Ann Lauinger

Ann Lauinger

Undergraduate Discipline

Literature

BA, University of Pennsylvania. MA, PhD, Princeton University. Special interest in medieval and Renaissance poetry, particularly English. Author of papers and articles on Shakespeare and Ben Jonson; of Persuasions of Fall (The University of Utah Press, 2004) and Against Butterflies (Little Red Tree Publishing, 2013), both books of poems; and of poems published in Confrontation, Missouri Review, Parnassus, and other magazines. Recipient of Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize, Ernest J. Poetry Prize, Thouron-University of Pennsylvania British-American Exchange Program scholarship; Woodrow Wilson Fellow. SLC, 1973–

Current undergraduate courses

English: History of a Language

Year

What happened to English between Beowulf and Virginia Woolf? What’s happening to it now? The first semester of this course introduces students to some basic concepts in linguistics, tracing the evolution of pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar from Old English (Anglo-Saxon), through the Middle English of Chaucer, to the Early Modern English of Shakespeare and the 18th century, to an English that we recognize—for all its variety—as our own. Second semester turns from the history of English and the study of language change over time to the varieties of contemporary English and a sociolinguistic approach to the ways in which language differs from one community of speakers to another. Among the topics for second semester are: pidgins and creoles, American Sign Language, language and gender, and African-American English (Ebonics). This course is intended for anyone who loves language and literature. Students may choose their conference work from a range of topics in either language or linguistics or both.

Faculty

Shakespeare and Company

Year

The core of this course is a generous selection of Shakespeare’s plays, representing the range of genres and styles in which he worked over a lifetime. While Shakespeare was in some ways unique, the London theatre of his time was highly collaborative and attracted many gifted and successful playwrights. So we will also read Marlowe, Ben Jonson, and some writers perhaps less well known today: Kyd, Tourneur, Middleton, Beaumont, and Fletcher. We want to understand these plays first by making a close examination of their language and dramatic construction and then by referring not only to the physical and social organization of playhouses and acting companies but also to some of the cultural and intellectual traditions of the period. In conference, students might work further on any of the playwrights that we will be reading or look at other literature of the period; they might investigate a part of the cultural or historical context of the Renaissance or pursue a wholly unrelated topic, depending on their interests and needs.

Faculty

Previous courses

After Eve: Medieval Women

Fall

It all began with Eve, so that’s where we start: with Genesis and the elaboration of Eve and the Virgin Mary as the central female figures of medieval belief. We will go on to read texts both by and about women from the earliest years of the Middle Ages up to the 15th century in order to explore the many roles that women played in medieval culture. Misogyny and adoration will be attitudes familiar to anyone who has even a cursory acquaintance with the Middle Ages. But any account of medieval women should also include norm-defiers like the Valkyries of Norse legend, the professional writer Christine de Pizan, the cross-dressed St. Joan of Arc, and various female experts on love—fleshly, courtly, and mystical. These and additional figures from the period will form the focus of the course, with contexts for our texts provided by readings in history and both cultural and literary criticism. No previous knowledge of the medieval period is necessary, though it is welcome. Conference work may be undertaken either in subjects broadly related to the course or in a quite unrelated topic, depending on the student’s interests and needs.

Faculty

First-Year Studies: Four Poets

FYS

At the heart of this course are four poets—Ovid (43 BCE-17 CE), Alexander Pope (1688-1744), Wordsworth (1770-1850), and T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)—poets we label, respectively, classical, neoclassical, romantic, and modernist. These four poets were enormously influential, bequeathing a complex legacy of subjects and styles to which later writers responded in all sorts of ways. Reading these four key poets, we will do several things. We will sketch out the divergent intellectual and cultural worlds that they and their poems both inhabited and shaped. Through close reading and consistent attention to language and technique, we will also aim to enlarge our sense of what a poem can mean and be for us as readers, literary critics, poets—or as all three. In addition to our main four poets, we will read the work of a variety of others, including Shakespeare, Whitman, Yeats, and 21st-century poets Susan Stewart and Louise Glück, so that we can discover how they engaged these forebears: what they loved, what they stole, what they rejected, and how their poetry can live more fully for us if we read it in the light of those who preceded them.

