University of Massachusetts Amherst




(These are four-credit, six-week courses and every Seminar participant is required to enroll in one)

**Each Major Course is the equivalent of a 300-level class

*** English Department requirements changed in Spring 2013. Some majors are under old requirements, some under new. Check with the English Department for your own status.

Romance Literature

Ralph Hanna

The literary term 'romance' covers a multitude of sins. It is the grounding of many popular literary forms—from soap operas to Harlequin romances (and thus we look at a few films that embody romance themes and techniques). But it is, equally, a distinct, if rather amorphous, literary method, one equally adaptable to knights on quest, dramatic studies of lost women, and novels of young men seeking success. This course explores some of its many possible variations and assesses why this mode of writing has proved so resilient. Readings are drawn from: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, Dickens's Great Expectations, Tennyson's Idylls of the King, and Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Films to be viewed may include Excalibur, Shane, and The Maltese Falcon.

Satisfies an upper-level elective requirement for English majors (old and new requirements), OR satisfies British literature 1700-1900 period distribution (old requirements only).

Reading Jane Austen

Madeleine Wood

There are different Austens for different readers. Some are charmed by her wit, by her heroes and heroines, and by her capacity to write some of the greatest love stories of all time. Others view Austen as the reactionary or at least conservative voice of early nineteenth-century Tory Britain. And still others see her as dangerously subversive of the politics, manners, and mores she depicts. This course will not promote any one Austen, but, through a close exploration of each of her six major novels, we will attempt, like Elizabeth Bennet, to suspend our prejudices and sift the textual evidence, before coming to an opinion. (Satisfies an Upper Division Elective requirement for the English major.)

During your six weeks in Oxford, we will explore key Austen themes, such as love, marriage, money, morality, and sense and sensibility, relating them to their contexts within Regency Britain, and also within Enlightenment and Romantic literary traditions. More importantly, perhaps, we will scrutinize closely the linguistic texture of the novels, discussing how Austenís famous irony works and focusing on her subtle use of free indirect speech. Since Austen is often discussed in terms of a history of 'women's writing', we will take some time to consider feminist readings of Austen's work, and relate her novels to the issues facing women in early nineteenth-century England.

Satisfies the 300+ elective requirement for English majors (new requirements), OR satisfies the British literature 1700-1900 or upper-level elective requirement for English majors (old requirements).

Shakespeare in Love

Sarah Poynting

In this course we shall be looking both at what Shakespeare wrote about love and at how this has been interpreted and reworked by modern directors and film-makers. We shall read two tragedies (Romeo and Juliet and Othello), two romantic comedies (Much Ado About Nothing and Twelfth Night), and a range of Shakespeare’s poetry: love, desire and sex in their many and varied guises—young, mature, interracial, homoerotic—are put under the spotlight. Close textual analysis will be accompanied by consideration of plays in performance (watched on DVD), from those like Trevor Nunn’s Othello, a record of a magnificent stage production, and reasonably faithful cinema adaptations (Nunn’s Twelfth Night, Branagh’s Much Ado), through Baz Luhrmann’s less faithful but more genuinely cinematic William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, to modern rewritings such as the BBC’s ‘Shakespeare Re-Told’ Much Ado, which features Benedick and Beatrice as TV news anchors. Of course, Shakespeare’s own love-life has also been the subject of film-makers’ interest, and novelist William Boyd’s A Waste of Shame (on the writing of the sonnets) and Shakespeare in Love itself are not only entertaining, but revealing of the differences between approaches both to love and to the nature of the literary imagination in the Shakespearean and modern worlds. Why do we want the sonnets to be about real people and situations? Why are some people uncomfortable with the idea that Shakespeare took his plots from other literary works.

And just why did the Doctor think fify-seven academics would punch the air in The Shakespeare Code...

Satisfies the Shakespeare or upper-level elective requirement for English majors (old and new requirements).

Satisfies the Department of Theater Renaissance dramaturgy elective requirement for Theater majors, but must be confirmed with that department.


The Literary Makings of the Modern Self

Valentine Cunningham

What makes you, you? This course will involve an inspection of a group of major texts, key examples of writing across the tradition of English literature from the Renaissance to the present day, all preoccupied with issues of modern selfhood:

  • William Shakespeare, Hamlet (1601), a foundational text for western self-consciousness
  • Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe (1720), a key to Protestant individualism
  • George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss (1860), a major nineteenth-century case of emerging, conflictual female being
  • Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot (1948), a seminal work of modern consciousness
  • Martin Amis, Money: A Suicide Note (1986), whose hero is John Self.

Satisfies an upper-level elective requirement for English majors (old and new requirements).

Introduction to International Law

Martins Paparinskis

The end of the Cold War brought new challenges for, and new expectations of, international law. Recent terrorist attacks have raised, in stark form, questions about the potential and limitations of law in establishing and maintaining world order. The law surrounding the uses of force is, of course, one of the most significant areas of international law, but recent years have also seen important developments in other key areas, particularly the preservation of the environment and the protection of human rights. This course will introduce the foundations of public international law. In light of these key areas, we will question whether international law can truly be termed law and whether it can hope to provide a realistic solution to the problems facing the world today. The course will interest not only those contemplating a career in law and who would like an introduction to legal reasoning via a fascinating and accessible area of the law; but also those who are considering careers in foreign affairs, politics or the media. No prior legal knowledge will be assumed.

Satisfies an upper-level course requirement for Political Science majors. Can satisfy a Legal Studies Liberal Law Related class requirement for Legal Studies majors, but please confirm with a department advisor.

Tudor and Stuart Britain

Elizabeth Ferguson

From Henry Tudor's accession to the throne in 1485 to the deposition of James II, the last Stuart king, in 1688, England was transformed from a minor feudal monarchy to a major European state with global ambitions. Over the same period, the formerly hostile northern kingdom of Scotland was joined with the English throne and Ireland became a colonial dependency. This course will examine the politics, culture, and society of the three British kingdoms over these turbulent yet brilliant centuries, with particular attention to the place of Oxford and Oxfordshire.

Satisfies an upper-level course requirement (level 200-400) for History majors.

The Politics of Imperial Decline in Britain since 1939

Richard Coggins

This course is an examination of the politics of the British empire in its decline from the moment of its greatest crisis in the Second World War, to decolonisation in the 1950s and 1960s, to the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997 and in ‘post-imperial’ Britain. It will consider the interaction of domestic politics, military weakness, relative economic decline, imperial crises and colonial nationalism in weakening both the practicality and ideology of empire in the post-war era. It will also consider the legacies of Empire for Britain in terms of its world role, post-war immigration from the ‘New Commonwealth’ and the rebirth of ‘informal empire’ and ‘financialisation’ in the form of the City of London.

Satisfies an upper-level course requirement (level 200-400) for History majors.

Satisfies an upper-level course requirement for Political Science majors.

Graduate Study

For graduate students, six weeks at Oxford University can offer excellent opportunities for guided research and study. All graduate students enrolled in the Seminar will receive the same accommodations and amenities that are offered to undergraduates. Graduate applicants should contact the Seminar Director concerning academic opportunities available to them.

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