2021-22 Senior Seminars
Fall 2021 Senior Seminar FAQ
You must meet the following requirements on myBarnard:
- Your major is listed as English (you may have any or no concentration).
- Your expected graduation date is listed as any month within the years 2021 or 2022.
If you do not meet these requirements, the computer system will not allow you to sign-up for these courses. It is therefore extremely important that you check that your major, concentration, and graduation year are correct on myBarnard BEFORE registration opens.
If your anticipated graduation date is incorrect, please contact Rio Santisteban ASAP to let her know that you are a senior and should be allowed to take a senior seminar. Please note that if you wait until after registration opens to contact Rio, this will delay your ability to register for senior seminars.
If you are not a senior but have extenuating circumstances that require you to take a senior seminar, please see the following question.
Before registration opens up, please email Rio Santisteban a short explanation of why you need to take your senior seminar early and cc your major adviser.
First, check to see if your major and expected graduation date is correct on myBarnard for the seminar you are trying to register for. If they are and you still cannot register, please email Rio Santisteban with a description (and, if possible, a screenshot) of your issue.
Please join the electronic wait list for the seminar(s) that works for your schedule. Then email Rio Santisteban a short explanation of your scheduling conflict and cc your major adviser. Rio will work with you and your adviser to resolve the problem.
Please join the electronic wait list for the seminar(s) that works for your schedule. Then email Rio Santisteban to let her know about your issue and cc your major adviser. Rio will work with you and your adviser to place you in a senior seminar.
Spring 2022 Senior Seminar FAQ
Past Senior Seminars
ENGL BC3904 Senior Seminar: Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens: the life, the works, the legend, in as much detail as we can manage in one semester. Reading will be selected by the class, and may include Pickwick Papers, A Christmas Carol, David Copperfield, Bleak House, and selections from his friend John Forster's Life of Charles Dickens. Special emphasis will be given to the question of what Dickensian means, in the context of Dickens's literary style, his genius for characterization, his love of conviviality, and Victorian extremes of wealth and poverty. Students will be expected to share in creating the syllabus, presenting new material, and leading class discussion.
ENGL BC3920 Senior Seminar: Migration, Immigration, and the Borders of American Literature
This course will explore representations of voluntary and forced migration as a path toward understanding the formation of literary traditions and histories in the US and the Americas. How do we think about immigrant literature if the immigrant was here before the literature? Where does American literature begin and end if a mobile subject carries her words across borders and genres? In addition to reading fictional and non-fictional narratives of cultural literacy and migration by writers like Frederick Douglass, Julia Alvarez, and Valeria Luiselli, we’ll examine the ways in which contemporary discourses of relocation generate surprising returns to what we might recognize as the proto-exceptionalist and/or post-apocalyptic foundations of American literature and culture.
ENGL BC3927 Senior Seminar: "a d—d mob of scribbling women": Nineteenth-century American Women Writers
In 1855, Nathaniel Hawthorne complained that American publishing was "wholly given over to a d--d mob of scribbling women," and that he could not hope to compete with women writers for popularity or sales. Yet Hawthorne's texts were canonized as American classics, while texts by nineteenth-century women writers were largely ignored by the academy until late in the twentieth century. This course considers a variety of texts by nineteenth-century American women, including novels, short fiction, poetry, and journalism. We'll consider women's writing and women's reading through a variety of lenses, including domesticity and women's sphere, political action and suffrage, slavery and abolition, the economics of writing and publishing, sentimentality and anger, and canon formation and literary merit. Authors include Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Susan Warner, Fanny Fern, Harriet Jacobs, Elizabeth Drew Stoddard, Louisa May Alcott, Emily Dickinson, Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins, Nellie Bly, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, and Mary E. Wilkins Freeman.
ENGL BC3936 Senior Seminar: The Novel and Economic Justice
The industrial revolution inspired novelists to explore the ways in which money, or the lack of it, forms or deforms our characters. It also inspired the writings of Karl Marx, the great theorist of economic justice. In this seminar we will read five of the greatest nineteenth-century novels – Godwin’s Caleb Williams, Austen’s Persuasion, Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Eliot’s Middlemarch and Hardy’s Jude the Obscure – alongside Marx’s most influential writings. We will pay special attention to Marxist notions of materialism; alienation and human flourishing; capital and labour; classes; and ideology. Special emphasis will also be given to the Marxist approach in the study of culture, the role of intellectuals (such as ourselves) and the relationship between capitalism and culture – through theorists like Gramsci, the Frankfurt School, and Raymond Williams.
ENGL BC3902 Senior Seminar: New Millennial American Fiction
Remember Y2K, the fear that the internet would implode at the stroke of midnight on January 1, 2000? Conspiracy theories notwithstanding, have 9/11, COVID-19, and virtual reality derailed the American experiment? Apocalyptic dread inspired by the new millennium may be a self-fulfilling prophecy, exacerbating the impact of increasingly virulent culture wars. Have the form and content of American fiction been irrevocably transformed by such cultural cataclysms? Novels by Don DeLillo, Emily Fridlund, Edward P. Jones, Chang-rae Lee, Ben Lerner, Valeria Luiselli, Jenny Offill, Kevin Powers, and Ocean Vuong.
