Department of English

Steve Pinkerton

LecturerPh.D., Cornell University

Presidential Excellence Postdoctoral Fellow
Steve Pinkerton


  • Office: PAR 18
  • Office Hours: TW 11:30a -12:30p
  • Campus Mail Code: B5000


20th-century literature and culture; transatlantic modernism; religion and literature


Steve Pinkerton received his Ph.D. in English from Cornell University, where in 2012 he was awarded the Dean’s Prize for Distinguished Teaching. He is currently writing a book, “Blasphemous Modernism,” on the aesthetics and politics of religious transgression in modernist literature. His other writings on 20th-century literature and culture have appeared in Modernism/ModernityStudies in the Novel, the African American Review, and the Journal of Modern Literature.


E F316L • British Literature

82525 • Summer 2015
Meets MTWTHF 1000am-1130am PAR 201

E f316L  l  British Literature

Instructor:  Pinkerton, S

Unique #:  82525

Semester:  Summer 2015, first session

Cross-lists:  n/a

Flags:  Global Cultures

Restrictions:  n/a

Computer Instruction:  No

Prerequisites: One of the following: E 603A, RHE 306, 306Q, or T C 603A.

Description: This course will acquaint students with a wide range of novels, poems, short stories, and plays by writers from Shakespeare to Zadie Smith. Our focus will be on “reflexive,” or self-referential, literary works: texts that exhibit a keen awareness of their own artifice, often using frame narratives, unreliable narrators, and other strategies to foreground their elaborate fictiveness. Engaging the peculiar self-consciousness of these works, we will seek to become more conscious of our own habits and assumptions as readers—while also learning something about the aims and techniques of imaginative writers.

Texts: plays by William Shakespeare (The Tempest), Samuel Beckett (Waiting for Godot), and/or Caryl Churchill (Cloud 9);poems by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Browning, et al.; novels by Laurence Sterne (Tristram Shandy,excerpts), Maria Edgeworth (Castle Rackrent), Ford Madox Ford (The Good Soldier), Rebecca West (The Return of the Soldier), Virginia Woolf (To the Lighthouse), Kazuo Ishiguro (The Remains of the Day), and/or Julian Barnes (The Sense of an Ending); and short stories by Salman Rushdie and Zadie Smith.

Requirements & Grading: one short paper on The Good Soldier (10%); participation (15%); quizzes (15%); midterm exam (30%); final exam (30%).

E 379R • Global Modernisms

34990 • Spring 2015
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm PAR 101

E 379R  l  Global Modernisms

Instructor:  Pinkerton, S

Unique #:  34990

Semester:  Spring 2015

Cross-lists:  n/a

Restrictions:  n/a

Computer Instruction:  No

Flags:  Independent Inquiry, Writing

Prerequisite: Six semester hours of upper-division coursework in English.

Description: This course will introduce students to the rich variety of literary modernism, as well as to the research and writing skills necessary to address a series of related critical questions: How is modernism related to modernity? What is modernity? What counts as “modernist”? How were modernist cultures shaped by European imperialism?How should modernism be periodized—or should it? Finally, how should American and Western European modernisms be viewed in relation to modernist literatures from other parts of the world?

Likely Readings: modernist manifestos; Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness;Kafka and Borges, stories; Luigi Pirandello, Six Characters in Search of an Author; Mikhail Bulgakov, Heart of a Dog; Sajjad Zaheer et al., Angaaray; Mulk Raj Anand, Untouchable;Sadeq Hedayat, The Blind Owl; Jean Rhys, Voyage in the Dark;Aimé Césaire, Notebook of a Return to the Native Land.

Requirements & Grading: two essays, ca. 4 pages each (30% total); a revision and extension of one of these (15%); participation (20%); and a final research paper of 8–10 pages (35%)

E 324 • Outlaw Prchrs & Profn Prophets

35710 • Fall 2014
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm GAR 2.112

Instructor:  Pinkerton, S

Unique #:  35710

Semester:  Fall 2014

Cross-lists:  n/a

Flags:  Cultural Diversity

Computer Instruction:  No

Prerequisite: C L 315, E 603B, 316L (or 316K), 316M (or 316K), 316N (or 316K), or 316P (or 316K), or T C 603B.


For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh;

and these are contrary the one to the other.  —Galatians 5:17

In an unfinished Ralph Ellison novel, the Reverend A. Z. Hickman—a Southern Protestant minister better known to his congregation as “God’s Trombone”—offers a striking reformulation of the supposedly “contrary” relationship between flesh and spirit. “The spirit is the flesh,” he explains, “just as the flesh is the spirit under the right conditions. They are bound together. At least nobody has yet been able to get at one without the other.” A former hard-living jazz musician, Ellison’s preacher takes his place among a cast of profanely sacred and prophetic characters who have helped many American writers to “get at” the peculiar problematics of flesh and spirit—and, in doing so, to articulate peculiarly American visions of democracy, capitalism, and racial and sexual politics. Suffused with both violent and heroic potential, such worldly preacher-prophets seem uniquely poised both to sow discord and to tame it, to deny community and to forge it. In this course we’ll attend closely to the literary functions of these and related figures, seeking to understand how the theological contradictions they embody—of spirit and flesh, sacred and profane—shape even the most “secular” aspects of U.S. culture.