Faculty

Gloriana: Elizabeth I in Literature and the Arts

Fall

Four hundred years after her death, it is not surprising that Queen Elizabeth has achieved the status of myth. In truth, however, she was already being mythologized during her life: in popular culture, by her courtiers, and not least of all by herself. “The Virgin Queen” was both celebrated and denigrated. She was the uncanny queen of fairies and the wise Biblical judge Deborah; she was the chaste Cynthia, moon goddess and ruler of oceans; she was male and female, a figurative mother to her nation and, some said, a literal mother of bastards. Elizabeth’s 45-year reign was a national work-in-progress; the many representations of Elizabeth that circulated during her life and after offer a window on the continuing negotiations of political power, religious authority, and gender necessitated by the anomaly of her rule. This course presumes no prior study of the period and can serve as an introduction to the culture of Renaissance England. Our materials, mostly 16th-century, include biography, history, poems and songs, plays and other dramatic entertainments, portraits, and Elizabeth’s letters and speeches. We will draw on a variety of scholarly disciplines in interpreting those materials and working to understand the achievements of, and the challenges to, Elizabeth’s reign. Conference work may pursue further some of the course’s issues or materials or may center on a topic wholly unrelated, depending on the student’s interests and needs.

Faculty

Small Circle of Friends: A Topic in Renaissance Literature

Spring

The love poetry of the Renaissance is famous, and justly so. But 16th- and 17th-century writers also thought a great deal about friendship, fellowship, and community—and about the settings in which such relationships might thrive. This course looks at some versions of living together—as best friends, in the idyllic setting of a country house, or in the ideal society—set forth in a variety of texts from classical antiquity and the Renaissance. What does it mean to call a friend “a second self”? Do men and women envision friendship differently? How did the country and the city turn into ideological opposites? These are some of the questions raised by our reading: poems by Horace, Juvenal, Martial, Aemilia Lanyer, Katherine Phillips, Spenser, Ben Jonson, and others; essays of Erasmus, Montaigne, and Francis Bacon; Thomas More’s Utopia; the Abbey of Thélème (from Rabelais’ Gargantua); Shakespeare’s Henry IV and The Tempest.

Faculty

The Mirror and the Rose: Shakespeare’s Poetry in Context

Fall

The reading for this course is the poetry that Shakespeare wrote apart from the stage: his sonnets, his three narrative poems (Venus and Adonis, The Rape of Lucrece, and A Lover’s Complaint), and his strange lyric commonly known as “The Phoenix and the Turtle.” Shakespeare was fully immersed in his culture, with strong roots in the busy commercial theatre of 16th- and 17th-century London, friends among many other writers of the period, and perhaps some distant acquaintance with figures at court. Just as Shakespeare’s plays show a knowledge of current trends in writing, so do his poems. And as in everything he wrote, Shakespeare was never a mere copycat. He transformed every genre or style to which he turned his attention, stretching its possibilities. To provide context for Shakespeare’s poems, we’ll also read several other poets: the Italian Petrarch (1304-74), grandfather of the love sonnet, as well as Sidney, Spenser, and Marlowe, three slightly earlier contemporaries of Shakespeare. Discussion will include technical issues of meter and form, along with the emotional, intellectual, and cultural work that the poems do. The course is meant for anyone who’s keen on Shakespeare or poetry of any period, or both. Students may do conference work in obviously related fields—Shakespeare and other Renaissance writers, for example, or a wide range of English poetry—or in an area completely unrelated to the course if it fits their needs.

Faculty

The New Life: Poetry of Transformation

Spring

This course is a close reading of several poets whose work is deeply bound up with the experience of transformation—of themselves, of the world as they perceive it, and thus necessarily of their own poetry. We begin with Dante’s “Vita Nuova” (c. 1294), which tells the story of the poet literally translated by his visionary love for Beatrice, and we end with Louise Glück’s delicate and resonant “Vita Nova” (1999). In between, we will read three other poets in whom fearful or desirable change shines out like revelation: Donne, Keats, and Gerard Manley Hopkins. As Donne responds to the contrary pulls of the erotic and the religious, he writes with a “metaphysical” wit that, uniting opposites by dint of sheer verbal exertion, becomes its own force for transformation. In Keats’s letters and poems, we see the poles of nature and imagination, change and changelessness, frame the poet’s developing argument with himself over the purpose of poetry. For Hopkins, transformation takes on a dangerous beauty in a human and natural world, simultaneously breaking and blazing with the divine. Whether as readers or writers of poetry, or both, we aim, by consistent attention to the language and technique of the poems we read, to deepen our understanding and sharpen our ability to articulate what those poems do. Students may do conference work in a wide range of poets and topics in poetry or choose an altogether different focus, depending on their interests and needs.

Faculty