University of Notre Dame

Literature

This page was last updated on June 28, 2015, and is subject to change.

English

ENGL 30101 Introduction to Literary Studies

This course provides students with experience in the analysis, interpretation, and appreciation of literary works of different kinds and eras. Texts assigned will vary from one section to another, but all sections will include attention to poetry and at least one other genre (fiction, drama, non-fiction prose). Frequent writing about works studied will introduce students to the practice of critical argument and consideration of how to read criticism as well as literature critically. The course fulfills the first requirement for English Majors.

ENGL 20234: Medieval Monstrosity and the Modern Imaginary

Monsters haunt our cultural imagination and make countless appearances in literature, bringing entertainment in the forms of horror, fantasy and satire, while offering social critique on virtually every aspect of human behavior and experience. But, what makes a monster? Attempting to answer and better understand this question will be the object of our academic discussion and the primary intellectual inquiry at the center of the course.

Contemporary shows like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and Dexter reflect a continued interest in the darker side of human nature and the psychology of terror, concerns which extends back to the so-called Dark Ages, and some of earliest works of English literature. Beginning with the Old English poem Beowulf, our focus will center on monsters in medieval and modern literature. Together as a class, we will analyze heroic poetry, Latin lore, Old Norse sagas, Shakespearean plays (such as Macbeth), modern novels (such as M. Shelley’s Frankenstein), contemporary films (such as N. Jordan’s Interview with a Vampire) and TV series as we categorize the various representations of monstrosity, and consider their literary work, socio-political context, individual characterizations, and narratological functions in each respective text.

ENGL 20249: Global Drama: Tradition and Modernity

This course will examine the relationship between tradition and modernity in dramatic texts from places as diverse as Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, and the Caribbean. The upheavals of the modern world in the twentieth century brought about a multitude of encounters which have left their mark on peoples across the globe: effects stemming from the varied experiences of settling a foreign country or being colonized by a foreign power, of gaining independence or living as a cultural minority within one’s ancestral home, or of leaving one’s home to seek a new and better life, continue to reverberate throughout contemporary global cultures. By exploring these experiences as they are represented in contemporary drama we will grapple with questions about the role that tradition has to play within the changing world of postcolonial modernity: how is “tradition” established and who decides what practices and beliefs are included or excluded in its name? What is the relationship between literary, cultural, and national forms of tradition? Are modernizing and traditionalizing forces antithetical to each other? Does tradition tie us to a static past, or can it open up new and productive possibilities for the future?

Our discussions and assignments will apply the techniques of literary and dramatic analysis to help us understand these texts in light of historical context, intellectual ideas, literary and dramatic form, and aesthetics. The overarching goals of this course are to help us all, as a class: to learn how to read and engage with unfamiliar literary works; to think critically about formal and aesthetic elements of texts in both their written and staged forms; to gain an understanding of non-Western literary works and their historical contexts and cultural environments; and to think, discuss, and write critically and creatively about both our own ideas and the thoughts of others.

Irish

IRLL 20115: Irish Literature and Culture I

Ireland can lay claim to one of the most extensive, unique, and oldest literatures in Europe. By engaging with a wide range of literary texts (saints’ lives, poetry, myth and legend, prose epic, laments, placelore and travel literature) from the medieval and early modern periods (ca. 800-1800), participants will consider how changing social, cultural, literary and intellectual contexts, in terms of both authors and audiences, have dramatically transformed Ireland’s literature over the centuries. By looking at authors ranging from heroic bards and literary monks to lamenting wives and satirizing schoolmasters, we will examine the dynamics of production and the voices that speak to us from Ireland’s past. Additionally, by considering the different topics that scholars have chosen to explore, and by articulating our own, contemporary responses to often arresting works from the Irish literary tradition, we will begin to understand the complexities and rich possibilities for appreciating Irish literature in our own time and place.

Participants will read both primary literary texts, which may include but are not limited to the Lives of St. Patrick and St. Brigit, The Táin, excerpts from The Acallam, stories from Early Irish Myths and Sagas, a selection of Old Irish verse, poems from An Duanaire: Poems of the Dispossessed, Merriman’s Midnight Court, as well as a number of critical essays.

Russian

RU 30215/ENGL 40778: Nabokov (in English)

Intended for those who are interested in the works of the Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977), the course spans both the Russian- and English-language parts of the writer’s career and focuses on his achievement as an innovative stylist and thinker. Students will learn more about the “Nabokov effect,” or the tension between realism and its subversion in literature; the writer’s love of pattern; and the system of cognitive challenges and rewards in his prose. We will also discuss Nabokov’s views on sex in literature and his ideas on the relationship between sexuality and art. The purpose of the course is to delineate Nabokov’s creative philosophy and to demonstrate its relevance for the contemporary reader from the perspectives of history (the “nightmare of history” in the European 20th century), art (the connection between art and play), and cognition (the evolutionary advantages of sophisticated artistic endeavor).

RU 33302/HIST 30479: St. Petersburg: Myth and Reality

From its inception in 1703 on the banks of the Neva River, St. Petersburg has embodied Russia’s search for a national identity. Founded by Peter the Great as Russia’s “Window on the West,” it has been championed by those who wished to ally Russia more closely with Western Europe and vilified by those who viewed such a connection as the undoing of native Russian culture. Starting in the early 19th century, St. Petersburg developed a rich tradition of writers, artists, composers, dancers, and filmmakers who focused on the question of the city’s dual nature within Russian society. Over the course of a semester, we will use this rich artistic heritage to investigate both the myth and reality of St. Petersburg and how they reflect Russia’s uneasy relationship with the West. Which political, social, and cultural values did the Russians appropriate from the West? How did this lead to the modernization of Old Russian culture? What is the “Russian soul”? What impact did revolution (1917) and war (World War II, or as the Russians call it, “The Great Fatherland War”) have on the Russian psyche? In seeking answers to these questions, we will read and view some of the greatest works of art produced in the 19th, and 20th centuries. Areas to be covered include literature (Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoyevsky, Bely, Blok, Mandelshtam, Akhmatova, and Zamyatin), painting (Repin, Surikov, Malevich. Kandinsky), and film (Eisenstein,). Artistic works will be supplemented with historical accounts, eyewitness reporting, memoir, and documentary footage.