Poetry is a universal vehicle for communicating thought and feeling. Different forms of poetry employ a wide array of strategies for presenting their messages. Examines many of these forms and teaches the appreciation of the creative devices used by different poets. In close readings of the poems, responds to the language, relate poets' attitudes to the forms they employ, and builds recognition of the poet's workshop of tools.
One of the oldest forms of literature, drama is unique in requiring physical enactment before an audience. The intimacy and intensity of performance make special demands on the playwright but also offer rich rewards. Examines the various forms western drama has taken over the ages, its blending of realistic and symbolic elements, and its use as a vehicle for the examination of social issues. Plays are typically drawn from ancient Greek comedies and tragedies, medieval and Renaissance English plays, classical French drama, modern dramas (by Ibsen, Chekhov, O'Neill), theater of the absurd, and contemporary plays. Often includes "proto-productions" in which student groups create and present their interpretations in approximate theatrical form.
The first novels were romances, tales of wanderers, allegories, and satires. Works by Cervantes and John Bunyan exemplify the early novel. The novel as a genre soon developed an enthusiastic audience and a variety of forms, from realistic to fantastic. Presents novels from different times and places to sample some of this variety and to see how authors have made use of the enormous potential of the novel.
The modern short story is characterized by its movement toward a moment of realization or insight. How can we decipher and benefit from this insight? Studies the different forms a short story can take and the different ends to which individual writers subject the form. Includes writers who have contributed to the development of the modern short story (such as Anton Chekhov, Edgar Allan Poe, and Katherine Mansfield) and more recent innovators (such as Ernest Hemingway and Raymond Carver). Incorporates the stories of visiting writers who come to Bentley to share their work. C I
Examines the most protean of literary forms, the essay, and explores its development into a flexible medium capable of reflecting on personal matters as well as sports, business, politics, food, and science exploration. Authors vary from Michel de Montaigne and Samuel Johnson to such contemporary American writers as Annie Dillard and Stephen Jay Gould. The theme varies from year to year.
How do some texts come to be seen as foundations of cultures? And when they do come to be seen in this way, what do they tell us about what different civilizations regard as essential to their evolving cultural identities? Explores the connections between literary texts, generally of the ancient and medieval world such as Homer, the Bible and the Tao Te Ching, and the circumstances in which they were composed. Asks whether there are indeed universal human values, or whether the attitudes, beliefs, and societies we as readers live by or take almost for granted can be usefully contrasted with those revealed in the older texts we study. Queries what cultural assumptions we bring to the act of reading these texts, and how our outlook helps to shape our understanding and is challenged by them.
Selections from both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament will be discussed in considerable detail: Genesis, Exodus, Samuel, Kings, Ecclesiastes, Job, Matthew, Acts, and perhaps some selections from the prophets, Psalms, and other books as well. These books include stories about human origins, families, love, war, sex, betrayal, politics, prophets and kings, and the development of a stormy relationship between God and humankind. The books of the Bible also contain laws, histories, philosophy, and prophecies, all of which can help us understand the ancient cultures that so influenced the world.
Today more is known about Jesus as a historical figure than at any other time in the past two thousand years. The same is true for the founding and development of Christianity and for the transition of Judaism into its modern form, both of which occur in the middle to late years of the first century of the Common Era. We will read the New Testament in the context of this knowledge, which comes from archeological discoveries and careful scholarly research. We will also look at samples of other texts from the period: the Apocrypha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and non-canonical gospels.
Introduces students to important works from Beowulf to Virginia Woolf that contributed to the evolving British literary tradition. Readings are selected from a variety of periods and movements, such as the Renaissance and the Romantic revolution. The works are studied in their cultural and historical settings.
Employing the methods of several disciplines, including literature, history, philosophy, and anthropology, introduces the dramatic and detailed documentation of the presence and legacy of Africans in Ancient America (or Pre-Columbian America). Explores the major genres, themes, and criticisms which compose the literary and cultural traditions of African Americans. Selected oral narratives, essays, slave narratives, poetry, short stories, autobiographies, drama, and novels will be critically studied. Attention is given to historical, cultural, and socio-political backgrounds. D
The United States has always been a contact zone, a meeting place of a variety of cultures. Introduces some of the diverse American literature produced between the 17th and 20th centuries. Students will learn about the many writers associated with the Boston area, such as Bradstreet, Alcott, and Thoreau as well as writers such as Douglass, Twain, Dickinson, and Cather from the diverse regions and cultural backgrounds within the United States.
