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Christiania Whitehead, BA, DPhil (Oxon) – Associate Professor
Research interests: allegory in Latin, French and English, and in religious and courtly literature, from late antiquity until the end of the Middle Ages. Subsidiary interests in devotional writing by and for women in the vernacular (13th-15th centuries), and in the evolution of Arthurian literature from the medieval to the modern periods. Publications include: (co-ed. with Denis Renevey),Writing Religious Women: Spiritual and Textual Practices in Late Medieval England (2000); Castles of the Mind: A Study of Medieval Architectural Allegory (2003), and a volume of poetry, The Garden of Slender Trust (1999). Currently working on a critical edition of the Middle English Doctrine of the Herte for Exeter Medieval Texts and Studies series.
MA Modules 2011-2012
British Dramatists in Society: 1965-1995 – Professor Tony Howard
This module examines the work of a number of leading British and Irish playwrights from the period of Wilson and Vietnam to the present day, via the rise of Thatcher and the end of the Cold War. There will be a focus on modes of historical and documentary drama, taking in new work at theatres in the region. We shall examine scripts for both theatre and television and consider the relationship between social change and developments in dramatic form as well as content. The plays explore new definitions of sanity and madness; the relationship between class, the family and the individual; the appropriation of myth and High Culture; the rewriting of history; and shifting concepts of culture, whether Marxist, feminist or postmodern. Seminars will focus on the development of one playwright’s work and social thinking, or on one political/ethical issue and several dramatists’ response to it. It is hoped that the texts will emerge as elements in a set of evolving national or international debates.
Howard Barker, Collected Plays I (Calder)
Edward Bond, Plays Three (Methuen)
Caryl Churchill, The Skriker (Nick Hern Books)
Jim Cartwright, Road (Samuel French)
Martin Crimp, Attempts on Her Life (Faber)
Michael Frayn, Copenhagen (Methuen)
Sarah Kane, Cleansed (Methuen)
Martin McDonagh, The Pillowman (Faber)
Connor McPherson, The Weir (Nick Hern)
Patrick Marber, Don Juan in Soho (Faber)
Harold Pinter, Plays: Volume Four (Faber)
Simon Stephens, Motortown (Methuen)
Tom Stoppard, Arcadia (Faber)
Timberlake Wertenbaker, Our Country's Good (Methuen)
Copies of all plays in the module will be held in the Student Reserve Collection (overnight loan). Check the library catalogue and the bookshop. Most plays can easily be obtained second-hand.
Charles Dickens: Novels, Journalism and Adaptation – Professor Jon Mee
This module is intended as an introduction to Charles Dickens, arguably the greatest novelist to have written in English. Certainly, perhaps with Jane Austen, Dickens is perhaps the one canonical novelist to retain a powerful hold on a popular readership across the English-speaking world (there is even a theme-park recently opened in Kent). By covering nearly the entire corpus of his writing, including his sketches and journalism, it intends to provide students have the fullest sense possible of the ‘Dickens world’ and why it exercised and continues to exercise such a powerful hold on readers. Related to this issue will be the development of Dickens as a public persona through the journalism and his public readings. Related to this issue, the module will devote its final two weeks to the question of adaptation by focussing on film and TV versions of the novels. The aim here is to look at the specific kinds of technical demands Dickens makes for adaptation, but also why particular novels have been chosen for adaptation at particular times, and how those choices play into the forms of adaptation. In this regard the question of adaptation raises issues of contemporary mediations of the past and the part played by the heritage industry in perpetuating the Dickens world. Furthermore, the question of Dickens and cinema also reflects back on and changes our understanding of the novels themselves, as Sergei Eisenstein showed, providing a filmic language that can reveal important aspects of Dickens’s narrative technique. From year to year, the novels presented on the course may vary, as may the adaptations chosen, not least because both TV and cinema continue to produce new and innovative versions like the Alfonso Cuarón version of Great Expectations set in contemporary America or the recent BBC Bleak House. The question of adaptation may also be extended to literary revisions of Dickens, for instance, Peter Carey’s rewriting of Great Expectations in Jack Maggs, or fiction where Dickens novels themselves appear, such as, Lloyd Jones’s Mr. Pip
Sketches by Boz
Our Mutual Friend
Selected Journalism 1850-1870
All Penguin eds.
David Lean and Roman Polanski adaptations of Oliver Twist; Lean and Cuarón of Great Expectations(DVDs) BBC TV Bleak House and Little Dorrit, DVD
Jon Mee, The Cambridge Introduction to Charles Dickens (Cambridge)
Grahame, Smith, Dickens and the Dream of Cinema (Manchester University Press)
NB students are strongly encouraged to make a good start with the reading before beginning the module.
Condition of England: Perceptions in Victorian Literature – Dr Emma Francis
Superficially stable and prosperous, the Victorian period was a time of dynamic change and opposition. Over ten weeks, we examine a range of texts which intervene in important ways into the cultural, social and political reconfigurations which energized the period. Issues we will discuss include the development of ‘racial’ thinking – the notion that ‘race’ is a significant category of difference – during the nineteenth century, the challenges and perceived threats posed by the middle and working classes’ demands for the extension of democracy and civil rights and the increasing dominance of the so-called ‘Woman Question’ within all arenas of social and political debate. Victorian culture did not make the same disciplinary divisions within its intellectual culture as we make, between, for example, ‘cultural’ and ‘scientific’ debates. So we read ‘literary’ texts alongside some of the most important texts of other kinds – works of sociology, psychology, natural history, economics – written in the period which influenced the structure, axioms and often the very language of the literature in crucial ways.
