ENGL 4910 - Honors Seminar I
Fall. 4 credits. Student option grading.
Enrollment limited to: students in the Honors Program in English or related fields, or by permission of instructor. Seminar 101 may be used as one of three pre-1800 courses required of English majors.
N. Saccamano, D. Schwarz.
The purpose of the Honors Seminar is to acquaint students with methods of study and research to help them write their senior Honors Essay. However, all interested students are welcome to enroll. The seminar will require a substantial essay that incorporates literary evidence and critical material effectively, and develops an argument. Topics and instructors vary each semester.
Seminar 101: Passions and Literary Enlightenment
Taking its inspiration from David Hume’s famous remark that “reason ought only to be the slave of the passions,” this course will consider the Enlightenment’s “science of human nature” not as the triumph of rationality but as a drama of competing psychologies of the passions. We will consider how the priority accorded the passion of self-preservation or life, the body, and the sexual and acquisitive drives subverted traditional ethics and was countervailed by compassion, sympathy, and other sentiments. We will read a short story and novels as well as some moral and political philosophy (Margaret Cavendish, Hobbes, Defoe, Cleland, Rousseau, Laclos, and Nietzsche) to address such topics as the “marriage contract” and the gender politics of the family; love and benevolence in relation to law and obligation; pornography as materialist science and sentimental-sexual education; suffering, sympathy, and justice. We will also read theoretical work by Althusser, Foucault, Butler, and Zizek to focus on narrative form and mechanisms of identity formation.
Seminar 102: The Genius of Joyce’s Ulysses
A thorough episode-by-episode study of the art and meaning of the most influential book of the twentieth century, James Joyce’s Ulysses. The emphasis is on the joy and fun of reading this wonderful and often playful masterwork. We shall place Ulysses in the context of Joyce’s writing career, Irish culture, and literary modernism. We shall explore the relationship between Ulysses and other experiments in modernism—including painting and sculpture—and show how Ulysses redefines the concepts of epic, hero, and reader. We shall examine Ulysses as a political novel, including Joyce’s response to Yeats and the Celtic Renaissance; Joyce’s role in the debate about the direction of Irish politics after Parnell; and Joyce’s response to British colonial occupation of Ireland. We shall also consider Ulysses as an urban novel in which Bloom, the marginalized Jew and outsider, is symptomatic of the kind of alienation created by nativist xenophobia. No previous experience with Joyce is required.
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