Courses

Every semester the Georgetown English department offers numerous courses that foster students’ exploration of poetics, including courses taught by the Lannan Committee members, Lannan Director and Lannan Chair of Poetics.


Fall 2016

Writing and Culture Seminar | WRIT-015
David Gewanter
An intensive seminar, enrolling no more than 15 students, focused on developing students’ ability to use writing as a tool for inquiry, to develop their writing through an iterative process, and to practice writing in different rhetorical situations. Students should take this course as early as possible and no later than the end of the sophomore year. The Writing and Culture Seminar helps students develop their ability to • read critically in ways that are attentive to language, context, and form • write in ways that are appropriate for different rhetorical situations, with awareness of genre, context, and technology • deploy language’s many resources, including its figurative power as well as conventions of grammar, punctuation, syntax, and semantics, to shape and communicate meaning with clarity and fluency • research, evaluate, and synthesize appropriate evidence in order to build and support effective analyses and arguments.

 

British Poetry: 1600-2000 | ENGL-102
Duncan Wu
This course will examine poetry by a range of writers between 1600 and 2000, including Shakespeare, Dryden, Pope, Browning, Tennyson, Yeats and Eliot, as well as many others. The emphasis throughout will be on close analysis of text, and group discussion in which everyone is expected to participate. The aim will be to enable students to analyze verse with a full understanding not just of its meaning but of the formal elements of prosody. A principal course text will be Philip Hobsbaum’s Meter, Rhythm and Verse Form (Routledge), which students are expected to read and memorize. Students should be prepared to write regular short essays on aspects of poetry. Each essay will contribute to your overall assessment, as will your attendance record and performance in class. Students are expected also to attend one-to-one tutorials with Professor Wu in order to discuss their work. There will be occasional tests. These activities will contribute to each student’s final grade.

 

African Am Lit: 1903-Present | ENGL-202
Robert Patterson
The purpose of this level one course is to introduce students to African American literature and literary/cultural criticism. As a “survey” of 20th century African American literature, we will examine how African American writers transformed the different literary modes in which they wrote, and consider how the literary texts articulate the cultural, political, and national concerns that shaped 20th century America. Throughout the semester, we will return repeatedly to issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, and religion to consider why these authors are concerned with these particular matters. We will think energetically about the historicity of the texts, and the textuality of history; in other words, we will consider how history enriches our understanding of the texts, and how the texts enrich our understanding of history. We also will pay attention to genre and aesthetics as we situate the cultural products within their literary histories and traditions. While previous familiarity with African American literature is not a requirement for this course, regular attendance, active reading, and a firm commitment to succeed are. Potential authors include: Du Bois, Hughes, Larsen, Hughes, Jones (Baraka), Morrison, Wilson, Johnson, bandele, Moore. Assignments include: short papers, reading assessments and/or examinations, class participation, and a final project.

 

20C Poetry | ENGL-163
Mark McMorris
This course will examine diverse currents in the explosive, hybridizing, deregulated, re-forming poetry of the early to mid-twentieth century: the revolution of the word. The chief tendencies within French Symbolism, Italian Futurism, Russian Futurism, Dada, and Surrealism, together with the multifarious work of Charles Baudelaire and Guillaume Apollinaire, will surveyed. Careful to understand that these movements do not account for the entire poetic field of Modernism, we will position the impulses ranged under these names--as is customary--in relation to broad historical and social changes then underway in the western world, taking special notice of responses to World War I, developments in machine technology, and an ongoing urbanization. Our special focus will be the problem of critical approaches to these works. Taking Baudelaire’s poetry as a point of departure, we will search for ways of writing about poetic texts that, in some ways, resist or evade the habits of lyric address subjectivity.

 

Race and Racism in the United States | AFAM-206
Robert Patterson
The central concern of this course is to investigate how race and racism have shaped black people’s experiences living in the United States. We will examine how race and racism have been (re)presented in African American literature, film, music, political manifestos, historical texts, and other cultural media, exploring the various ways that African American cultural producers and critics have engaged with these ubiquitous phenomena. Our readings and discussions of primary and secondary texts will consider the production and mutation of race and racism across historical epochs—from slavery to the post-civil rights era. The course rejects the notion of post-racialism and considers how this discourse re-entrenches racism. Moreover, we will consider, how, if at all, conversations surrounding race might move forward, and whether racism is so intractable that efforts to eradicate it might prove futile. That is, while exploring structural, representational, and material aspects race and racism, we will keep our eyes focused on developing solutions to these problems. Of course, our energetic examinations of race and racism will take into consideration how other identities (class and gender, for example) nuance our understandings of race and racism. Assignments may include short papers, two examinations, and a final writing and video project. Class participation and attendance also will factor in the grade calculation.

