Sep 25, 2020  

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ENG 486 - Seminar A: Emily Dickinson - The Art of Poetry or B: Faulkner or C: Modernism, Magazines & Media

Check schedule to determine which section is being offered.

486A Emily Dickinson - The Art of Poetry



“Are you too deeply occupied to say if my Verse is alive?” Emily Dickinson asks her reader. Our goal this semester will be to respond to that challenge by investigating Dickinson’s vast collection of poems, placing them in the context of her life and time, and connecting them to contemporary poetic and critical responses to her work. Student participlation and leadership are essential.

This topic only counts for the Gender and Sexuality Studies major.

486B Faulkner


“[S]ublimating the actual into apocryphal” is what Faulkner called his acts of storytelling about his families and his loners traumatized by war, race, poverty, sexual frustration, and greed; his psychologically fragile but tireless talkers,  incestuous brothers and sons, fiercely proud and resentful old ladies,  skeletal bridegrooms, and children who grow up honorable by keeping  the promises they make both to themselves and to others.  Our seminar will try to give equal due to the actual and the apocryphal which means we’ll pay attention to:

  • history, especially of the Civil War and Reconstruction; 
  • geography, especially of Lafayette County and the Mississippi River;
  • biography, not just Faulkner’s but his grandfather’s, known in the family as the Old Colonel); and
  • other writing that finds its way into Faulkner’s own (Poe, Hawthorne, Melville, Twain, Conrad, Fitzgerald, even Charlotte Bronte and Dickens).

To benefit from these overlapping and interlocking contexts, we are going to limit ourselves to the works  Faulkner  wrote primarily between 1929 and 1948.  If there is interest, we’ll  visit Faulkner’s stomping grounds in Oxford, Mississippi.

We are going to omit the Snopes trilogy unless you think we must do it.  During the first half of the course, under the rubric of the actual (and in the process of unlearning certain ways of reading Faulkner), we’ll read some of Faulkner’s best known short stories, and then The Sound and the Fury (1929), As I Lay Dying (1930), The Unvanquished  (1938), and Intruder in the Dust (1948).  To bury our noses in the grit of the actual, we’ll  take a break to visit Faulkner’s grave, house, church, courthouse, alley, statue, Taylor’s Depot, etc. in Oxford, MS and also look at the architectural and geological features that served or are rumored to have served as models for a number of  Faulkner’s settings. When we return, we’ll concentrate on Absalom, Absalom!  (in Faulkner’s view “the best novel yet written by an American”) and on the ways that novel inscribed itself into the realm of great novels while simultaneously appropriating that apocryphal realm for itself.   While the themes that will guide our discussion will no doubt include the South, the Civil War, honor, heroism, guilt, adolescence, masculinity and femininity, sex and death, truth and fact, obsession,  lynching, incest, religious vision, the Bible, Greek mythology, the presence of Shakespeare and other poets in Faulkner’s lyrical perversities of plot and style, as well as psychological and philosophical notions of time, memory, history, and storytelling,  there is no reason to stop with any of them.  Please prepare yourself for some heavy lifting when it comes to making this seminar a success or do the right thing and cede your place to one of the people on the wait list.


486C Modernism, Magazines & Media


The rise of modernism in the first decades of the 20th century coincided with an explosion in magazines production: between 1885 and 1905 alone, 7500 new periodicals were established in the U. S., and thousands more in Great Britain. This seminar will explore modernism as it appeared in magazines, ranging from the avant-garde “little magazines” to the “quality” monthlies and mass-market glossies. Langston Hughes debuted in The Crisis in 1921, and T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land appeared in The Dial in 1922, the same year James Joyce’s Ulysses was serialized in The Little Review (before it was censored by the Comstock commission). Willa Cather edited McCall’s, Djuna Barnes wrote for the pulps, and William Faulkner and F. Scott Fitzgerald published stories in the Saturday Evening Post. By the 1920s, modernists such as Pablo Picasso and Virginia Woolf had become celebrities, featured in Vogue and Vanity Fair. 

This seminar is unlike any English course you’ve had at Davidson. It is a collaborative research & methods course, with readings drawn from the emerging field of modern periodical studies. You will find and choose at least half of the readings, “publish” one of your findings in whatever form or format you see fit, collaborate on a major research project, and contribute to the expansion of the web site Index of Modernist Little Magazines. In the process, you will enter the field of new digital media, learning to use WordPress, GoogleDocs, DavidsonDomains, and other digital tools and platforms.

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