and 139--159 in Theory of Literature (1942) by Renee Wellek and Austin Warren.
  • "The Historical Interpretation of Literature" in Triple Thinkers (1948) by Edmund Wilson.
  • Wimsatt, W. K., and M. C. Beardsley. “The Affective Fallacy.” The Sewanee Review 57, no. 1 (1949): 31–55.

Week 6

  • Selections from The Opposing Self: Nine Essays in Criticism (1955) by Lionel Trilling.
  • Selections from Anatomy of Criticism (1957) by Northrop Frye.
  • Selection from The Rhetoric of Fiction (1961) by Wayne Booth.

Week 7

  • "On Style" and "Notes on Camp" by Susan Sontag (1966).
  • Hartman, Geoffrey. “Beyond Formalism.” MLN 81, no. 5 (1966): 542–56.
  • Selections from Kate Millet, Sexual Politics (1970).

Week 8

  • Fish, Stanley E. “How Ordinary Is Ordinary Language?” New Literary History 5, no. 1 (1973): 41–54.
  • "The Author as Producer" in Marxism and Literary Criticism by Terry Eagleton (1976).
  • Tanselle, G. Thomas. “The Editorial Problem of Final Authorial Intention.” Studies in Bibliography 29 (1976): 167–211.
  • Pages 1--8 and 264--306 in The Country and The City (1973) by Raymond Williams.
  • "Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act" in The Political Unconscious (1981) by Frederic Jameson.

Week 9

Week 10

Week 11

  • Selections from Epistemology of the Closet (1990) by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick.
  • Selections from A History of the Modern Fact (1998) by Mary Poovey.
  • "The Touch of the Real" in Practicing New Historicism (2000) by Catherine Gallagher and Stephen Greenblatt.

Week 12

  • "Translating into English" (2005) by Gayatri Spivak.
  • Selections from Literary Reading: Empirical and Theoretical Studies (2006) by David Miall.
  • Selections from Feeling Backward Loss and the Politics of Queer History (2007) by Heather Love.

Week 13

  • Selection from The Fall of Language in the Age of English (2015) by Minae Mizumura.
  • English, James F. “Now, Not Now: Counting Time in Contemporary Fiction Studies.” Modern Language Quarterly 77, no. 3 (September 1, 2016): 395–418.
  • "Nothing is Hidden" by Toril Moi in Critique and Postcritique (2017).

Potential Worksheets (not finished)

  • Online corpora and databases (A Genealogy of What)
  • Bibliography
  • Syllabus
  • Journal Landscape List the major journals in your field. Copy and paste the editorial statement. Research the editorial board. What is a journal's history. Look at the inaugural issue.
  • Anatomy of a paper
  • Anatomy of a book
  • Visiting archives
  • Styles of conference presentation
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