Course Offerings for the MA in Literature Program

  • Spring 2019

    Download the complete descriptions of the spring 2019 MA in Literature courses.

    ENGL 676: Critical Approaches to Literature and Composition
    Developing Professional Composure

    • Dr. Mike Williamson
    • T, 6:00–8:30

    This MA-level course explores a variety of interpretative approaches to the study of literature and
    composition. Our central focus this semester will be on composure—especially on finding an
    equilibrium and a sense of self-command as a professional in the fields of literature and/or composition. Our main initiative will be to develop habits of mind, habits of reading, and habits of analysis that improve our research and presentation skills. Our main goal will be to present our disciplinary knowledge in public forums. 

    ENGL 762/862: Topics in American Literature After 1870
    Realism and Resistance: Political Activism in Post-Bellum Literature and Culture

    • Dr. Todd Thompson
    • M, 6:00–8:00

    Prevailing canons of American literary realism and regionalism written between the Civil War and
    the turn of the century tend to privilege upper-class domestic dramas and quiet local color pieces.
    But such a picture of postwar American literature elides a fervent of political activism during the incredibly tumultuous periods of Reconstruction, the Gilded Age, and the Progressive Era. This course considers politically committed writings—from Rebecca Harding Davis’s protest against industrialism to Hamlin Garland’s agrarian populism to Frances Harper’s alternative vision of Reconstruction to Mark Twain’s anti-imperialism to Jose Marti’s hemispheric vision—in light of their late nineteenth-century historical contexts in order to rethink what it means to write, and to read, realism.

    ENGL 765/865: Topics in Literature as Genre
    Arab Film and Literature

    • Dr. Tom Slater
    • M, 3:00–5:30

    Next semester, Syrian poet and fiction writer Osama Alomar, a resident at Pittsburgh’s City of
    Asylum, will visit campus to present his work at a Six O’Clock Series event on April 8. This class
    will be structured around that event, Alomar’s work, and the experiences and work of many other Middle East writers and filmmakers as well. These artists are presenting a first-hand perspective of their lives, one that American media rarely presents even a glimpse of. Yet, we have their marvelous stories and films to learn from. So that’s what we’ll do while also producing two or three short essays and a research paper.

    ENGL 772/872: Topics in Women’s Literature:
    Time and Morality, Science and Religion in Writing by Women

    • Dr. Mike Williamson
    • M, 6:00–8:30

    This course explores how a selection of 19th-century British women writers and one contemporary
    woman writer (Tracy Chevalier) have changed the way we think about time, morality, science and
    religion. We will begin by considering the changes in narrative time and morality occasioned by Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geology (1830). Written well before Charles Darwin’s Origins of Species (1859), Lyell’s work had a significant impact on ideas about determinism, moral action, and the afterlife. Women writers were particularly influenced by Lyell’s argument that very slow an gradual change, rather than apocalyptic disaster, characterizes the history of the planet Earth. Lyell’s work energized women to think about the world in new ways that were less dependent on prevailing ideas about sin and salvation than on the possibilities inherent in the imagination and apprehension of plenitude. 

    ENGL 773/873: Topics in Minority Literature
    Asian American and Asian Diasporic Literature and Criticism

    • Dr. Lingyan Yang
    • T, 3:00–5:30

    This course examines the dynamic multinational and multiethnic literary tradition of the 20th- and
    21st-century Asian American and Asian diasporic literature, criticism, and culture in the global context. There is a rich array of literary forms and genres. We will interpret selected novel, autobiography, short story, poetry, drama, and criticism by East Asian, South East Asian, South Asian, West Asian and Asian diasporic male and female writers, artists, and critics. Mediation between form and content, Asia, Asian America, America and the world, our interpretations are situated in the heterogeneous Asian American and Asian diasporic historical, intellectual, cultural, social, and geographical contexts. 

    ENGL 764/864: Topics in British Literature after 1660

    • Dr. Chris Orchard
    • W, 3:00–5:30

    This course will focus on the post-9/11 novel from a global perspective including British, Australian,
    Pakistani, and Middle-Eastern perspectives. Drawing from a range of theoretical discourses including
    Orientalism/Neo-Orientalism, Media Theory and Islamophobia studies, the course will consider how the novel responded to the events and aftermath of the events of 9/11. Consideration will be given to the writers’ own ideologies as they confront the attack on American soil as well as the psychological impact on the characters. Students will write two papers—a mid-term and a final—and a presentation on one of the novelists on the list.

