English 190

Research Seminar: Writing a World in Crisis: Medieval and Modern

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
5 Spring 2017 Perry, R. D.

MWF 1-2 51 Evans Pre-1800 Requirement
Middle English
Literary Theory
Research Seminars

Book List

Adorno, Theodor: Minima Moralia: Reflections on a Damaged Life; Adorno, Theodor and Max Horkheimer: Dialectic of Enlightenment; Arendt, Hannah: The Origins of Totalitarianism; Langland, William: Piers Plowman: A New Annotated Edition of the C-text


Please note the changes in the topic, book list, and courses description of this class (as of November 22).

This course looks at two distinct moments in which individual authors attempted to create encyclopedic visions in an attempt to diagnose what they took to be the historical crises of their time. The first moment is medieval: William Langland's England in the 14th century. After the cataclysm of a pandemic (the Black Death), Langland's England was embroiled in a war (the Hundred Years War), witness to a major social upheaval (the Peasant's Revolt), the scene of conflict surrounding an authoritarian ruler (or so Richard II enemies thought of him), riven by religious dissent and controversy (with the early stages of the Wycliffite heresy), and subject to a host of other traumatic social changes due to economic transition (as part of the transition from feudalism to mercantile capitalism). These paroxysms—disease, war, authoritarian rule, religious upheaval, and economic change and uncertainty—likewise characterize the modern moment that will be our secondary focus: the mid-20th century and the horrific events surrounding World War II, which we will discuss through the writings of German émigrés in America (namely, Theodor Adorno, Hannah Arendt, and Max Horkheimer).

All of these writers tried to comprehend their historical moments in a way that remained true to the complexity of their situations, and the works they produced as a result were therefore as complex. They are conceptually expansive and encyclopedic in their concerns. Because the material Langland covers is so temporally distant from us, we will work through that more slowly; it will take us the entire semester to work through one version of Langland's poem. As we begin with Langland's poem, and as you become accustomed to Middle English, we will also read some secondary criticism that will teach you how to read Langland's work. Some of the shorter daily readings of Langland will also be supplemented with critical explication of his work. In addition, the slow reading of Langland's work will be punctuated along the way by the work of Adorno, Arendt, and Horkheimer. We will use these modern writers to help us think through the medieval one. Their attempts to understand historical trauma in all of its complexity will help us understand how Langland does the same thing, and how we might do so ourselves.

This section of English 190 satisfies the pre-1800 requirement for the English major.

Please note that some seats in this section of English 190 are open to senior and junior non-majors.

Other Recent Sections of This Course

Spring, 2017
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
190/1 Research Seminar: The Urban Postcolonial Ellis, Nadia

190/2 Research Seminar: Harlem Renaissance Wagner, Bryan

190/3 Research Seminar: Literature and the Linguistic Turn Blevins, Jeffrey

190/4 Research Seminar: Jane Austen and the Theory of the Novel Miller, D.A.

190/6 Research Seminar: Shakespeare: From the Globe to the Global Bahr, Stephanie M

190/7 Research Seminar: Place-Love: Fiction and the Melancholy of Form Xin, Wendy Veronica

190/8 Research Seminar: Literatures of the Ocean Sorensen, Janet

190/9 Research Seminar: <em>Beowulf</em> Thornbury, Emily V.

190/10 Research Seminar: Hollywood in the 1930s Knapp, Jeffrey

190/11 Research Seminar: The Literature of Immortality Jones, Donna V.

190/13 Research Seminar: California Literature & Film Since WWI Starr, George A.

Fall, 2016
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
190/1 Research Seminar: Emily Dickinson Shoptaw, John

190/2 Research Seminar: Slow Seeing / Slow Reading Hejinian, Lyn

190/3 Research Seminar: Moby-Dick, and More Otter, Samuel

190/4 Research Seminar: U.S. Modernism Goble, Mark

190/5 Research Seminar: Alfred Hitchcock Bader, Julia

190/6 Research Seminar: The Medium Is the Message: Reading Poetry in Manuscript & Print, 1300-1600 Bahr, Stephanie M

190/7 Research Seminar: Note new topic: Troy and Tragedy Perry, R. D.

190/8 Research Seminar: James / Baldwin Best, Stephen M.

190/9 Research Seminar: On Style Xin, Wendy Veronica

190/10 Research Seminar: Do I Dare? Indecision and Modernist Literature Blevins, Jeffrey

190/11 Research Seminar: Modern California Literature and Film Starr, George A.

190/12 Research Seminar: Modern Utopian and Dystopian Literature and Film Starr, George A.

Spring, 2016
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
190/1 Research Seminar: The Sixties Goble, Mark

190/2 Research Seminar: Through a Future Darkly: Global Crisis and the Triumph of Dystopia Danner, Mark

190/3 Research Seminar: Late Henry James Breitwieser, Mitchell

190/4 Research Seminar: The Urban Postcolonial Ellis, Nadia

190/5 Research Seminar: Contemporary British Literature and Culture Falci, Eric

190/6 Research Seminar: Classical and Renaissance Drama Knapp, Jeffrey

190/7 Research Seminar: Materiality: How the Physical World Is Made to Mean Flynn, Catherine

190/8 Research Seminar: Vital Texts: Literature and the Discourse of Life Gaydos, Rebecca

190/9 Research Seminar: Medieval and Renaissance Lyric Crosson, Chad Gregory

190/10 Research Seminar: Purcell and Handel: Their Art in Setting English Texts to Music Hanson, Kristin

190/11 Research Seminar Lee, Steven S.

190/12 Research Seminar: Daniel Defoe and the Rise of the 18th-Century Novel Starr, George A.

190/13 Research Seminar: Keats and Literary Tradition Francois, Anne-Lise

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