As the recent successes of Dances with Wolves and Pocahontas suggest, Americans are still fascinated with American Indian culture and history. Beginning with an examination of such media images of Indians, concentrates on introducing students to the variety of literary genres novels, stories, poems, biographies, and treaty speeches through which Native American Indians have chosen to represent their cultures and their experiences. In reading texts such as Love Medicine and Reservation Blues and authors including Sherman Alexie, Joy Harjo, and Zitkala-Sa, we will explore how characters deal with their complicated cultural inheritance. To understand the motivations of different characters and narrators, cultural issues such as Indian spirituality, gaming practices, Ghost Dancing, captivity, adoption, and ritualistic war practices will also be addressed. D
Acting is the art of creating something out of nothing by building a new reality for the audience before its very eyes. Skillfully performing this art demands a strong imagination, incisive intelligence, focus, and discipline. These skills lead not only to success in theatre, but also to a greater understanding of human nature and broad success interacting with people throughout life. In this class we will explore the art of acting, developing a shared vocabulary and reflecting our experience of each other's work. Students will be expected to show self-discipline, working independently and demonstrating improvement in the class. Students will be given assignments with specific memorization and performance dates. Students will produce a monologue and a scene, which will be shown at a public performance at the end of the semester. In addition, students will attend Boston professional performances and will discuss them in class.
In attempting to write about the genocide that took place during World War II, writers have struggled with the dilemma, "how does one represent the unrepresentable?" This course will examine the attempts of writers writing originally in English, French, Italian, Hebrew, Polish, and German to come to terms with this issue of "fictional representation" of the Holocaust. The reading list will be complemented by films that have also tackled the problem of turning the "unrepresentable" into art.
Heroes can be warriors or pacifists, romantics or realists, officers or outlaws, or a composite of all of these. The kind of hero a culture admires can tell us a lot about its values, its beliefs, and its fears. Examines male and female heroes from a spectrum of modern and traditional cultures. It considers how literary heroism functions as an expression of cultural values and social expectations. In exploring the ways that heroes do and do not function as role models, it also explores the conflict between individuality and social responsibility often revealed in heroic narratives. C D I
The year 1995 marked the twentieth anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. In the intervening twenty years many novelists and poets-some of them veterans, some not-have attempted to transform their immediate experience of it or its effect on their lives into an art form that will have meaning for us all. In this they join the many writers throughout the world history of war who have written in the genre of war literature. This course addresses the genre of war literature and the questions, issues, and values it raises by looking closely at the literature and films of the Vietnam War. D
Explores the literary representation of women's nature, lives, and issues. The literary definitions and dynamics of Woman appear in such terms as self, voice, autonomy, relation to men, and position and agency in the world. Considers whether the gender of the writer affects the literary treatment of the subject. The texts studied will vary each semester. D
Irish writers have made a remarkable contribution to 20th century literature; three Nobel Prize winners hail from Ireland, a country of fewer than four million inhabitants. Presents elements of a literary and oral tradition in Ireland that extends from the pre-Christian mythological stories to the modern novels of Joyce and Beckett. We will attempt to understand the concerns of writers and storytellers in a social and historical context and to explore the contribution of Irish authors to a variety of literary forms. Writers studied include Swift, Maria Edgeworth, Wilde, Shaw, and Frank O'Connor. Modern works may include George Moore's novel The Lake, James Joyce's story collection Dubliners, Samuel Beckett's play Waiting for Godot, and J. M. Synge's The Aran Islands. C I
Introduces students to the literature of the Caribbean. Texts will be selected from the offerings of several islands and from various genres: novel, poetry and short fiction. Emphasis will be placed on the shaping influences of the island's rich mystical heritage and on questions of personal identity. The effects of slavery, African cultural survivals, and the role played by the English, French, Spanish colonials, white creoles, mulattoes, and blacks in forming the cultural mosaic of the island will be studied. Students will read the works of such authors as V.S. Naipaul, Jean Rhys, Jacques Roumain, Derek Waltcott and Esmeralda Santiago among others. D I
Note: Formerly LIT 391
Are graphic novels lowbrow, juvenile comics or a more complicated format expressing ideas, creating complex characters, addressing issues and telling stories in a fashion unmatched by other media? This course explores a recent and still emerging genre of narrative literature. We will investigate several significant modern novels that use both words and images to tell their tales. What literary and social values do these novels reflect? Students will sharpen their critical thinking and writing skills while examining both the textual and visual messages of these novels and the criticism that has surrounded them.
Chaucer's century, the 14th, saw major changes in society and culture, some caused by the Black Death, which often killed up to one-third of a country's population. Centers on Chaucer and his great work, The Canterbury Tales, and the various genres that make up medieval literature such as debates, beast fables, romance, dream visions, and allegory. Other works, such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight may be included.
