2008 AM Center and Margin: Conversations across the British Literary Tradition

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Please note that this course will start on May 19!

Center and Margin: Conversations across the British Literary Tradition

The British literary tradition begins with a story of movement between center and periphery, with a hero called to banish a monstrous outsider and restore the peace of a kingdom that is not his own. Thus, motion complicates the idea of the center – the site of cultural and political authority – and the margin – that which is considered outside, other, even monstrous. This negotiation raises questions about how we define these poles and how they influence one another, and this course will explore how writers throughout the British tradition, from earlier canonical authors to contemporary multicultural voices, have used this idea of travel to examine questions of cultural authority and to define their relationship to the idea of Britishness.

Class requirements:

For Übung credit: regular attendance, active participation (especially during class sessions designated “discussion”), three short one-two page response essays, occasional out-of-class exercises as assigned.

Course Texts:

Seamus Heaney, translator, Beowulf

William Shakespeare, The Tempest

Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels

Christina Rossetti, Goblin Market

Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea

Wole Soyinka, Death and the King's Horseman

A list of materials for further reading and exploration will be provided as the class progresses.

Class Schedule: Lecture classes will meet for the full two hours. Students should have read the assigned text before class and should bring the text with them to class.

Lecture 1: May 19 Translating Beowulf: A Contemporary Poet and a Cultural Artifact

Lecture 2: May 26 Beowulf: The Monster, the Hero and the Cycle of Conquest and Revenge The class will focus primarily on the first two episodes, the encounters with Grendel and Grendel’s mother (pages 3-131/lines 1-1904), although students are welcome to read beyond that in preparation for lecture.

Discussion 1: May 29, 12-14 Meeting Room: A6 2-212 Beowulf: Issues in textual analysis and further cultural explorations

Lecture 3: June 2 William Shakespeare, The Tempest: The Island as Otherwhere, or Recreating the Center on the Margin

Discussion 2: June 3, 16-18 Meeting Room: A6 2-212 The Tempest: Close Reading and Performance Issues

Lecture 4: June 9 Jonanthan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, Book 4 (“A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms”): The Center as Margin

Discussion 3: June 12, 12-14 Meeting Room: A01 0-005 Gulliver and Other Travelers

Lecture 5: June 16 Wole Soyinka, Death and the King’s Horseman: To Wrench the World Adrift

Schedule Update: Lecture 6: June 23 Finish discussion of Soyinka

Begin Christina Rossetti, Goblin Market: The Female “Warrior” and the Domestic Center (Students are only required to read the title poem, not the complete collection of poems.)

Lecture 7: June 30 Finish discussion of Goblin Market James Joyce, from Dubliners (“Araby” and “Eveline”)

Discussion 4: July 1, 16-18 Meeting Room: A6 2-212 Continued discussion of Joyce and introduction to Salman Rushdie, from East, West (“Good Advice is Rarer than Rubies”)

Lecture 8: July 7 Salman Rushdie, from East, West (“The Courter”) and Concluding Thoughts