Selected Courses 

Missouri Writers The object of study in this course is writing by writers with some significant Missouri connection, from being born and raised here to having passed through for a few years. We will read their work in itself and for what it can tell us about Missouri. Works will include novels by William Wells Brown, Clotel: or, The President’s Daughter; Jack Conroy, The Disinherited; Ntozake Shange, Betsey Brown; Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson: And, Those Extraordinary Twins; John Williams, Stoner; Daniel Woodrell, Winter’s Bone; short fiction by Kate Chopin and William Gass; poetry by T. S. Eliot, Marianne Moore, Langston Hughes, Sterling A. Brown, Melvin B. Tolson, Albert Edmond Trombley, Naomi Shihab Nye; nonfiction by Mark Twain, Dick Gregory, Maya Angelou, Calvin Trillin; standup comedy by Dick Gregory. Work will include reading journals, a final paper, and for students in Honors, a recorded public lecture. (2310 S21 syllabus)

Governing Fictions: Representing Politics in the American Novel, 1900-2020  This graduate seminar will read works of American political fiction published since 1900, asking what their representations of politics can tell us about fiction across modern US literary history and about politics in modern US history. Examining both the narratives Americans have constructed about the nation and also the modes through which writers have represented, referred to, and recreated the world of politics in their work, we will be aided by work in the history and theory of the novel. Primary works will include Charles Chesnutt, The Marrow of Tradition; Sinclair Lewis, It Can’t Happen Here; Robert Penn Warren, All the King’s Men; Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man; Robert Coover, The Public Burning; Joan Didion, Democracy; Don DeLillo, Libra; Tim O’Brien, In the Lake of the Woods; Toni Morrison, Paradise; Philip Roth, The Plot Against America; Chris Bachelder, U.S.!; Paul Beatty, The Sellout; Rachel Kushner, The Mars Room. Assignments will include weekly questions, presentations on secondary reading, a book review, and a conference-length scholarly paper. (8320 F20 syllabus)

Honors Seminar: The City in American Literature (Fall 2018): This course is the first part of the two-semester Honors sequence in the English Department, and is intended to lead into the second part, the writing of the Honors senior thesis (English 4995, taken in the Spring term). The theme of this section is the city in American literature. We will read a variety of literary works from across American literary history that engage with the city as a place and as an idea, including Stephen Crane’s Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, John Williams’s Butcher’s Crossing, Toni Morrison’s Jazz, and poetry from Walt Whitman to Ross Gay; we will also read literary criticism and theory that is concerned with these works and with the city in literature, culture, and history. You will write two shorter exploratory drafts of critical papers and one longer research paper that can be expanded from one of these, or not, if you want to start something new. There will be assignments along the way before the final draft of the longer research paper is handed in at the end of the semester, including a proposal, an annotated bibliography, and a rough draft. Each student will also do a presentation on secondary material. (4996 F18 syllabus)

Sports/Writing (Spring 2018): The object of study in this course is sports in American culture and American writing. The overarching questions we will ask: What roles does sports play in the way we live and think about ourselves and the world? How do American writers represent sports? What do they see in sports, and how do they use sports to tell us about ourselves? Topics covered will include sports and money, sports and politics, sports on campus, sports and race, and sports and gender and sexuality, and of course, first and throughout, writing about sports. We will read longer and shorter works of imaginative literature about sports, including novels such as Ben Fountain’s billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, short fiction by writers such as Ellen Gilchrist, Ernest Hemingway, and Toni Cade Bambara, work by poets such as Yesenia Montilla, James Wright, Claudia Rankine, and Terrance Hayes, and drama such as August Wilson’s Fences. We will also read essays and reporting about sports by writers such as John Updike, Hunter S. Thompsn,  and Dave Zirin. (1160 S18 Syllabus)

The University in Fiction & Theory (Fall 2017): This graduate seminar will have two foci: American fiction about higher education and American higher education. We will split our time on the fiction talking about contemporary American fiction as a field of study and about the intersection between the works we read and our study of higher education. Students will be responsible for writing daily questions about the reading, giving presentations about our reading, writing and presenting book reviews, and writing and presenting conference-length papers. (8320 F17 syllabus)

Job Placement Workshop: This course will provide intensive preparation and support for graduate students going on the job market. We will workshop job letters, CVs, dissertation abstracts, statements of teaching philosophy, writing samples, and job talks. We will also practice MLA interviews, campus interviews, job talks, and teaching demonstrations. Readings for the course will come primarily from Karen Kelsky, The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide to Turning Your Ph.D. Into a Job and from The Chronicle of Higher EducationInside Higher Ed, and other sources. (8006 F17 syllabus)

Studies in Writing: Criticism (Spring 2017): In this course we will work on criticism. We will study it, looking at the criticism of music, art, literature, film, TV, fashion, food and looking at the forms it takes–academic, journalistic, creative—and we will write and workshop our own pieces of criticism. Students will be responsible for reading and responding to examples of criticism, supplied by the instructor and also by themselves and their classmates, in reading journals to be shared in class. Students will also be responsible for writing their own pieces of criticism and for taking part in workshopping them. (4040 S17 syllabus)

Genres: The Rock Novel (Spring 2017) In this course we will read seven American novels that take rock and roll music as their subject and inspiration. We will read them for what they have to say about the music as a cultural phenomenon (and what they have to say about American culture through the music) and for how they are influenced as works of art by the music—that is, we’ll talk and write about them not just as books about rock but as rock books, books whose form is shaped by rock and whose self-conception is influenced by their conception of rock as art and commerce. We will also read some rock history and criticism and listen to music that relates to the novels, more or less, in order to help us think about the music these books come out of and the larger culture that gave birth to them both. (4109 7109 s17 Syllabus)

Literary Reportage & The Novel (Fall 2013): This graduate seminar will examine the loosely defined genre known as literary reportage (or literary journalism, or long-form journalism) historically and in the context of its relationship to the novel, concentrating on its American instances. We will read journalism and fiction from the eighteenth century to the twenty-first, examining the ways in which the two have informed each other; we will also have secondary readings about the history, criticism, and theory of literary reportage and the novel and about the particular works and writers on whom we will be focusing. Coursework will include short presentations and a seminar paper. (8320 F13 Syllabus)

Contemporary American Fiction and the Anxiety of Influence (Fall 2011): In this seminar we will read fiction written by the latest generation of American writers poised to enter the canon and examine it in the light of the literary- and social-historical fact of its writers’ membership in this generation. We will read selected works by four important writers born in the 1960s, David Foster Wallace, Colson Whitehead, Lydia Millet, and Jonathan Lethem, accompanied by fiction written by significant precursors, by their own commentary on fiction and related subjects, and by writing about the idea of literary influence, literary history, and the historical moment. Among the questions we will be asking: How is the fiction produced by these writers effected by their consciousness of the work of the previous generation(s)? How do their responses to these influences compare to their responses to history? What larger models of literary influence/history help us understand all of this? Course work will include short responses to reading and a final paper. (8320 F11 Syllabus)

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