ENGL BC3909 Senior Seminar: The Family in Fiction & Film: The Poetics of Growing Up
Enrollment limited to Barnard senior Film Studies majors and Barnard senior English majors concentrating in Film Studies. We will look closely at 20th and 21st-Century stories of family life in novels, memoirs, a few children’s books, and movies in many genres, from melodramas to sitcoms. Authors include Gaston Bachelard (The Poetics of Space), D.W. Winnicott (On Playing and Reality), Ta-Nehisi Coates, Maggie Nelson, Toni Morrison, Alison Bechdel, Jonathan Franzen, J.D. Salinger, Astrid Lindgren and Vivian Gornick. Films by Sean Baker, Ingmar Bergman, Wes Anderson, Jennifer Kent, Barry Jenkins, Tamara Jenkins, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Elia Kazan, Richard Linklater, Lance Hammer, Mike Mills, King Vidor, Andrei Zvyagintsev, and others.
ENGL BC3912 Senior Seminar: Intolerance, Tolerance, And Stories Of Resilience
Intolerance seems worse than ever these days, not just in the world but in America, which is more polarized than ever. It comes in so many forms, ever morphing into new forms, though it has a history, one we keep struggling to revise, to make our world and our society inclusive and embracing of difference. This course is an effort to explore the issue of intolerance from a historical and literary emphasis, taking a transhistorical and transnational scope. We begin in seventeenth century England (very brief readings from Donne, Milton, Locke) when the concept and word "toleration" emerged. It initially concerned religion and freedom of "conscience," but later expanded to the issues of women's equality, race, and eventually sexuality (though religion is often never far from these issues). Though we begin with brief selections from the seventeenth century, we quickly move to various texts about resistance, resilience, and attempts to assess the damages and look towards change. We start with Mary Wolstonecraft on The Rights of Women, and then move to the twentieth and twenty-first century, considering a variety of genres, mainly (but not exclusively) writings by women. We will read a very brief selection from anthropologist Mary Douglas and then Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste (at least the first three sections, culminating in the "eight pillars of caste"). Wilkerson is particularly important as she triangulates caste in India, anti-Semitism, and racism/slavery in America. Texts: W.G. Sebold’s The Emigrants (on the effects of the holocaust); Deborah Feldman’s Unorthodox (a woman’s resistance of Ultra Orthodox Judaism; there’s also a wonderful Netflix series based on this book and a second one); Toni Morrison’s Others; Tayari Jones, An American Marriage (complex intersection of racism, injustice, and the complexity of love and marriage); Jeanette Winterson, Oranges are not the Only Fruit (religion, homosexuality, and love between women); (optional) Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things; pehaps Stephanie Land, Maid (poverty); ending with Tara Westhover’s bestseller, Educated. I know this is too much. I’ve listed Land and Roy as books to consider. One theme of the course is that religion is never far from the issues of intolerance and racism. This is not to attack religion, but to suggest how often religion and the Bible have been (mis)used to bolster or legitimize intolerance. We will not have time for all of these books. Some are simply recommended, depending on your individual interest. Students in the class are encouraged to suggest other books. Each student will create a topic for their senior essay that allows them to explore their own interests.
ENGL BC3919 Senior Seminar: Black EcoLiterature
Questions of sustainability, ecology, and environmental justice have begun to garner much attention within the field of contemporary Black literary studies. This course investigates the various ways that notions of blackness and ecology converge. Throughout the semester we will become familiar with various textual representations of ecology and Blackness from across the African diaspora. We will explore the ways in which categories such as race, gender, nature, place, and technology cohere and become complicated within a contemporary catalog of texts that we might call Black ecoliterature. Central questions guiding the course include "How do our notions of blackness and gender inform our ideas of ecology?" and "In what ways does centering blackness and/or black subjects shift our extant understandings of environmentalism writ large?" Guiding authors will include Octavia Butler, Wangari Maathai, Nnedi Okorafor, Julie Dash, Wangari Maathai, Zora Neale Hurston, and Alice Walker among others.
ENGL BC3913 Senior Seminar: Bad Romance
Romance: the quest for the one true love. This seminar will read romances that go wrong, that end catastrophically, that damage lovers or leave victims along the way. Reading bad romances will illuminate the consuming fantasy of the romance genre, as well as a range of emotions – rage and revenge, narcissism and self-protection, obsession and oblivion – that surface in their wake. We will also look at shifting interpretations of these powerful emotions, from Plato, to the Galenic theory of the humors, to the sociology of court-culture, to Freudian and finally contemporary neurobiological explanations of feelings. Students are welcome to propose texts of their own interests to open this course to the widest range of interests. Weekly individual tutorials with Professor Hamilton on weekends are offered but optional.
Euripides, Medea and Sophocles, Antigone
Malory, Sir Tristram de Lyonesse and Shakespeare, Othello
Mme de Lafayette, The Princesse de Cleves
Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights
Miranda July, The First Bad Man and Curtis Sittenfield, Prep
Finally we will view Lina Wertmuller, Swept Away by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August, Wong Kar Wai, In the Mood for Love, and Derek Cianfrance, Blue Valentine