 

Intro to Creative Writing | ENGL-280
David Gewanter
In this course, we’ll study and produce four genres of creative writing: poetry, fiction, personal prose, and dialogue. We will explore and discuss great models of each of these forms; we will try our hand at composing our own poems, stories, personal essays, and dialogue (for radio); and we’ll write short analyses on our texts. We’ll also hear craft lectures from the great writers in our Department who produce these works. The authors under study include Semezdin Mehmedinovic, Stephen Crane, D.H. Lawrence, Michael Ondaatje, Anna Deavere Smith, and a number of poets. We’ll follow Ondaatje through the genres. Our course is designed for those who have some experience in studying and writing in at least one of these genres. Please be prepared for intensive research in how each form of writing happens, how it renders human experience, voice, plot, statement, vision, and more. Be prepared both to produce your own texts, and to share your draft work with others.

 

Intro to Fiction Writing | ENGL-283
Aminatta Forna
In this course you will learn how to think like a writer, you will immerse yourself in the imaginative and technical disciplines of story telling. Every writer at the outset of a new work must make find the most effective means of telling their particular story. The course will introduce you to specific element of the craft of writing, what I call the writer’s toolbox: tense, structure, perspective, person, voice, dialogue, character. We will read selected prose from contemporary and classic works and you will develop the critical skill to understand how narrative is formed, to read like a writer. Lastly you will, of course, write - regular exercises as well as longer writing projects. Be prepared to bring your work to the class and to give and receive feedback in classroom workshops. For the purposes of the course we shall concentrate mainly on short form fiction, but we’ll talk about novels too. We will focus on translating ideas into words and words into crafted stories, to revise and refine those stories until they are the best they can be. In addition to regular writing exercises and short assignments, each student will complete three assignments. The first is a scenario for a short story, including setting, characters and scene. The second is a short-short story of 1000-1500 words. The third is a long story of up to 5000 words. Drafts of both stories will be workshopped in class and students will revise based on whatever useful feedback they receive from teacher and fellow students. Please note: This is not a class for those with a work-in- progress. The story scenario and stories will be graded. The writing exercises will be shared with the class but are designed to allow you to exercise your imagination and to experiment with subject, form and style and therefore will not be graded. In addition students will be expected to attend readings and talks at the Lannan Center.

 

Byron, Shelley, & Keats | ENGL-358
Duncan Wu
This will be a rigorous, demanding course that will focus on the poetry and non-fiction prose of the second generation British Romantic poets: Byron, Shelley and Keats. The emphasis throughout will be on disciplined, close analysis of text, and group discussion in which everyone is expected to participate. The elements of prosody are essential concomitants, and all members of the class should be aware of them. Students should be prepared to write regular short essays on aspects of the poetry. Each essay will contribute to your overall assessment, as will your attendance record and performance in class. Students are expected to attend one-to-one tutorials with Professor Wu in order to discuss their written work. There will be occasional tests on technical aspects of prosody. All these various activities will contribute to each student’s final grade.

 

Lit in the Time of Empire | ENGL-381
Mark McMorris
The British Empire was the dominant world power for much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In this course we will study four English-language writers of diverse national and geographical backgrounds whose texts show a distinct awareness of the Empire as a political and cultural force. Beginning with a brief consideration of the literary representation of empire in previous eras, we will turn our attention to the prose and poetry of Rudyard Kipling (born in India), W.B. Yeats (born in Ireland), T.S. Eliot (born in USA), and Derek Walcott (born in St. Lucia, West Indies), to see how the cultural power of England and the English language figure variously in their works.

 

Documentary Poetics | ENGL-780
Carolyn Forché
In this seminar we will consider the documentary as a political and poetic form in non-fiction work from the zones between poetics and politics, image and word, theory and practice. We are now in the midst of a flourishing of documentary literary forms, and the new term "docupoetry" designates poetry that may contain quotations from or reproductions of documents or statements not produced by the poet and that relate historical narratives, whether macro or micro. Such poems include history by including "business documents and schoolbooks," as Marianne Moore famously put it. There is tremendous vibrancy and transformative potential in such works at this moment (a prose documentary writer, Svetlana Alexeivich, was awarded last year's Nobel Prize in literature). We will read works of early practitioners (James Agee, William Carlos Williams) as well as contemporaries (Metres, Nowak, Rankine, and others) and we would also read theoretical approaches to documentation and "archival desire." We will also produce a work of documentary poetic art as part of the course.