ENG 385: Topics in Apocalyptic Literature



DISCUSSION LEADING: There are several ways to approach this project, depending on what your topic is. You may want to do some secondary reading about the primary text and present the results of your reading to the class as a starting point. In this case, the written outline/summary you hand in to me should include bibliographical references, of course. You may also, of course, simply present your reading of the text (or a part of it) or a series of provocative questions aroused by it. If you are presenting a secondary article, you will want to read it attentively and critique it, or even quarrel with it if you violently disagree. A few topics will involve a degree of outside research. I am here to help with this. All the topics are listed on the syllabus.


WWW ASSIGNMENT: Websurf for credit! One of the most challenging aspects of the WWW is determining what is useful information and what is bunk. Investigate one or several of the sites linked to the course homepage and evaluate them. What is useful? What isn't? Who do you imagine the intended audience of the site to be? Who would you recommend it to and under what circumstances? Follow links; where do they take you? What have you learned? You may choose any sort of website (from Digital Dante to Brian's Apocalypse Page) as a starting point. Keep track of where you go, and write up a report of your travels. Remember, the point is not to regurgitate what the various sites say, but to assess their usefulness to various sorts of projects.


CLOSE READINGS (approx. 3 pages):

Of a text: choose a brief but more or less self-contained passage of text (a single encounter or speech in the Divine Comedy, a passage from one of the authors in McGinn, a poem by Hildegard, a short chunk of Blake) and develop an exhaustive reading of it. What is the language doing? Why? How are images working? Narrative voice? Are there allusions to other texts? Other parts of the same text? Interpret your passage as fully as possible, and assess its value to the work as a whole if applicable.

Of an image: choose an image from the Image Gallery or from one of the books on Reserve and give it the same kind of treatment. What does it represent? Are there symbols you can interpret? How is the image composed? Where are the various elements in relation to eachother? What does the image mean? What emotional effect does it produce? Does it seem to refer to other works of art, either textual or visual?

Your first reading must be of an artifact (text or image) from before 1500 AD. Your second can be from any period.


FINAL RESEARCH PAPER: Your final, 15+ page paper will involve research into some aspect of the apocalyptic tradition. You may want to treat a single theme as it develops over an extensive period, or relate a single text to the tradition as a whole. You may take any kind of critical approach; deconstructionists, historians, and feminists, to name only a few, are all interested in the subject. Your essay must include but need not be limited to texts/images studied during the course; in other words, you could if you wanted to pursue the impact of Dante on the modern horror or science fiction film or argue that Piers Plowman is the immediate precursor to Ulysses and therefore the cause of the apocalypse of modern literature (no one believes this but me, right?) . Here are a few topics of the sort you might want to start revolving in your mind, with suggestions for authors who might be particularly relevant to them, but remember: anything is possible.

You will find a selection of secondary materials relating to Apocalypticism on reserve in the library. Please make full use of these and of the materials provided in course packets, and remember that I am always ready to suggest further reading. You must provide me with a declaration of interest in some topic by November 19.

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