Course Descriptions

Each 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.

Jane Austen and her Age

Jane Austen produced her great novels in an age of revolution: she wrote in the shadow of the French Revolution and the subsequent European wars, in the aftermath of the American Revolution, when Britain’s role in the world was rapidly changing, and in the wake of the literary revolution subsequently labelled as Romanticism. She herself revolutionized the form of the novel, and her characters are often in revolt against patriarchal and economic constraints. We will read all of Austen’s major novels, and we will read them as being of her age, as well as being for all time: her work, and the ongoing controversies as to its import, will be illuminated by study of other novelists of her period, such as Mary Shelley and Frances Burney, and of poets such as Byron and Wordsworth.

Satisfies an Upper Division Elective requirement for the English major.
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).
This course does NOT satisfy a UMass Gen Ed requirement.

Introduction to International Law

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.
This class does NOT satisfy a UMass Gen Ed requirement.

The Politics of Imperial Decline in Britain since 1939

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.
This course does NOT satisfy a UMass Gen Ed requirement.

Principles of Marketing

This course gives an introduction to marketing. It surveys topics relevant to the comprehensive study of marketing, with an emphasis on describing the marketing process, and on stressing the implications of these activities for society.

The course will be considered Marketing 301 for students in the University of Massachusetts Isenberg School of Management.
This course does NOT satisfy a UMass Gen Ed requirement.

British Detective Fiction

This course will include a representative sampling of texts from the classical age of British detective fiction to present-day offerings. Students will conduct trans-historical comparisons of novels and be encouraged to make connections between the texts and events and attitudes in the world at large. Authors whose works will be read include: Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, G. K. Chesterton, Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, A. A. Milne, Michael Innes, Julian Symons, P. D. James, Anne Perry, A. S. Byatt, Iain Pears, and Ian Rankin. A selection of recommended secondary texts and commentaries will also be provided.

Satisfies 300+ elective requirements for English majors (new requirements) or British literature 1700-1900 or upper-level elective requirement for English majors (old requirements).
This course does NOT satisfy a UMass Gen Ed requirement.

British Perspectives on the American Revolution

The American War for Independence is often viewed as a war against tyranny. Certainly at the time many Americans viewed Britain as a nation governed by a tyrannical king advised by evil counselors. This course examines the validity of that view by looking at British government policy, the opposition's response, and public reaction to the colonies' struggle for independence. This course will examine the relationships among the Crown, Parliament, and the public sphere, as well as the historical debate over the importance of public opinion in the 1770s. Students will examine and discuss pamphlets, prints, newspapers, and parliamentary debates of the day. By the end of the course, students will be able to analyze how documents have been interpreted by historians, thus putting the subject into an historical context. Students should be able to gain a fresh perspective on the debates concerning the Anglo-American relationship at the time.

Satisfies an upper-level course requirement (level 200-400) for History majors.
This course does NOT satisfy a UMass Gen Ed requirement.

Oxford, The City as a Work of Art

This course will examine the University of Oxford’s role as patron of British art, architecture, and design from the thirteenth century to the present day. Using the wealth of resources available in Oxford – university and college buildings, museums, galleries, and private collections, students will be introduced through lectures and guided tours to key themes in the history of art, architecture, and design – medieval and gothic, renaissance, classical and modern. Within these broader themes, a variety of topics will be covered, including the role of architecture in shaping the University’s identity, the art and craft of stained glass and sculpture and the University’s collections of paintings including those by Turner and the Pre-Raphaelites. Teaching will be through lectures and discussions, as students will be required to participate actively in analyses of the artifacts studied. Students will be encouraged to choose their own subjects for written work from the topics studied, under the direction of the tutor. No previous experience with art and architectural studies is expected or required but the course will also suit those with prior knowledge, as they will be introduced to new perspectives.

May count as an elective for Art History majors--please contact that department.
This class does NOT satisfy a UMass Gen Ed requirement.

Writing Workshop: Prose Fiction

This course will focus on writing prose fiction, particularly shorter pieces like short stories or chapters in larger fictional works; it may also include some scriptwriting for television, radio or theatre. Working with the guidance of a published author, students may be asked to propose specific topics, plots or media formats they plan to write about and may be asked to submit a writing sample before the course begins.

Satisfies an upper-level elective requirement for English majors (old and new requirements).
This course does NOT satisfy a UMass Gen Ed requirement.

Global Origins of Capitalism and Modernity

Our understanding of modern society is heavily dependent on our view of the history of its origins. The origins of capitalism are often traced to the enclosure movements, the creation of "free" labourers, the rise of a bourgeoisie and industrialization in Britain between the 12th Century and the 19th Century. Capitalism did not however come into being fully formed. It adopted and adapted technologies, institutions and instruments of commerce from previously existing global systems. The wealth needed to create capital was also stolen, looted and borrowed from other regions of the world. This course will critically examine the rise of capitalism with a particular focus on the contributions made to capitalism by its precursors and other regions of the world.

Social Dynamics of the Internet

The Internet is now an intrinsic part of everyday life. It is embroiled in old debates about the role of media and communication but has also introduced new and pressing questions for human society. In this course, students will be encouraged to critically examine the Internet’s role in reinforcing, challenging and reconfiguring society and communicative practices. In particular, we ask; how do we bring the resources that have already been developed in media and communications to tackle digital debates – and how do insights from online research help us to better understand society? Drawing on cutting-edge interdisciplinary research from the Oxford Internet Institute, students will be exposed to a variety of perspectives and critical debates. Each session will be taught by two tutors, following Oxford’s in-depth and engaging tutorial-based approach to learning.

