Junior Seminar Spring 2013 English 552

Junior Seminar, Spring 2013
English 552: Chicago and The Transformation of American Life, Literature, and Thought
Tuesday and Thursday 1:30pm
Professor David Miller

In 1914 Carl Sandburg famously called Chicago “Hog Butcher of the World …. Stormy, husky, brawling,/City of Big Shoulders.”  Rising like a Phoenix from the ashes of the Great Fire of 1871 the former ‘garden’ city had become a place of skyscrapers, huge, showy department stores like Marshall Field, streets clogged with traffic, and a wilderness of railroad tracks, grain elevators, stockyards and slaughterhouses.

From this nexus of irresistible industrial forces emerged a vortex of creative energies.  The genie of unfettered capitalism was out of the bottle, wreaking all kinds of havoc but also accomplishing wonders.

 No metropolis so epitomized 20th century America, pullulating with corruption, vice and crime, yet effervescent with democratic possibility.  No place so utterly exemplified the vertiginous trajectory of money. At Chicago’s Board of Trade, the futures market – portrayed by Frank Norris’s The Pit – turned financial risk into obsession, hurling the new anarchic credit economy into the heart of cultural discourse. All the while, the relentless commodification of nature – of grain, meat and lumber – established Chicago as a ‘gateway’ to the Great West, propelling an insatiable culture of consumerist desire, brilliantly examined in Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie, reconfiguring identities, motives and values as it blurred the boundaries of class, gender and race.

 This maelstrom of social conflict and cultural improvisation provides the context for examining Chicago writing from the 1890s on. Chicago’s leading authors tended to be journalists, attentive to the domineering issues of the day, probing beneath the surface of events to grasp the underlying dynamics of change.  Many came from the Midwest, from small towns and rural environments, to shape a distinctive cultural dialectic of city and country as the U.S. jolted toward a new corporate order.  We will consider the impact of such signal events in American history as the Haymarket Riot, the Pullman Strike, the “White City” of the World’s Columbian Exposition, the founding of the University of Chicago, and the Great Migration of blacks to the city.  We will explore the interaction of fiction by the likes of Dreiser, Upton Sinclair, Sherwood Anderson and Richard Wright and poems by Sandburg and Gwendolyn Brooks with the work of such academics and reformers as John Dewey, Jane Addams, Thorstein Veblen, the architect Louis Sullivan and members of the Chicago School of Sociology.  We will examine the emergence of popular culture in the city, much of it coming out of Bronzeville, the black ghetto, and its pervasive effects on American life.

 The subject of Chicago offers a powerful basis for comprehending the relation of literature to history and for developing interdisciplinary as well as critical methodology in English.  It offers the opportunity to survey an extraordinary body of scholarship (no city, perhaps, has been so extensively written about), and to come to a reckoning with what it means to be an American living in the modern world.  Readings from a number of key historical studies of Chicago life will discuss the environmental as well as economic, social and political aspects of the metropolis. Some of this reading will be orally presented by students in class, adding up to an introduction to urban studies. Students will develop term paper topics from an ample list of texts and find their own way to make the most sense of it through close reading and historical contextualization.  

New Offered in Spring 2013 English 302: Forms of Poetry

English 302: Forms of Poetry
Mondays and Wednesdays 3:30-4:45
Oddfellows 106
Professor Quinn
Poeming the Dead: The Elegy and its Heirs

Although the elegy as a song of mourning or a lament for the dead is not, strictly speaking, a “form” of poetry, it is a distinct “mode” of structuring loss and grief with a complex tradition of thematic conventions and formal patterning. In this course we will study “classic” English language literary elegies (Lycidas, Elegy Written in a County Churchyard, Adonais, When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d, In Memory of W.B. Yeats) for the ways they structure the occasion of loss. We will then look at a wide range of more informal treatment of loss and death in poems that might be called “elegiac,” exploring the way these both honor and resist their famous precedents. Though elegy is not a “form,” we will study form in elegy, examining the ways in which (per Seamus Heaney)

Trochee, trochee, falling: thus
Grief and meter order us.

The course will emphasize close reading skills as well as the intertextuality of a tradition of elegiac verse in which poems are speaking to and of poems (and often poets) that precede them.

Registry of Undergraduate Researchers

The Council on Undergraduate Research hosts a Registry of Undergraduate Researchers. The purpose of this registry is to facilitate matchmaking between undergraduates who have research experience and a desire to pursue an advanced degree, with graduate schools seeking high quality students who are well prepared for research. The Registry is open to students and graduate schools in the fields of Anthropology/Archaeology, Arts/Humanities, Biology/Biochemistry, Business, Chemistry/Biochemistry, Economics, Education, Engineering, English and Linguistics, Environmental Studies, Geosciences, Health Professions, History, Journalism and Communications, Mathematics/Computer Science, Physics/ Astronomy, Political Science, Psychology, Social Work and Sociology.

Any undergraduate may go to https://www.cur.org/projects_and_services/registry/ to fill out a simple information form. Students may also elect to complete a longer curriculum vitae form. There is no charge to the student and records will be made available to bona fide Graduate Schools that contract with CUR for this service.

Organizations or companies seeking the students’ information for other marketing purposes will not be granted access. Graduate School representatives may contact students to invite applications or visits to the campus and laboratory, or to share information about their research programs and financial support opportunities.

Graduate schools may provide a link to their websites, and may provide a short description of opportunities, such as research fields and fellowships.

For graduate schools that wish to review the student information, there is an access fee of $1,500 for the entire database, or $300 for one specific discipline. Again, there is no cost to you as a student to create a profile.

Our hope that students who are currently in their junior year will register now, but anyone with undergraduate research experience may register at any time. You will be able to update your listing as appropriate, to include any summer research experience or information about Senior Theses and test scores. We also welcome submissions by students who are engaged in Masters’ Degree programs now but who plan on going on to a PhD program. Just fill out the information on the form including the date you intend to enter a PhD program and your date of completion of your undergraduate degree. Upload a link to your CV that contains complete information about your MS/MA degree activity (school, subject, thesis topic (if applicable), and advisor).

CUR believes that this service will be a great benefit for both students and graduate schools by narrowing the search for the right match. So if you are interested in graduate school, please take a moment to register now. Be sure to include a statement of your research interests, as this will be important for making the match.

Contact Information Below if you should have any questions.

Robin Howard
Senior Director, Membership Services
Council on Undergraduate Research
734 15th St NW
Suite 550
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 783-4810×203
(202) 783-4811 fax

Announcement: Undergraduate Norton Anthology Student Recitation Contest

Between September 15 and November 1, college and high school students worldwide are invited to submit an original video recitation of one of five preselected works. Top submissions will be featured on the W. W. Norton website, where Norton editors, students, and fans will vote on the winners. Winners will receive Barnes & Noble gift cards and will have their names included on the acknowledgments page of a Norton Anthology.

For more information:


Spring Senior Project Deadlines

Spring 2012 Deadlines

Senior project proposals and creative writing portfolios for Fall 2012 are due Friday, March 30, at 4 p.m.

Senior projects for Spring 2012 are due Friday, April 13 at 4 p.m.