Likely Texts: WilliamFaulkner, Light in August; Nathanael West, Miss Lonelyhearts; Djuna Barnes, Nightwood; Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood and/or The Violent Bear It Away; Ralph Ellison, Juneteenth; Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian; Toni Morrison, Paradise.

Requirements and Grading: Participation (25%), including in-class discussions, weekly online discussion-board posts, and one mandatory conference; two reading-response papers (15% each) and one revision (15%); a final essay of 7–8 pages (30%).

E 349S • Ralph Ellison

36025 • Spring 2014
Meets MWF 1200pm-100pm PAR 105

Instructor:  Pinkerton, S

Unique #:  36025

Semester:  Spring 2014

Cross-lists:  n/a

Prerequisites: Six semester hours of upper-division coursework in English.

Description: Ralph Ellison is best known as the author of Invisible Man, a novel that won the 1952 National Book Award over such notable finalists as Steinbeck’s East of Eden and Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. Yet Ellison’s impact on American culture is hardly limited to this one novel. In fact, much of his finest and most influential writing can be found in his wide-ranging essays on topics such as literature, film, politics, and jazz. In this course we will read many of these essays alongside Invisible Man, selected short stories, and generous portions of Ellison’s hugely ambitious but never-completed second novel. We will also read brief works byfiction writers who influenced Ellison (Dostoevsky, Melville, Faulkner) as well as by other writers who provide important contexts for understanding Ellison’s art and ideas—from Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois to Nella Larsen, Richard Wright, Irving Howe, Stanley Edgar Hyman, and Norman Mailer. Finally, we will consider the relevance of reading Ellison today, asking how the author’s imaginative explorations of American and African American cultures speak to our present racial, political, and literary landscapes.

Texts: ”Flying Home” and Other Stories (Vintage); Invisible Man (Vintage); The Collected Essays (Modern Library); Juneteenth (Vintage)

Requirements & Grading: two 5-page response papers, one of which you will revise (40% total); one presentation on the assigned reading (5%); and a final essay of 8-10 pages (35%). Your participation grade will be calculated based upon attendance, weekly online reading responses, and occasional quizzes (20% total).

E 343L • Modernism And Literature

35783 • Fall 2013
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm MEZ 1.216

Instructor:  Pinkerton, S            Areas:  V / F

Unique #:  35783            Flags:  n/a

Semester:  Fall 2013            Restrictions:  n/a

Cross-lists:  n/a            Computer Instruction:  No

Prerequisites: Nine semester hours of coursework in English or rhetoric and writing.

Description: Modernism as Transgression --

Modernism has often been described, and even defined, as an essentially “iconoclastic” inclination in art and literature of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And indeed, many modernist authors relished in subverting icons and orthodoxies of various kinds. In this course, we’ll examine these writers’ literary provocations while also looking critically at whether modernism really breaks so decisively with prior traditions and conventions. Ezra Pound’s famous dictum “Make It New!” implies a dual imperative, after all: not only to develop “new” forms of expression, but to do so out of the raw material of an existing tradition (“it”). We will trace modernism’s ambivalent relationship to that tradition across a spectrum of canonical and less familiar works of poetry, fiction, and drama. We will also gain a sense of the period’s contexts by reading the manifestos and “little magazines” associated with several important modernist movements (futurism, dada, surrealism, Vorticism, the Harlem Renaissance)—and by drawing on the rich resources of the modernist collections in the Harry Ransom Center.

Possible Texts: The Norton Anthology of American Literature, 8th ed., Volume D; Djuna Barnes, Ladies Almanack (Dalkey Archive); Mina Loy, The Lost Lunar Baedeker (FSG); Luigi Pirandello, Six Characters in Search of an Author (Signet); Jean Toomer, Cane (Norton); William Carlos Williams, Spring and All (New Directions); Virginia Woolf, The Waves (Harcourt).

Requirements and Grading: 70%: three written take-home exams (20%, 20%, 30%). 20%: attendance and participation, including weekly online discussion posts. 10%: one media-driven presentation on the work of a modern artist: a painter, composer, filmmaker, sculptor, etc. (I’ll provide a list of potential subjects.)


“‘New Negro’ v. ‘Niggeratti’: Defining and Defiling the Black Messiah.” Modernism/Modernity 20, no. 3 (September 2013): 539–55.

“Religion in [Jean] Rhys.” In Rhys Matters: New Critical Perspectives, edited by Mary Wilson and Kerry L. Johnson. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. 87–109.

“Profaning the American Religion: Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood.” Studies in the Novel 43, no. 4 (Winter 2011): 449–69.

“Ralph Ellison’s Righteous Riffs: Jazz, Democracy, and the Sacred.” African American Review 44, nos. 1–2 (Spring/Summer 2011): 185–206.

“Linguistic and Erotic Innocence in Virginia Woolf’s The Waves.” The Explicator 67, no. 2 (Winter 2009): 75–77.

“Trauma and Cure in Rebecca West’s The Return of the Soldier.” Journal of Modern Literature 32, no. 1 (Fall 2008): 1–12.

“Entropy under Erasure: Ulysses and the Second Law of Thermodynamics.” Hypermedia Joyce Studies 8, no. 1 (Spring 2007).

“Profaning the Communion Table: Mina Loy and the Modernist Poetics of Blasphemy.” Paideuma 35, no. 3 (Winter 2006): 93–117. 

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