This course begins by asking; what is the Internet? We start with an overview of debates and themes in contemporary academic work, situating the Internet in its historical and social context. The following five weeks each zoom in on a specific theme which relates to online communication; inequality and access, self-representation, democracy and political dialogue, the attention economy, and ethics and data. Each session will comprise interactive tutorials with case studies, including hate speech in the ‘GamerGate’ controversy, knowledge production on Wikipedia, the spread of misinformation on Twitter, and resistance movements such as Anonymous. Students will be encouraged to draw on their own experiences and current affairs in order to participate actively. In the final session, we will look to the future and consider the wider implications of online communication.

Psychology of Illusion

Illusions can be defined as perceptions that are departures from reality. And far from being occasional mental glitches – amusing, but readily dismissed or ignored – they have emerged as invaluable tools for psychological researchers. Illusions can help reveal the eccentricities and limitations of human cognition. Our day-to-day visual experiences lead most of us to believe that we can effortlessly generate rich, vivid, uninterrupted mental representations of the world around us. However, a rich body of scientific evidence suggests that this belief is itself an illusion. Pulling together concepts from history of science scholarship, cognitive psychology, and neuroscience, this course will examine the past and present psychological research related to the concepts of illusory perceptions and deception. We will discuss how theories related to deception and illusion were instrumental in the development of experimental psychology as a scientific discipline- with a particular focus on how early psychologists sought to distinguish themselves from what they considered to be pseudo-scientific practices. We will discuss how considerations of illusions have led to developments in researchers’ theoretical understandings of human perception, attention, memory, and reasoning. We will examine ways that illusions can lead us to errors and also how they can actually represent adaptive mechanisms. We will also consider recent developments in the ‘science of magic,’ that have involved researchers adapting the techniques and knowledge of professional magicians to drive novel experimental research. And we will discuss how illusions relate the sub-discipline of anomalistic psychology, which seeks to explore the science behind why people can come to experience seemingly paranormal phenomena, like hauntings and alien encounters. Class meetings will include discussion, debates, exercises and presentations.

Shakespearean Families

I am all the daughters of my father’s house,
And all the brothers too…
(Twelfth Night)

Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons: the bonds of kindred are central to many of Shakespeare’s plays, of deep emotional, ethical, social, political and economic significance. They are, however, rarely unproblematic. In Shakespearean Families we shall be considering the representation of family relationships in plays from across the span of Shakespeare’s career and a range of genres. The course starts with The Comedy of Errors, an early tour de force of mistaken identity – part romance, part dark farce – involving two pairs of identical twin brothers separated at birth. There are more twins in Shakespeare’s last comedy, Twelfth Night, in which the themes of the earlier play are picked up and developed in a profounder – and gender-bending – exploration of loss and love. Hamlet, written in the same period as Twelfth Night, takes us into the realm of tragedy with its tormented (and Oedipal?) hero obsessed by revenge, female sexuality, the theatre, and the nature of identity. Families that are even more dysfunctional feature in King Lear, which, with its foolish fathers and parricidal children, is perhaps Shakespeare’s grimmest meditation on human nature. Finally we shall be studying one of Shakespeare’s great late romances, The Winter’s Tale, which is both tragic and comic, encompassing death and life.

Shakespeare’s plays are scripts for the stage: close reading of their texts and dramatic language will be supported by discussion of them in performance (on DVD), including productions from the Globe Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, in order to consider how interpretation is affected by the choices made by directors and actors.

Caribbean-British Connections

The long and complex history of colonial entanglements between Britain and the Caribbean has produced – among other things – a considerable body of what we might call Caribbean-British literature: texts by Caribbean-born writers resident in Britain and by British-born writers of Caribbean descent. In this course we will examine fiction and poetry (mostly published between the mid-twentieth century and the contemporary moment) by writers who explore how colonialism, as a political, economic and cultural project conceived at the scale of nations, unfolds its ongoing aftermath in the lives of individuals. We will be particularly interested in themes of migration, belonging, and transnational identifications: what it might mean to be “home” in (or across) two very disparate locales. We will talk about the recent Windrush scandal, about the history of the Notting Hill Carnival, and about where Britain stands amidst the international conversation about reparations. Authors may include Zadie Smith, Andrea Levy, Stuart Hall, Grace Nichols, Samuel Selvon, V.S. Naipaul, Beryl Gilroy, and Caryl Phillips.

Global Political Economy

This course introduces students to the study of Global political economy. The course focuses on the political foundations and consequences of the contemporary world economy. Thus, while it is not a course in international economics, the course will employ some basic economic concepts that will be explained in the lectures and reading. Backgrounds in political science, international relations and economics would be very useful but not necessary to take the course. The course will survey the evolution of the international economic system since the Second World War, with particular reference to contemporary concerns, debates and issues. We will analyze international and domestic explanations for these developments. We will illustrate the varying explanatory power of the different approaches by applying them to a selection of cases. This will provide both the background and the necessary perspective to understand the complexity and multiplicity of perspectives in contemporary International Political Economy.

British Medieval Women

This course looks at the lives of medieval women across the social spectrum between 1000 and 1500 AD. This was a period of considerable change in the status, opportunities and experiences of women of all classes though there was a considerable gap between attitudes and theories about women and their lived experience. We shall spend some time thinking about what sources historians have for the study of women and the problems that these pose before looking at the position of married women and widows. The role of women in religious life whether as nuns or as lay women will also be examined. There will be an opportunity to focus on one woman of your choice and have your own research project to work on over several weeks. Taught by Dr Rowena Archer, Christ Church College, Oxford University.