English 639

ENGL 639

Catalog Entry

ENG 639. Studies in 20th-Century Literature
Three hours lecture (3).

Study of selected major figures and important topics of 20th century British and American literature, with attention to other influences. With a different subheading, may be taken twice for credit.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

The specific content varies with each offering of the course, depending on the particular topic ("subheading") designated by the instructor. Designated topics focus on significant scholarly issues and concerns relevant to the British and American literature of the 20th century. Such topics might include thematic concerns ("Mythmaking and the Search for the Sacred"), generic concerns ("Narrative Method in the 20th-Century Novel"), linguistic concerns ("Idiomatic Diction in 20th-Century Poetry"); cultural, social, political or historical issues ("The Politics of Modernism"); source studies ("Christian Mysticism and the Poetry and Plays of T.S. Eliot"), studies of the influence of one author upon another writer or group of writers ("Walt Whitman and the Beat Generation"), or other problems of literary history ("Open-Form Poetry in the 20th- Century"); a particular critical approach to selected literary works of the period ("A Feminist Perspective of The Lost Generation"); an intensive study of a single major work or a selected body of works ("The Harlem Renaissance"); etc. Close reading of primary texts assigned in conjunction with the designated topic and extensive reading in relevant secondary texts, including those providing historical, cultural, social and political backgrounds and contexts as well as those providing a variety of critical and theoretical approaches to the literature of the period.


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

The course is conducted as a seminar, directed by a member of the English Department's graduate faculty with expertise in 20th-century British and American literature and whose role is essentially that of consultant. The seminar meets weekly. These meetings are most often conducted by one or more seminar participants who may lead discussion of assigned readings, offering their own interpretations and critical analyses as well as raising questions, concerns and/or problems posed by the readings; engage other seminar participants in debate over controversial issues; report on readings in secondary texts; explore potential topics for further research; share drafts of papers for peer review and response; or make formal presentations of finished papers. While seminar meetings afford students the opportunity to take responsibility for much of their learning and to engage both with their peers and with the instructor in the kind of scholarly discourse characteristic of the discipline, the greatest emphasis is on independent study and research outside the classroom. In consultation with the instructor students develop an extended research project culminating most commonly in one or more formal scholarly papers that develop an original thesis and conform in style and format to the guidelines of the Modern Language Association. Students are encouraged to submit such papers for publication in professional journals or, if opportunity affords, for presentation at a professional conference.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

The primary goals of the course are (1) to provide graduate students with the opportunity for intensive study of particular literary texts, modes and traditions of 20th-century British and American literature; (2) to provide graduate students with the opportunity to engage in the kinds of scholarly research, writing and discourse characteristic of the discipline; (3) to provide graduate students with the opportunity to develop and practice the skills requisite for advanced literary studies in general and for such study of 20th-century British and American literature in particular. For graduate students pursuing the Master of Arts degree with a concentration in later British or American literature, the course affords the opportunity to investigate topics of special interest, to undertake significant research into such topics, and to compose formal scholarly papers that may become the basis for a thesis.


Assessment Measures

While individual instructors may wish to consider a variety of measures of measures in their final assessment of student achievement in this course (e.g., preparation for and participation during seminar meetings, oral presentations, informal and/or creative writing exercises, quizzes and examinations), the single most important measure is the ability of the student to engage in meaningful independent research, to develop on the basis of that research an original insight into or perspective on a significant question, and to present that insight or perspective in a formal scholarly paper.


Other Course Information



Review and Approval

March 1999