    ENGL 781/881: Special Topics: History of English for Teachers

    • Dr. Christopher Kuipers
    • TR, 12:30–1:45

    Provides an introduction to both the history of the language, and the pedagogy thereof, for current
    and future teachers of English. No previous study of linguistics or early languages is expected (but
    will certainly be useful). In the course of reviewing the history of English per se, students will critique the various textbooks, etymological dictionaries, and online resources used for teaching this fascinating though intimidating subject (one sometimes derided for its acronym HEL’s similarity to “hell”). Interconnections to literature, composition, rhetoric, TESOL, lexicography, and other
    branches of English studies that are of interest to enrollees will be variously illuminated by the historical linguistics of English. 

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    Fall 2018

    Download the complete descriptions of the fall 2018 MA in Literature courses.

    ENGL 518: Young Adult Literature

    • Dr. Emily Wender
    • T and TH, 12:30–1:45

    An introduction to literature for and about young adults. The course emphasizes critical study of the literature and its classification as well as resources and rationales for using young adult literature in the middle, secondary, and college classroom.

    ENGL 674: Research Trends in English (required course)

    • Dr. Michael Williamson
    • T, 6:00–8:30

    This MA-level course addresses several intertwined issues central to success in a graduate English program: professionalization, research techniques, reading and writing disparate academic genres, textual studies and bibliography, and archival work.

    ENGL 753/853: Literature as a Profession (required course)

    • Dr. Melanie Holm
    • TH, 2:30–5:00

    What does it mean to be a professional reader of literature? How does the profession work? This course explores these questions with the aim of preparing students to pursue their graduate study as professional training.

    ENGL 760/860: Teaching College Literature

    • Dr. Veronica Watson
    • W, 6:00–8:30

    A seminar and workshop course in which we’ll focus as pragmatically as possible on current approaches to teaching introductory courses in literature—as informed by recent theory as well as the real constraints of the classroom, the institutional setting, and the needs of our students and ourselves—and we’ll consider the teaching of literature in non-academic contexts.

    ENGL 761/861: American Lit before 1870: Adapting the American Renaissance

    • Dr. Todd Thompson
    • M, 6:00–8:30

    What did 19th-century American literature and culture mean to readers then, and what do they mean to us now? How, and why, have 20th- and 21st-century writers, filmmakers, and other artists adapted source material written during the period retroactively labeled the “American Renaissance”? Just as important, what did these texts mean to their original audiences?

    ENGL 763/863: Topics in Brit Lit before 1660

    • Shakespeare and Adaptations in the Contemporary Novel
    • Dr. Chris Orchard
    • W, 2:30–5:00

    The course will look specifically at adaptations of a selection of Shakespeare’s plays in novel form, focusing in particular on the Hogarth Press that recently commissioned a number of contemporary novelists to rework a Shakespeare play into a contemporary context.

    ENGL 766/866: Topics in Comparative Literature

    • Topic: The Contemporary Graphic Novel
    • Dr. Christopher Kuipers
    • T, 2:30–5:00

    This course will explore the contemporary long-form graphic novel by placing it in both its historical and global contexts. Core readings will be selected from works published since 2000.

    ENGL 771/871: Topics in Postmodern Literature

    • Alternate Postmodern: Paradox, Fragment, Pastiche, and Magic
    • Dr. Tanya Heflin
    • Th 6:00–8:30

    Continually wriggling out of static definition, postmodern literature remains notoriously slippery and difficult to define—yet, in this course we will work to build arguments to support our working definitions of postmodern literature and culture.

    ENGL 772/872: Topics in Women’s Literature (American) Black Women, Black Plays

    • Dr. Mike Sell
    • M 2:30–5:00

    This course provides students the opportunity to develop critical understanding of the writers, texts, themes, and methods that comprise the canon—better yet, and with a nod to Beyoncé, the canon in formation—of African American women playwrights and plays.

    ENGL 797: Independent Seminar

    Areas of Expertise and Interest

    Dr. Melanie Holm

    British and European Literature 1660–1850 (Restoration, Eighteenth Century, Romanticism, Early
    Victorian); The Rise of the Novel; Women Writers; Intellectual History (Classical Period to
    Enlightenment); Empiricism; Aesthetics; Feminist Theory; Thing Theory; Literature of Conquest and Travel Literature; Fairy Tales, Folklore, and Mythology; the Gothic and Literature of the
    Uncanny

    Dr. Tom Slater

    Film studies, feminist theory, 20th-century American literature, horror, sci-fi/fantasy, postmodernism, war
    in film and literature

    Dr. David Downing

    Critical theory, American literature, cultural studies, institutional critique

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    Past Courses

    Summer 2018 MA in Literature course descriptions

    Spring 2018 MA in Literature course descriptions

    Fall 2017 MA in Literature course descriptions

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