ENGL 299 - Seminar for Prospective Majors
Prerequisites: Completion of FW composition requirement and at least one course chosen from English courses numbered from 203 to 295. A study of a topic in literature issuing in a research process and sustained critical writing. Some recent topics have been Detective Fiction; American Indian Literatures; Revenge; and David Thoreau and American Transcendentalism.
Winter 2018, ENGL 299-01: Seminar for Prospective Majors: Weeping Men and Fainting Women: Gender and Emotion in 18th- and 19th-Century Literature (3). David Hume famously theorized that emotion is contagious, moving quickly from person to person. Interestingly, this theory threatens to disrupt traditional gender binaries, as men are no more immune to sentiment than women are. Indeed, in 18th-century sentimental fiction men are suddenly sighing, blushing, fainting, and crying all over the page. Eventually, the hyperbole of sentimental fiction (e.g., Henry Mackenzie’s The Man of Feeling) gives way to the more moderate literature of sensibility (e.g., Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility), but one thing remains consistent: emotion is contagious and gender is no obstacle. This course looks at three phrases in the British novel: sentimental novels, the literature of sensibility, and, finally, sensation fiction (e.g., Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White), which deploys emotional contagion in the service of terror rather than virtue. We discuss theories of emotion ranging from Adam Smith and David Hume to 21st-century affect theory. Students learn research skills and conclude by writing a scholarly paper on a topic of their choosing. (HL) Walle.
Winter 2018, ENGL 299-02: Seminar for Prospective Majors: Shakespeare’s Tragic Vision (3). In this gateway course to the English major, students practice the skills of nuanced reading, mature discussion, analytical writing, and scholarly research expected in upper-division English classes. This section focuses on close readings of several Shakespearean tragedies, beginning with an in-depth investigation of Hamlet. Field trips to Staunton to see Hamlet at the American Shakespeare Center and to the Lenfest Center to see Washington and Lee’s production of Romeo and Juliet enhance our study of the texts. (HL) Pickett.
Fall 2017, ENGL 299A-01: Seminar for Prospective Majors: Margaret Atwood and Human Rights Discourse (3). Discover the variety of genres (poetry, satire, novels, dystopias) written by one of the greatest living writers, Margaret Atwood. We consider the usefulness of comparative discussion of Atwood’s sources (from Homer to Shakespeare to Orwell’s 1984), and we employ a human rights framework in discussing her entertaining writings. A sequence of shorter writing assignments lead to a research paper, composed in stages. (HL) Keen.
Fall 2017, ENGL 299B-01: Seminar for Prospective Majors: The Lord of the Rings from Page to Screen (3). J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic novels and historical fantasies along with Peter Jackson’s spectacular CGI film versions have together made these texts and, more important, the narrative they tell among the most significant cultural events of the 20th and 21st centuries. This course centers upon The Lord of the Rings novels and films but frames that dual achievement by looking, first, back to Tolkien’s roots in 19th-century romance fiction and historical philology and, second, ahead to the important role played by Jackson’s film adaptations in the development of modern CGI films. In these ways this course highlights Tolkien’s larger cultural achievement, even as it provides students with a rich set of research questions and topics. (HL) Adams.
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