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Courses Offered

English 1A. Introduction to Literary Studies. Core course for the English major.

English 4A, Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Literature. 1660-1800: The age of reason and contradiction, enlightenment and xenophobia. Surveys literary, critical, philosophical, political, and life writing, investigating the emergence of a literary public sphere, a national canon, and the first professional women writers.

English 11A, Literary Method.

English 23A (Theatre 112A), Remembering & Dismembering: Staging the Body in Early Modern England. ENG 23a will attend to the widespread and rich concern with embodiment and disembodiment in early modern English comedies and tragedies.  Focusing on Shakespeare's contemporaries and paying particular attention to Marlowe, Jonson, Middleton, and Webster, we'll consider how stage actions of dismembering and re-membering articulate contemporary social structures and the countering forces of antistructure. Reading closely the verbal language of the plays, we'll investigate tropes of embodiment and disembodiment, mobility and subjugation, and speech and the loss or refusal of voice as vehicles for reimagining the relation of the individual body to the body politic.  Even as we read printed texts, we'll keep in mind the materiality of bodies performing onstage, including the early modern use of boy actors in female roles, the training of the voice, and the relationship of speech to gesture.  Thinking about the relation of verbal language to other bodily and material elements of the mise-en-scène, we'll consider the early modern theatre as a platform for exploring the duality of bodily experience and self awareness, the possibilities and problems of self identity, and the embodiment of the emergent modern political subject.

English 28B, Queer Readings: Before Stonewall. How do literary texts and other representations help us understand historical beliefs, desires, and anxieties about sexed bodies and their pleasures prior to the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City (generally taken as jumpstarting the contemporary lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights movements)? Readings may include Melville, Whitman, Dickinson, Rosetti, Wilde, Freud, Woolf, Barnes, Stein, Larsen, Forster, Genet, Baldwin, O'Hara, Ginsberg, and Foucault. (Sexuality and Queer Studies elective; Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies elective.)

English 37B. Modern Drama: Theatres of Rupture, Resistance, and Engagement. Responding to the experience and crises of modernity in the late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth centuries, playwrights, performers, and theatre artists challenged received understandings of the individual and the human, the place and role of the human actor in history, and the relation of the individual to the collective. Taking “the modern” as both a goal to be realized in the future and a crisis to be managed in the present, theatre artists replaced Enlightenment narratives of the progressive development of individuals, peoples, and nations with art forms self-consciously rejecting tradition and favoring the immediate and futural over the universal and permanent, disruption over continuity, linguistic play over the stability and givenness of meanings, and the irrational over a positivist and instrumental reason associated with technology and industrialization. (Theater Arts elective.)

English 64B, From Libertinism to Sensibility: Pleasure and the Theatre 1660-1800. Investigates the exchange between performance texts and contemporaneous discussions of class, nationality, and political party. Emphasizes the emergence of modern gender and sexual roles and the impact of the first professional women actors. Using active learning techniques, students in English 64b conduct team research (using both primary and secondary sources) on one of the various modes of pleasure relevant to the theatre and opera of the period--for example, the appearance of the first woman actors in England, the use of castrati in opera, the social functions of pleasure gardens and masquerades, the social understanding of sex in the period, the social understanding of emotions, the expansion of consumption, and the ways in which male and female actors were trained in the period. (ENG 64b satisfies the historical elective requirement in the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program. Theater Arts elective. Music elective, track in cultural studies.)

English 87B, Queer Readings: Beyond Stonewall. How have LGBTIQ writers explored the consolidation, diaspora, and contestation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, intersex, and queer personhoods since the 1960s? Texts include fiction, poetry, drama, memoirs, and film. (ORAL COMMUNICATION course. Sexuality and Queer Studies elective. Women's and Gender Studies elective.)

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English 120A. The Orlando Project. Virginia Woolf's modernist novel Orlando: A Biography guides our survey of English pastoral, queer and postcolonial literary criticism, and feminist and queer ecocriticism. A novel about transformations in embodiment and identification, in poetic language, and in the English landscape, Orlando: A Biography ponders the nature and capacities of poetry, gendered selfhood, erotic desire, and N/nature itself. Woolf's time traveling and gender transforming poet encounters and comments on an array of male-bodied and male-presenting poets and critics from the late sixteenth through the late nineteenth centuries, ending in the "present day" of literary modernism. Given the domination of the pre-modern literary canon by white English men, Woolf invites us to ask whether the writerly mind is gendered (and, we will add, characterized by and productive of racial, class, national, and religious boundaries). The Orlando Project ponders the uses of pastoral in queer literary history and toward a queered understanding of selfhood. (Sexuality and Queer Studies elective; Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies elective.)

English 133A. Advanced Shakespeare. Offers an intensive reading of Shakespeare's work, using the tools of literary criticism, performance practice, and historical research. We will read closely, vocalize, analyze, and play with six Shakespeare plays and the Sonnets, attending in particular to the languages of love, friendship, sexuality, and gender, on the one hand, and figures of performing, writing, spectating, auditing, and reading, on the other.

English 144B, The Body as Text. How are our bodies the material for our presentations of self and our interactions with others? Examines contemporary theories and histories of the body against literary, philosophical, political, and performance texts of the 16th through the 18th centuries. (WRITING INTENSIVE course. Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies elective; Theater Arts elective; Music elective, track in cultural studies.)

