Archive for December 12th, 2013

Dear friends,

In the computer disaster I had two days ago it appears that the course proposals I had made for a summer teaching course at an Oscher Institute of Learning may have been permanently lost; as I want these documents and today (as yet) have no writing program I can put them on — the new computer with Windows 8 is hellishly cutsey, tricksey. I cannot figure out how to write on Word on this Macbook Pro without the whole screen being transformed, so that I appear unable to reach my gmail with hitting F3 which minimalizes everything and let’s me see, and get back to gmail and the row of programs I have at the bottom of Macbook Pro. So I am saving two sets of documents or writing here — I used to use this blog to work out my thoughts on books, films, teaching; well read these as 5 sketches towards a summer course for retired people.

The Gothic

This course will explore the gothic mode in fiction and film. The gothic as a mode is a vast terrain with many differnt subgenres, yet images, plot-, and character types repeat like a formula. Take one huge labyrinthine ancient or partly ruined dwelling, place inside a murderous incestuous father or mother (preferably chained), heroes and heroines (various kinds), get a tempest going at night, be sure to have plenty of blood on hand, owls, and stir in a great deal of supernatural phenomena, have the action occur in the deep past or be connected to a deep past … We’ll use short stories on-line, beginning with ghosts and terror, moving onto vampire, werewolf, and wanderer paradigms and horror, and last socially critical mystery and possession. The course culminates in two recent novellas, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and Valerie Martin’s Mary Reilly, and the justly famed film, Robert Wise’s The Haunting (1963, featuring Julie Harris).

Texts on-line will be chosen from among these: Wharton’s “Afterward” and/or “Kerfol,” M. R. James’s “The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral;” Sheridan LeFanu’s “Green Tea” and/or “Carmilla,” Marion Crawford’s “For the Blood is the Life,” R. L. Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Suzy Charnas’s “Unicorn Tapestry; Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Adventure of Abbey Grange.” This spares students buying an expensive anthology.

Memory, Desire, and Self-fashioning: Life Writing

This course will enable students to better to understand and recognize the nature of life-writing: diaries, books of letters, journals, memoirs, travel narratives, autobiogaphies, biographies. Our three texts will be Richard Holmes’s Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer, Iris Origo’s War in Val d’Orca: An Italian War Diary, 1943-1944 (or George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia) and Margaret Drabble’s The Figure in the Carpet: A Personal History, with Jigsaws. We will ask what is the nature of the truth autobiography produces and look at the relationship of a biographer to his subject. We’ll look at writing done to the moment when the writer does not know what the future holds (diaries, letters); how far is a biography the product of a biographer’s memories interacting with text by his (or her) subject. We’ll talk about the importance of childhood and play in this form, how aging, imagination and disappointment work are part of the mental materials that make up life-writing. If time permits and the DVD is available, the class will conclude with the 2013 film, The Invisible Woman, based on Claire Tomalin’s biography of a long love-relationship between Charles Dickens and Ellen Ternan (an actress), where most of the evidence for the events was destroyed, and thus be able to discuss events that happen, and are important in people’s lives and yet have left no discernible clear record.

The Political Novel

The course aims to enable the students to recognize what is political novel and how such novels can function in our society. We’ll read Elizabeth Bowen’s The Last September, Walter Von Tilburg Clark’s The Ox-Bow Incident, and Valerie Martin’s Property and see William Wellman’s film, The Ox-Bow Incident (1963, featuring Henry Fonda and Anthony Quinn). We’ll look at the nature of political allegory: how ideas about society penetrate the consciousness of the characters and can be observed in their behavior. Why some events enter what’s called history and why political novels often lend themselves to historical treatment; why other events are not discussed as serious history, which can limit what we perceive as political behavior. Finally, how films contribute to understanding a novel or its political meanings.

The Historical and Post-Colonial Turn in modern novels

This course will examine historical and post-colonial (or global) turn that English fiction has taken in the last quarter century. We’ll read and discuss three novels: Paul Scott’s Staying On, Graham Swift’s Waterland, and Andrea Levy’s Small Island. The first poignant novel is also about two aging people now retired, who have seen the word they were part of disappear and must cope with new arrangements hostile to them. The second will enable us to discuss how some events enter political history and others don’t, and thus our past is past is something we invent through imposing choice and order based on hierarchies in our present culture. Historical romance can therefore be liberating acts of resistance, a way of redressing injustice, and creating a more humane usable past. The third novel shows the centrality of nationalistic identities in enforcing exclusions or forming imagined communities. The course will conclude by watching an excerpt from a mini-series adaptation of Small Island (2009, BBC, featuring David Oyelowo and Ruth Wilson). I hope the class will see the connection of these novels to young adult fiction, counter-factual fictions, and romantic history as well as TV costume drama.

Jane Austen: the early phase

This course focus on Austen’s first published novels: Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. Love and Freindship (a short hilarious burlesque which we will read first), Austen’s Steventon years, and letter fiction provide prologue and context for reading S&S and P&P. An alternative perspective provides the last phase of the course: Austen’s Bath years, a brief mid-career epistolary novel written there, Lady Susan (with an utterly amoral heroine), and discussion of how Austen revised the novels when she settled at Chawton. Last, we’ll see Ang Lee and Emma Thompson’s S&S (a 1995 Miramax product), and discuss what this film makes visible about the way film-makers think readers read these novels and how these interpretations differ from this course’s historical, autobiographical and aesthetic readings.


