Maureen Curtin

Associate Professor


314 Marano Campus Center

Office hours

Spring 2018
Tuesday & Thursday
2:05 - 2:35 & 5:15 - 6:00
or by appointment

Classes taught


ENG 304/820
TR 9:35-10:55 208 Marano CC
ENG 365/820 TR 3:55-5:15 306 Marano CC

ENG 470/800
ENG 574/800

TR 12:45-2:05 306 Marano CC

ENG 304 LITERARY CRITICISM-We will examine literary “theory” that spans from the Enlightenment to the contemporary period, and we will consider debates about the role of the poet or writer in history. Our initial discussions will focus on modern Irish-American fiction, and the first essay will provide an opportunity to develop literary analysis guided by whatever questions most resonate with you. Though we will move on to examine literary theory primarily, we will reflect on various theoretical approaches by re-visiting modern Irish-American fiction throughout the semester.

 Teams of students will work together to facilitate class discussion of theoretical texts: identifying, contextualizing, and paraphrasing the central thesis of each project; exploring the premises and implications of each new essay; juxtaposing new inquiries with more familiar with ones; and demonstrating how the theoretical text illuminates literature. This kind of engagement will constitute the basis of the second essay. In the final essay project, students will choose a literary text from an extensive list, develop their own theoretically informed analysis and argument, and integrate relevant critical scholarship. This project will be undertaken in stages, including a proposal, an exam, a draft, a conference, and a revision.

 Throughout, students will receive feedback as well opportunities to reflect on that feedback in writing. By semester’s end, students will advance compelling literary analysis in their own voices while demonstrating growth as critical writers.

ENG 204 or its equivalent is a pre-requisite for the course.

ENG 365 JUNIOR SEMINAR: MARY MCCARTHY-The course was conceived and designed so that students could examine the history of the “author” as a concept, which means investigating those historical conditions that made authorship possible as well as those which might have killed it. We will read the critical and literary writings of Mary McCarthy as a way to test the debates about authorship in the field of English literary studies. Throughout the semester, we will investigate what conditions have made authorship possible; what conditions inhibit it; and to what extent McCarthy’s career, which bridges modernism and postmodernism, testifies to the “death” of the author and the unbinding of writing instead. 

 Though claimed by many—she’s an eminent “Irish-American” author for some and an exemplary “feminist” author in the eyes of others--Mary McCarthy resists easy classification. Together we will explore:

a)      how she functions as an author for those who lay claim to her;
b)      what her role as a writer and critic in the New York Intellectuals circle reveals about her aesthetics;
c)      how she understood the relationship between aesthetics and politics.

 In particular, we will explore the tension between McCarthy’s reliance on irony and her adamant insistence on truth. Inevitably, our inquiry will require that we also become informed about the politics that animate so much of McCarthy’s fiction and criticism, including her changing position on Communism, her relationship to the civil rights movement, as well as her resistance to feminism.

The seminar format requires students’ regular participation in class discussion. Independent research and writing are also required in the course. Opportunities to blog will provide good preparation for the senior capstone, ENG 485: Words in the World. 

ENG 470/574 FEMINIST THEORY-This course is designed to explore the dominant mode of feminism in the U.S. during the 20th century—liberal feminism—while also exploring alternate modes that interrogate its fundamental assumptions about “equality,” “individuality,” and “laws/rights.” Some critics have responded to the liberal feminist emphasis on rationality by focusing on the body, discourse, and the unconscious. To a large extent, these critiques have resulted in remarkably de-politicized forms of feminism. We will examine feminist theory that responds to liberal feminism by insisting on analyzing the condition of people in an historical system of social relations. In the course of this investigation, we will consider the extent to which liberal feminism is complicit in promoting racism, heteronormativity, capitalism, violence, and environmental destruction.

 By the end of the semester, students will be able to offer a coherent account of the central principles of liberal feminism as well as a compelling account of its limitations. Students will use an alternate feminist approach to spell out those limitations and, at the same time, demonstrate how that alternate approach would illuminate a specific contemporary struggle/problem in the world. Students will work together in teams to share their insights with their classmates. Students will also have opportunities to reflect on how feminism, in one form or another, has shaped their lives.