English 151A, Queer Studies. Historical, literary, and theoretical perspectives on the construction and performance of queer subjectivities. How do queer bodies and queer representations challenge heteronormativity? How might we imagine public spaces and queer citizenship? Combining theory with practice, English 151a offers students the opportunity to explore a range of relevant actions from site-specific and online performances to activism, from the theorization and documentation of praxis to creative writing. (Sexuality and Queer Studies elective; Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies elective.) Recommended preparation: an introductory course in gender/sexuality/feminism and/or a course in critical theory.

English 151B, Theatre/Theory: Investigating Performance. See The Mapping Brandeis Project. The theater, etymologically, is a place for viewing. Theory, etymologically, begins with a spectator and a viewing. Reading theories of theater and performance alongside paradigmatic dramatic texts and documents of social performance, we will consider the power, politics, and poetics of spectacle and spectatorship. Combining theory with practice, we will explore and make site-specific and online performances. (EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING course. WRITING INTENSIVE course. Theatre Arts Elective.) Recommended preparation: A course in dramatic literature and familiarity with theatrical production.

English 153A. Enlightenment of the Flesh: Reading and Writing Sex in the Eighteenth Century. We will read literary, philosophical, and popular texts that locate passion, sensibility, and eroticism at the intersection of state, civic, and personal life. So positioned, the feeling and erotic body provided a vehicle of political critique, a locus for managing the boundaries of privacy and sociability, a basis for claiming liberty, and a target of social surveillance and normalization. Some questions we may consider: Did practices of writing and reading sex, across the long eighteenth century, contribute to the social emergence and valorization of the inwardly turned, private self? Did writing and reading erotic pleasure (and disgust) contribute to claims for individual freedom from state and religious orthodoxy or constitute a mechanism for recapturing the unruly body and the heterogeneity of sensation within normative categories of gender, class, ability, race, and nation? (Sexuality and Queer Studies elective; Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies elective.)

English 181A, Making Sex, Performing Gender. Gender and sexuality studied as sets of performed traits and cues for interactions among social actors. Readings explore the possibility that differently organized gender and sexual practices are possible for men and women. Combining theory with practice, English 181a offers students the opportunity to explore a range of relevant actions from site-specific and online performances to activism, from the theorization and documentation of praxis to creative writing. (EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING course. Sexuality and Queer Studies elective; Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies elective; Theatre Arts elective; Music elective, track in cultural studies.) Recommended preparation: an introductory course in gender/sexuality/feminism and/or a course in critical theory.

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English 200a, Methods of Literary Study. (Core course for M.A., Joint M.A., and Ph.D. students in English and American Literature.) In Eng 200A, we will engage ongoing and recent debates about the history and uses of literature and literary criticism, in relation to contemporary formulations of "culture," the "literary," and "modernity" (in particular, modern psychological subjectivity) as textual artifacts and residues of discursive practices. While our primary task will be to survey some important approaches to the critical study of literary and other texts, considering the kinds of readings opened up by each approach and its limitations, we may also use assigned readings to launch larger discussions of the relation of textuality, modernity, and subjectivity; the enabling conditions of literary pleasures; and the competing social and cultural situations of reading, writing, and interpretation. Students in English 200a develop a sense of themselves as members of a department and a profession, reflect on their critical interests and strengths, and gain skills in (1) oral presentation and discussion, (2) accurate paraphrasing and debating of critical arguments, (3) primary and secondary research, and (4) preparation of a critical paper appropriate for delivery at an academic conference or symposium.

English 201A, Gender Studies. Provides opportunities for graduate students, working from a variety of disciplines, to engage current scholarly debates about the social construction of sexual difference, gender, and sexuality. Reading foundational texts and recent publications in feminism and gender studies, and analyzing a variety of cultural artifacts including (but not limited to) film, visual, and performances texts, we will investigate sex assignment, sexual difference, gender, and sexuality as categories of social knowledge and modes of social production.

English 231A, Performing the Early Modern Self. Examines current theories and debates about social performance and the performative iteration of identity against everyday and formal performances of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in England, focusing on possibilities for negotiation, improvisation, and transformation. We are interested in the many presentational or performance behaviors classified as the "conduct of life," such as manners and etiquette; gender decorum; intimacy, othering, and the management of spatial distances between social actors; the enactment of sexual, racial, and national differences; the arts of conversation and sociability; and the embodiment of status and class. At the same time we will be interested in the specificity of textuality. What kind of social performance is a printed text, understood as an ensemble of social practices, as the locus of acts of (re)writing and (re)reading? How might these two lenses--the textual and the performative--focus our analyses of social being?

English 233A. Shakespeare Seminar. Reading with an eye and ear to contemporary, subsequent, and ongoing appropriations of the Shakespearean canon for projects of subject formation, nation building, colonization, and bodily subjection, as well as its appropriation for representations of resistance, we will be considering and indeed confronting the human (animal) in Shakespeare—its limits or boundaries; its distinction from other forms of life (bodies and body parts lacking humanness; "nature" and nonhuman animals; humors, animal spirits, and passions; Lucretian atoms and the motions of "the seeds of things"); its claims to possession in its own fleshly functions and capacities, its sensations and perceptions, its affects, and its voice; and its possession in or dispossession by networks of gendered, racialized, and national discourses.

English 280A, Making it Real: The Tactics of Discourse. An investigation of the discursive realization of bodies and agents. English 280a queries representational practices as modes of agency, problematizing identity and differences and negotiating hegemony. Our lenses: performance and cultural studies, visual studies, literature and theory, and historiography.

English 352a. Directed Reading in Queer Comics and Graphic Fiction.

Sexuality and Queer Studies 6b: Sexuality and Queer Studies. Core course for the minor in Sexuality and Queer Studies.