Referring to the hero of an early Shakespearean play, Elizabeth I is reputed to have said, "I am Richard II, know you not that?" Explores some of the history plays and comedies written in the earlier part of Shakespeare's career, to discover why so many readers and playgoers then and today have identified with characters such as Richard II, Prince Hal, and Falstaff from the histories or Viola, Bottom, and Touchstone from the comedies. Emphasis varies from year to year, but may include such themes as romantic love, gender identity, kingship, and the formation of a national consciousness. Attention is given to the historical context of the plays as well as to their dramatic and poetic form.
It is said that the sun never sets on productions of Hamlet; it is always being performed somewhere in the world. The saying is only slightly less plausible if applied to Shakespeare's other tragedies and romances or final comedies. Explores these masterworks of the English Renaissance and their continuing appeal not only to later generations of English speakers, but to cultures and nations around the world. Emphasis varies from year to year, but may include the representation of cultural others, gender, parent-child relations, or the nature of power.
Introduces students to the literature of England in the 18th century, the period known as the Enlightenment or the Age of Reason. Examines the ways in which writers expressed views of themselves and the world. In addition to reading writers of satire and the essay - such as Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, and Samuel Johnson - students will consider the rise of the novel and new developments in drama.
In the decades following the American and French Revolutions, a revolutionary cultural and literary movement had a powerful impact on intellectual and social life in England and the rest of Europe. The imagination, the subjective experience of individuals (no matter how humble), and sentiment or emotion were extolled as superior to (or at least as important as) the rational and "scientific" ideals of the Age of Reason. Considers what was (and wasn't) revolutionary in the work of romantic writers such as poets William Blake and John Keats, essayist William Hazlitt, and novelists Sir Walter Scott and Jane Austen.
British literature of the 19th century reveals the excitement - and the struggle - of learning to live in a world of rapid technological advances. During this period, England led the world in industrial development, in urbanization, and in the possibilities and disruptions brought on by these changes. Writers of the Victorian period - novelists like Charles Dickens and George Eliot, poets like Tennyson and Browning - eagerly examined and portrayed the great new world. They investigated the changes in city and country life, political and religious upheavals (particularly the clash of religion and science), and the development of a Victorian "attitude" about respectability and values. Presents some of the great authors and works that mark this remarkable period.
Students study the novels of Jane Austen and their cinematic adaptations. In addition to developing insight into the novels and movies, students also analyze selected critical, historical and biographical contexts. Students can thus incorporate scholarly and popular views into their analyses of the novels and films. Participants get to focus on the work of a single major author whose writing established many of the traditions of modern fiction, and become immersed in an important historical period. They also learn to think and write critically about social, artistic, and commercial motives behind the enduring interest in Austen.
In the early 19th century, transcendentalist writer Ralph Waldo Emerson proclaimed the need for American literary independence. By the time of the Civil War, the emerging nation of the United States had produced literature worthy of international recognition, leading some 20th-century scholars to call this period the "American Renaissance." Covers some of the authors and texts (such as Walden, Moby-Dick, and The Scarlet Letter) often considered at the heart of this period, alongside the slave narratives, sentimental fiction, gothic tales, and women's poetry that were popular in their own day and have recently emerged as objects of literary study.
The period between 1870-1920 was the era of the invention of the bicycle, the telephone, and the incandescent light. The poet Walt Whitman captured the spirit of optimism of these inventions and celebrated the creative force of Americans. Awed by the inhuman scale of new technologies, naturalists including Dreiser and Wharton were not as optimistic about one's capacity to shape personal destiny. It was everyday life and emotion not grand or disastrous destinies with which realist writers such as Howells were concerned. Explores these varied viewpoints on this transformative era as they are expressed in literature written between the war "to preserve the union" and "the war to end all wars."
Considers the major developments in twentieth century American Literature, with special emphasis on issues of race, class, and gender. Examines responses to the upheavals of the two world wars, the liberation movements of the 1960s including feminism, and the influence of literary developments in other parts of the world. Significant attention will also be given to more recent writers such as Toni Morrison, Philip Roth, Louise Erdrich, and Derek Walcott.