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Courses I taught at GMU and AU

Dear friends,

A computer disaster has hit me and I’m trying to retrieve a few documents which I fear I will lose permanently. While I wait for a plan to materialize which will set up my files and programs again on a working and workable computer, this is a list of the courses I taught at GMU and AU for the last 23 years. I have been teaching since 1972 (with 7-8 years off for children) and it omits the early years in NYC (Queens and Brooklyn College), mostly endlessly freshman composition. It also omits 2 advanced courses (300-400 level) I taught at the Northern Regional Center of the University of Virginia (1987-88): The Augustan Age (1700-44, included Pope, Gay’s Beggar’s Opera as I recall), and a Shakespeare course (included Richard II and Winter’s Tale) to History and English high school teachers seeking to improve their accreditation. Alas, I didn’t get to teach The Age of Sensibility as Fairfax county decided to be cheap and switch to “in-house” courses with no Ph.D as a teacher and so my position ended.

GMU and AU Teaching History for Ellen Moody:

I began teaching in the English Department at GMU in the Spring of 1988, and taught until May 2013 every fall and spring semester but one. I also taught many summers. I have organized this to begin with the general education introductory literature courses I taught at GMU and to end with the general education composition courses. Within these large categories, I have placed the first ones taught first, and end with the courses I taught most recently. For AU I taught from 1987 to 1992 and only in the fall and spring. Each fall I taught two sections of Freshman Composition, and then in the spring was given a required introductory themed literature course. I recall only three types, and have listed these after the GMU list.


General Education, Introductory Literature, 1988-2012:

English 203: Western Literary Masterworks, First Half. This was the first course I taught at George Mason and I taught it in Spring of 1988. I taught this one altogether for about 8 semesters.

English 251: British Literature First Half. I taught this course for the first time in the early 1990s (perhaps 1991) and taught it for a number of fall terms in a row. Sometimes I taught it in the spring too. Most of the time I had two sections each term until the course was limited to one section and then (as far as I know now) abolished.

English 252: British Literature Second Half. I taught this course much less often than 251, but did teach my first one in the early 1990s also (perhaps 1992). I hazard a guess that I taught this course more than I did the 203.

English 207: Literature and Society. I taught this once. It was summer 1993. I enjoyed it very much. We covered Renaissance drama and the Romantic period. We read a few Renaissance plays, including Middleton’s Women Beware Women, and poetry by Byron, Shelley, and Wordsworth and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and William Godwin’s Caleb Williams.

English 202: Texts and Contexts. I taught this for the first time in the summer of 1999; again in fall 1999, summer 2000 and summer 2001. Each time I had just one section. I enjoyed teaching this class very much and put together a syllabus where we studied gothic and romance literature. My proposal for gothic literature develops out of this teaching as well as my publications.

English 201: Reading and Writing about Texts. I have taught this a number of times since it was established in the curriculum. I have a gift for explanation and what was needed was very basic kinds of practice in discerning and writing about literary conventions as well as helping students to read more sophisticatedly. I sometimes used an anthology and sometimes ordered separate texts (e.g., J. L. Carr’s A Month in the Country and other short good modern fiction).

General Education, Advanced Composition in Humanities, Natural Sciences and Technology and Social Sciences, 1988-present:

English 302, Advanced Composition on Natural Science and Technology. I have no record of how often I taught this course, but I have done it for something like 40 times. My earliest record of teaching it goes back to fall 1992. I know for a few years in a row I taught 2 sections of it each spring and fall. I have also taught it for a few summers too. I made a speciality of this and was proud of my syllabus which was directed towards the needs of the students, and seemed to satisfy them very much.

English 302, Advanced Composition on the Humanities: I have no record of how often I have taught this course, nor when I first taught one. I hazard a guess the first time was in 1993. I seem to have been given a section or two every couple of years, though sometimes the stretch between assignments has been as long as five years. I enjoy teaching this one very much. I had the students write on art, music, drama, and have a research assignment where I ask students to reread a favorite book from middle childhood, research the background for the book, the author’s life (if relevant), the genre of children’s literature, and write a literary analysis.

English 302, Advanced Composition on Social Sciences. This is the Advanced Writing section I taught least often. I did not avoid it; I was just not given sections. I think I taught it three times. I enjoy it because it leads centrally into cultural studies.


Freshman/Sophomore level course: American Literary Masterpieces. I chose short stories, novels and plays by American writers and tried to unite them through themes; I also followed a chronology so the students might get some sense of development. Texts I recall include Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Wm Dean Howell’s A Modern Instance, Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth, Richard Wright’s Native Son, three novellas by Wm Styron. I used an anthology of “great” American short stories and another of American poetry.

Freshman/Sophomore level course: Memory and Self. I taught this course in life writing at least twice. I enjoyed delving different kinds of life-writing with the students. Texts I recall include: John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley; George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia; Mary McCarthy’s Memoirs of a Catholic Girlhood; Annie Dillard’s An American Childhood.

Freshman/Sophomore level course: Evil, guilt and justice. Texts included excerpts from Allen Mandelbaum’s translation of Dante’s Inferno; Bronte’s Jane Eyre; an anthology of gothic tales one semester and ghost stories another; an anthology of Eugene O’Neill’s plays; Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale.

This is a record of the courses I taught at GMU and AU to the best of my recollection.


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