Texts to be discussed in seminar will include:
Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy (Penguin) Chs 1-4
Charlotte Bronte, Villette
Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species (Penguin), Chs 1,2,3,4,7,8,10; Charles Lyell, Principles of Geology (Penguin), consult at will and read James Secord’s introduction to the Penguin edition; Thomas Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population
Amy Levy, Reuben Sachs (Broadview)
Olive Schreiner, The Story of An African Farm (OUP)
Bram Stoker, Dracula (OUP)
A full syllabus will be published on the course webpage at the end of July.
Creative Writing – Professor David Morley
Eighteenth-Century and Romantic Theatre – Dr David O’Shaughnessy
This module will assess the literary and cultural impact of theatre across the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Understanding the cultural and literary life of this period is simply not possible without a firm grasp of the theatre and the manner in which its discursive modes permeated other spheres of Georgian life, for example, its politics, political writing, courts, newspapers, and its burgeoning review culture. Theatre was as much a part of the development of the public sphere as the coffee-house.
Although the module will pay close attention to literary concerns such as how a particular genre (ie comedy) evolved over the period covered, it will be equally interested in relating that literary evolution with the unfolding of political events and historical currents. Thus, for example, it will consider the technical comic innovations of Richard Brinsley Sheridan's 'The School for Scandal' (1777) and its relationship to Restoration comedy but we will be alert to Sheridan's Whiggish political sympathies and the play's referencing of sensitive events which nearly caused it to be refused a performance license.
Key government interventions pertaining to the theatre bookend the course (Stage Licensing Act 1737 and the Select Committee on the Theatre 1832) and one strand of discussion which we will follow through the ten weeks is the extent to which and the reasons why the state felt obliged to monitor theatrical production so assidiously. Theatre was the only form of literary production subject to pre-publication censorship and we will debate the impact of that policy in a society that was itself profoundly theatrical.
Week 1 The Stage Licensing Act of 1737 and its contexts (Henry Fielding's satires, rise of illegitimate theatre)
Week 2 A culture of theatricality (parliament, newspapers, reviews, trials, political polemic)
Week 3 Sentimental vs laughing comedy (Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Oliver Goldsmith, Richard Cumberland)
Week 4 Creating 'the Bard': Shakespeare in the 18th century (David Garrick, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charles Lamb)
Week 5 Staging Revolutions (representations of events in France and Ireland)
Week 6 Imperial theatre (a selection of plays dealing with empire in India and Ireland)
Week 7 Gothic Theatre (Horace Walpole, Matthew Lewis, Percy Shelley)
Week 8 Melodrama (August von Kotzebue, Thomas Holcroft, Dion Boucicault)
Week 9 Theatre criticism: Oliver Goldsmith to William Hazlitt
Week 10 The Theatre Select Committee of 1832 and its implications (reform of theatre censorship)
Feminist Literary Theory – Dr Emma Francis
This course considers some of the most important debates and trends in feminist literary theory of the last 3 decades. The field is situated in a trans-national frame and we begin with an examination of the parameters which structured Anglo-American and French feminist literary criticism in the 1980s. However, from the outset our focus will also be on the conflicts and collaborations engaged between ‘western’, ‘multicultural’ and ‘third world’ feminisms. Feminist literary theory has developed itself from a diverse range of knowledges, initially including Marxism, psychoanalysis and liberalism and subsequently gay and lesbian knowledges, queer theory, post-colonial theory and post-modernism. The impact of each on feminist literary theory and the canons it has constructed will be considered. We will look, in particular, at the use and abuse of writing by black women in the formation of feminist literary theory, the way in which white feminist critics have often recuperated black-authored texts and have avoided the interrogation of whiteness. Both literary study and feminism being among the least autonomous of intellectual fields, we will open up the question of feminist literary theory’s relationship with the projects of feminist cultural and social theory. We will think about the historicity of feminism’s engagement with literature - does it make sense to bring concepts generated by ‘feminism’ into dialogue with texts produced either chronologically or politically outside of modernity? Perhaps the most important question we will ask is: what are the accounts of ‘woman’ which feminist theories rest upon?
As we will see, the demarcation between ‘literary’ and ‘theoretical’ texts has always been unstable within feminism and the course sets up a dialogue between the two categories. Some key ‘literary’ texts will be used as touchstones for our debates during the course.
Mahasweta Devi, ‘Douloti the Bountiful’ from Imaginary Maps (1995) (xerox)
Emily Dickinson, selected poems (1862) (xerox)
Winifred Holtby, South Riding (1936)
Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love (c.1400) (the long text) (trans. Elizabeth Spearing, Penguin:2003 - it is essential you use this Penguin edition)
Nella Larsen, Passing (1929)
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own (1928)
There is no course reader, but Cora Kaplan’s Sea Changes: Culture and Feminism (Verso: 1986) and Reina Lewis and Sara Mills (ed) Feminist Postcolonial Theory (EUP: 2003) are important collections which will be drawn upon frequently. Jacqueline Rose’s Sexuality in the Field of Vision (Verso: 1986) contains key statements of feminism’s debates with psychoanalysis and cultural theory. Students may wish to read these in preparation.
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