The United States has been called "a nation of immigrants." Certainly most of us, if not immigrants ourselves, are the descendants of people who were born overseas and came to these shores seeking political asylum, religious freedom, or-most often-economic opportunity. Stories will reflect the pains and satisfactions of adjustment to American culture as well as the sometimes troubled relations between immigrant parents and their American-born children. The ethnic groups represented in the course may change from semester to semester. D
Meet three commonly identified American icons-the cowboy, the capitalist, and the feminist-to see what they reveal about themselves and the U.S. culture. Through literature, film, historical documents, and narratives, we will see how these representations of America evolve and change in response to changes in society itself and how they differ from icons in other cultures. The course addresses the ethnic, racial, and other variations in American life embodied in these American icons. C D
Note: Formerly LIT 395 Sexual Identity & Difference
From power lesbians to drag queens, representations of gay men, lesbians and bisexuals are now visible throughout popular culture. But when does a novel or film accurately reflect the lives of gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals? And when do they simply reproduce stereotypes? This course surveys contemporary gay literature and cultural expression in American life since the advent of the gay rights movement in 1969. It explores the representation of sexual identity in language, the intersection of political and aesthetic goals, and the differences in representations in class, race, and ethnicity. It asks what defines gay, lesbian and bisexual literature, what distinguishes contemporary gay, lesbian and bisexual literature from earlier texts, and how gay, lesbian and bisexual literature has changed. D
This course uses literary texts as a lens through which to look at American cities and their significance for American culture in general and American Literature in particular. It aims at understanding urban American intellectual and social culture, and the architecture, music, politics and philosophy that embody it. We’ll examine five important US cities – New York, New Orleans, Chicago, Nashville and Los Angeles – as case studies of American life at moments of dramatic technological and cultural change. We will study the work of some of the premier creative writers and thinkers in American history, from the Romantic authors who generated a literary Renaissance in Boston to the musicians of Memphis and the countercultural activists of San Francisco. Readings for the course include texts by Henry James, Theodore Dreiser, Tennessee Williams and Joan Didion.
Note: Formerly LIT 335
The nurturing nuclear families of television sitcoms such as Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best are often idealized by contemporary Americans anxious about and frustrated by contemporary family conflicts and complexities. The media converts these anxieties into consumable types (e.g., the deadbeat dad) and positions them against the sitcom ideal of the self-sacrificing mother and tough, but loving father. By analyzing literary and cinematic responses to 'classic' TV sitcom representations of American familial and cultural norms, this course explores the entrenchment of and challenges to gendered (and race- and class-based) family ideals. It addresses the impact of consumerism and the media on people's perceptions of the ideal American family and their own distance from its norms. As this is a Communication Intensive section, it includes writing workshops and individual writing conferences in which students develop and hone their oral and written communication skills. C D
In reading books, hearing songs, or watching films we tend to focus on the"content" of the work, on what it seems to be "about." Still we recognize that the form through which that content is communicated makes a big difference in how we respond to the work, even in what the work means. Two different versions of what seems to be the same story may differ greatly because of different formal characteristics. Similarly, the meaning of a song is likely to be very different than the meaning of the same words without the music. A writer, in choosing to present material in a specific form, is thus making an important decision. Examines one specific form and consider the ways in which it shapes a variety of different works. Possible forms include the short story, the bildungsroman, the sonnet sequence, science-fiction, and the mystery novel. (Allows repetition for credit.) C
Certain themes and concerns have such a powerful hold on the human imagination that they have appeared over and over again in the literature of very different cultures and in very different periods. Some examples are obvious and include such themes as love and marriage; war, religion and faith. More surprising themes that nevertheless occur repeatedly are horror and the monstrous; the journey; utopias and dystopias; stories of the Holocaust; and the crippled hero. Chooses one such theme, which will vary from semester to semester, and traces it in the creative work of a variety of times and places. Emphasizes the way different cultures share certain preoccupations but differ in the way they treat them. (Allows repetition for credit.)
Explores the literature that speaks of and for a particular nation, ethnic group, or cultural situation. Includes the literature of Italy, Africa, or Latin America; colonial and post-colonial literature; or the literature of East Asia. Emphasizes the way in which the works read reflect the characteristics concerns of the culture. (Allows repetition for credit.) I
Explores a specific genre, period, movement, or theme of African American literature and culture such as the oral tradition; slave narratives, theory and criticism; the Harlem Renaissance; Black women and resistance; the Civil Rights Movement. (Allows repetition for credit.) C D
Explores a specific genre, period, author, or theme in American Literature. Includes Literature of the Vietnam war; Literature and Baseball; American Frontier Fictions. (Allows repetition for credit.)
Explores a specific genre, period, author, or theme in British Literature. Could include: non-Shakespearean renaissance drama; the Gothic tradition; contemporary British working class fiction. (Allows repetition for credit.)
Explores a specific issue or theme in cultural studies. Could include: diasporic literatures; literary responses to colonialism; third world feminism; the politics of literary canons and traditions. (Allows repetition for credit.) C I
Note: Not offered regularly. Check with department chair for availability.
Permits a small number of students to pursue a particular topic in a seminar format. Topics may range from a subgenre (such as the theatre of the absurd) to a particular author, to a large field not covered in other courses (such as modern approaches to literary criticism). Limited to 12 students. (Allows repetition for credit)
Surveys the techniques and resources available for scholarly investigation in the humanities.
Directed study permits qualified single students or a small group of students, in consultation with a faculty member, to study material and topics not covered in other courses. (Allows repetition for credit.)