Title: ENGL 6750: Seminar in Language & Literature: Labor, Utterance, & Meaning in the Maritime World
Instructor: Mary K. Bercaw Edwards, Associate Professor of English and Director of Maritime Studies
Day, Time, and Mode: Wednesday, 6:30-9 pm, in-person
For as long as history has been recorded, sailors have stepped on shore with a tale to tell. Until the laying of telegraph cables across oceans finally outpaced sailing ships in carrying messages in the 1850s, the sight of a sail on the horizon might be the first herald of news of many kinds: political, cultural, financial, or personal. The figure of the sailor as a storyteller stretches back beyond the earliest written records. The gulf of ocean between the sailor and the port and the events or circumstances that sailor described lent a paradoxical mix of authority and doubt regarding stories sailors told. The writers we will consider in this course inherited willingly or unwillingly the long heritage of these sailor storytellers. This course will examine the chronological development of a literature wherein the sea functions as physical, psychological, and philosophical setting. The course will begin by investigating early uses of the sea in literature and ways in which early works influenced later writings. It will continue with the use of the sea in contemporary literature and literature by writers of color. Through the use of literary theory and maritime history, the course will establish the context in which these works were produced as well as closely examining the works themselves. The requirements for the course will include presentations, several short papers, and a longer final essay.