Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Closing Discussion: Monday, December 2

I realize that I'll see most of you on Wednesday, November 27, for our final conversation about Milton's Paradise Lost, but I want to go ahead and post about our last class, on Monday, now.

What kind of conclusion can we possibly reach for a course that's brought together such a wide variety of poetry and prose written during a time period as politically and culturally diverse as the seventeenth century is? I think the best way to go about this is not to look for a single dominant theme or idea, but instead to think about key conflicts.

This is what I'd like you to do for our last class. At some point during the Thanksgiving Break, go back over your notes and flip back through the anthology; revisit some poems we read earlier in the course. Ask yourself this: what seems to be the defining conceptual conflict of seventeenth-century literary culture. Think hard and think creatively. A conflict of this sort can take many forms. It could be a conflict between body and soul, for example, or individuality and collectivity, or freedom and obedience, or tradition and innovation. You get the point. Come to class with a conceptual conflict in mind, and be able to talk about how that conflict manifest itself or gets treated in the work of a few different writers. This will form the substance of our Closing Discussion.

I'm really looking forward to this! (Even if it also makes me sad to think the end is nigh.)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Our Next Class: Returning to Paradise Lost

Hi, everyone. As you know, there is no class this week because of Garrett Sullivan's visit. When we meet again, next Monday (November 25), you'll have read through book 10 of Paradise Lost and completed David Norbrook's chapter in the Course Reader. (Remember to keep up! Don't leave all this stuff to the last minute!)

Here's what I'd like you to do for our next class meeting:

Please come in with one other author from our course who you think can be usefully read alongside, or put into conversation with, Paradise Lost. Be prepared to say a bit about why you thnk this is so. What theme of preoccupation, for example, makes it interesting to look at these two authors together.

This is an important exercise for two reasons. First, and most pragmatically, it will keep us in touch with seventeenth-century writing as a whole as we barrel towards the end of the course. Second, it serves our ongoing mission of understanding Milton as a writer who, while certainly possessing a singular imagination and sense of vocation, nevertheless was part of a larger literary and intellectual culture.

Looking forward to talking to you guys about this!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Garrett Sullivan at UNT: It's Coming! Don't Forget!

Don't forget about this awesome talk coming up in a couple weeks! Sullivan will also be offering a Master Class for graduate students the morning after his talk, on Friday, November 22, at 9:30 a.m. in Auditorium 103 (the conference room).  I'd like you all to be there for these events. I'll circulate some cool readings by Garrett Sullivan soon!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Research Paper and Research Paper Prosepectus

Due: Wednesday, November 6 [Email. Follow guidelines on syllabus.]
Length: 2-3 pages

The Research Paper Prospectus should describe the topic of your paper and give a tentative title. State clearly what the aims and scope of the paper are. That is, what question or questions are you trying to answer, and how are you going about the business of answering them (i.e. what materials--literary, historical, theoretical/philosophical--are you consulting?)? You should also say something about why the question or questions you are trying to answer are of consequence. Why are they important? What will such an undertaking show us? Doing all this will, of course, require familiarity with relevant historical, literary, and/or theoretical contexts, so like the Editing Project Prospects, this prospectus will require a significant first wave of research. If you have a sense of what your argument will be, include that information, too.

Due: Friday, December 6 [Email. Follow guidelines on syllabus.]
Length: 15-20 pages

The major assignment of the course, the Research Paper should tackle a significant question and demonstrate: 
(1) that you have read relevant primary literary texts very closely.
(2) that you know how to advance a compelling argument and support it with evidence.
(3) that you know how to position that argument in relation to the ideas of other critics.
(4) that you know how to analyze literary texts in a way that is responsive to cultural and historical context. 
(5) your research paper is also expected to be free from problems of grammar and spelling and errors of fact.

I don't offer ready-made topics or prompts. At graduate-level it's crucial that you learn how to develop your own research topics--topics that are significant but still manageable. This is an important intellectual and critical skill, and it takes practice. It's also true, though, that scholarship often benefits from collaboration and discussion, so if you want help developing a paper topic, or if you just want to kick ideas around, please come talk to me. I'm more than happy to offer guidance.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

English Poetry, Jonson to Marvell

Hi, everyone! We have a lot on our plates tomorrow Marvell-wise: the Mower poems, and perhaps a return to "Upon Appleton House." But tomorrow is also the last day of our 9-week overview of 17th-century poetry, so take a moment to skim back over your notes, revisit some older poems, and develop some general ideas about this body of writing.

Are there any central conflicts, struggles, or preoccupations that seem to hold this diverse group of poems together as a coherent group?

What are the primary conversations taking place in seventeenth century poetry? 

If you were to tell a little two-minute story about 17th-century English poetry (if, say, someone were to put you on the spot and force you to [ahem]), what would it sound like?

We should leave some time to talk about this stuff.