The Devil in English Literature, English 90S (Freshman Seminar, Fall 2017)
Faustus: I think hell’s a fable.
Mephistopheles: Ay, think so still, till experience change thy mind.
The idea of the devil has inspired many songs, poems, stories, paintings, graphic novels and films. In this course, we will trace one of the many narrative paths that the devil takes through English literature. Beginning with Dante’s poetic vision of the devil in The Inferno (1321), we will move across Europe and the English Channel to Britain, where we find the ambitious, devil-tempted student in Christopher Marlowe’s play Doctor Faustus (1604). From Marlowe, we will proceed to John Milton’s fallen Satan in Paradise Lost (1667). How does the devil change his shape across these great texts? How does the parameter of the devil’s power grow and recede in English literature, theology and society? Euan Cameron’s critical text, Enchanted Europe: Superstition, Reason, & Religion, 1250-1750, will help us to answer certain sides of these important questions by exploring the effect of the Protestant Reformation on European thought and practice. After this introduction to the devil in English literature and historical criticism, we will consider what happens to the devil in the New World by reading Hawthorn’s short story “Young Goodman Brown” (1835) and then Neil Gaiman’s 1990’s graphic novel The Sandman, Vol. Four: Season of Mists, where the character Lucifer Morningstar is born. Other “texts” include C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, the “occult detective action” film Constantine starring Keanu Reeves, and the currently airing FOX show Lucifer. We will close the semester with the lighthearted yet literary novel, Good Omens, co-written by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Course writing: a weekly Sakai post and two essays (5-7 pages) due at midterm and finals. No exams. Codes: Arts, Literature and Performance, Ethical Inquiry, and Writing.
Intro to Creative Writing: Hybrid Forms (English 110S, TBT Summer 2018)
“Technically, we’re all half centaur.” Nick Offerman, Shower Thoughts
Description: This course is an invitation to the hybrid, bookish-beasts of writing: the journal entry, the listicle (list+article), the prose poem, the short lyric essay, and some of the many glittering forms of writing that fall between and around these forms. In this studio/workshop styled course, we will begin class like an art class: with several models of the form we are considering and a group conversation/deep discussion centered around those models. This time will be followed by a writing period (from 10-25 minutes) in response to a writing prompt. Eugenio Montale called writing “the second profession”—it is what we do in addition to working a fulltime job, taking care of children, and living busy lives with others. In-class writing shows us how to fit writing into those small spaces in our lives. As the poet and memoirist Molly Peacock tells her studio participants, “In the attempt is the success.” The results of in-class writing are often a happy surprise to the writer, and produce some of the class’s favorite pieces written during the course. In the second half of each class, we will workshop a rotating selection of our new writing, and provide timely feedback and responses for the writer to help with their revision process. Poet and writer Wayne Koestenbaum says that revision is considering the “unexamined” places in our writing, and our goal will be to help each other locate, identify, and think about these places in workshop.
Progression: we will start with journaling and list writing—daily, familiar forms of writing. Then we will transform these pieces: pushing at their edges, filling them with collaged materials and different kinds of page space, seeing how far we can develop and refine them. We will use the form of the listicle, popularized by Buzzfeed, as a form of life-writing and memoir. Having developed our thinking about hybrid writing forms and learned specific methods for composition via in-class writing prompts, we will then bring our developing skills and inspiration to the prose poem and the short lyric essay.
Goals: A digital art exhibition of your multi-media listicle. In addition: a 15-page writing portfolio of your best journaling, prose poems and short lyric essays.