This course offers an introduction to the field of English studies, with focus on problems of method revolving around the field’s burning question, What is literature? We read a range of recent scholarship, exploring approaches, methods, and issues of interest, including formalism vs. historicism, literary and cultural theory, poetics, periodization, and digital humanities. Primary works assigned are drawn from different centuries and all major genres, mainly from Britain. Students write either a research paper on a primary text or a substantial position paper on an issue or a method.


I. Close
What is literature?
Formal specificity, genre distinctions, and historical granularity

II. Oscillating
Structure and concept: reading theories
Discipline and verse: poetics

III. Far
The shape of time: periodization
Literature by the numbers: digital research

  1. Arden of Faversham, ed. Catherine Richardson
  2. W. H. Auden, Another Time
  3. Henry Fielding, Joseph Andrews
  4. Vladimir Nabokov, Invitation to a Beheading
  5. Claudia Rankine, Citizen

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