Senior Seminar

All English majors are required to take the Eng 450: Senior Seminar course during the Fall of their senior year.

Though seminars vary in focus and content, each addresses its subject in the context of current critical discourse and requires students to write a long research-based paper.

Registration for the seminars are handled through the English department administrator.  It is conducted one year in advance, during the junior year, with majors being notified of seminars offerings and registration procedures.


Fall 2020 Senior Seminars

Eng 450-01:  John Keats
Professor:  Kurt Fosso
MW 3:00-4:30

Nearing the end of his short life, John Keats advises a fellow poet, “‘Load every rift’ of your subject with ore.”  Keats would write little more.  But it is advice he himself had taken in his journeyman’s career, and notably in his annus mirabilis of 1819, when he composed most of the poems that secured his fame and his enduring place among the English poets—as he hoped.  Keats is indeed one of the all-time great crafters of poetry, and to study his work is to engage in his “ore”-filled vein of figurative leaps and puns, odd tropes and allusions, philosophical depths, and, as he said of Wordsworth, the “dark passages” of human life and its discontent.  In fact, for Keats it is only “those to whom the miseries of the world are misery, and will not let them rest,” who fulfill the vital vocation of poet.  

Although we’ll read poems from throughout Keats’s brief career, we shall focus especially on the mature poems of 1819, including the great Odes.  We’ll also read many of his letters, in which he provides his literary-poetic theories as well as his observations about life in a time of political, artistic, and other struggles and crises.  We’ll indeed explore how Keats is more than ‘only’ a creator of beauty (“a joy forever,” he wrote); he is, as his words about poetry suggest, a daring pioneer of the creation and discovery of truths and social meanings in a world of discontent—truths and meanings that perhaps art alone can offer.

Along with studying Keats’s poetry and selected letters, students will also read his biography and numerous critical essays.  Each seminar member will write a 20-25 page paper providing a clear, substantiated, and well-researched argument focused upon one or more of the author’s poems.  Near the semester’s end, students will deliver a portion of the essay’s findings in a formal, class presentation.


Eng 450-02:  William Faulkner
Professor:  Kristin Fujie
T/TH 11:30-1:00

Interviewer: Some people say they can’t understand your writing, even after they read it two or three times. What approach would you suggest for them?

Faulkner: Read it four times.
The Paris Review, 1956
One of the most innovative, challenging, and, at times, funny writers of the twentieth century, William Faulkner has left us with a diverse body of work that holds rich rewards for courageous and patient readers.  Of the nineteen novels Faulkner wrote, we’ll study just a few.  We’ll almost certainly read The Sound and the Fury (1929) and Absalom, Absalom! (1936)—bookends to the seven-year period during which Faulkner developed the narrative techniques that enabled him to probe the volatile nexus of gender, race, class, and sexuality at the heart of his most powerful writings.  To these we will add an additional novel, some short stories, and/or—depending on student interest—a text by another author who is in dynamic conversation with Faulkner’s work.  We will also read a selective sampling of Faulkner criticism in order to get a sense of how Faulkner has been read, and why his writings have proven so generative for literary critics of all stamps. This will help to prepare you for your major creative task of the semester, which will be to write a 20~25 page paper that presents an original reading of one or more Faulkner texts, and also enters into dialogue with some thread of scholarly debate on Faulkner’s work.  
Note to students: I am on leave this 2019-20 year, and therefore do not know many of you.  Please do reach out by email if you have any questions about the course!  I would love to hear from you.

Eng 450-03:  Modernist Short Stories
Professor:  Rishona Zimring
T/TH 1:50-3:20

Modernist writers published brilliant short stories in an era when beautifully designed
journals or “little magazines” provided vital opportunities to experiment with language and artistic
expression. The word “magazine” comes to English from French, Italian, and ultimately Arabic: its
original meaning is “storehouse.” This seminar considers the modernist magazine as a storehouse:
an archival trove of artistic treasures awaiting rediscovery. We will consider modernist short stories
as profoundly imaginative works of art and the publishing collaborations that brought them to
audiences who were variously puzzled, appreciative, shocked, and transformed. Our reading includes
dazzling short stories by modernist writers such as Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield, and James
Joyce, alongside affiliated short literary forms such as: fable, parable, fairy tale, ghost story, sketch,
vignette, lyric poem, and prose poem. We will also read recent scholarship on modernist print
cultures: the cultural history of modernist books, journals, pamphlets, magazines, and manifestos.
Students will acquire research skills in order to study modernist materials such as specific issues of
magazines to unpack and illuminate the diversity of expressive styles (including visual art, cinema,
dance, advertising, and fashion) that intermingled in them, and the creative friendships,
communities, and professional affiliations that brought them into existence. In addition to
developing a research project culminating in an oral presentation and a term paper, students will co-
curate a digital exhibit of modernist short works and publishing processes, sharing their research, in
collaboration with Watzek Library’s Special Collections archive.

If you have questions please feel free to contact me at: