Jesse Matz teaches courses in modernist literature as well as narrative theory and other subjects. His research explores various aspects of modernist and contemporary culture, including the history of Impressionism across the arts, the role of narrative engagement in the creation of time, and montage formats for the representation of diversity. His recent scholarly books are “Lasting Impressions: the Legacies of Impressionism in Contemporary Culture” (Columbia 2016) and “Modernist Time Ecology” (Hopkins 2019).
Areas of Expertise
Modernist culture, narrative theory
1996 — Doctor of Philosophy from Yale University
1989 — Bachelor of Arts from Yale University, Phi Beta Kappa
Courses Recently Taught
The course will provide a setting for guided student advanced work in comparative world literature. Students will work collaboratively to assist one another in the development of individual research projects that represent the synthesis of the courses they have taken in comparative world literature, English, and modern languages and literatures. The course is required of all comparative world literature concentrators.
Each section of these first-year seminars approaches the study of literature through the exploration of a single theme in texts drawn from a variety of literary genres (such as tragedy, comedy, lyric poetry, epic, novel, short story, film and autobiography) and historical periods. Classes are small, offering intensive discussion and close attention to each student's writing. Students in each section are asked to work intensively on composition as part of a rigorous introduction to reading, thinking, speaking and writing about literary texts. During the semester, instructors will assign frequent essays and may also require oral presentations, quizzes, examinations and research projects. This course is not open to juniors and seniors without permission of the department chair. Offered every year.
Each section of these first-year seminars approaches the study of literature through the exploration of a single theme in texts drawn from a variety of literary genres (such as tragedy, comedy, lyric poetry, epic, novel, short story, film and autobiography) and historical periods. Classes are small, offering intensive discussion and close attention to each student's writing. Students in each section are asked to work intensively on composition as part of a rigorous introduction to reading, thinking, speaking and writing about literary texts. During the semester, instructors will assign frequent essays and may also require oral presentations, quizzes, examinations and research projects. This course is not open to juniors and seniors without permission of department chair. Offered every year.
From basic techniques of critical analysis to far-reaching questions about language, literature, culture and aesthetics, this course will introduce students to many of the fundamental issues, methods and skills of the English major. Topics will range from the pragmatic (e.g., how do you scan a poem? what is free indirect discourse? how do you use the MLA bibliography, OED, JSTOR?) to the theoretical (how does a genre evolve in response to different historical conditions? what is the nature of canons and canonicity? why are questions of race, class, gender and sexuality so important to literary and cultural analysis?). Students will be given many hands-on opportunities to practice new skills and analytic techniques and to explore a range of critical and theoretical paradigms, approaches which should serve them well throughout their careers as English majors. Our discussions will focus on representative texts taken from three genres: drama (Shakespeare's "The Tempest"), the novel (Shelley's "Frankenstein", Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway"), and lyric poetry (a variety of poems representing four centuries and several traditions). This counts toward the approaches to literary study requirement. Open only to first-year and sophomore students and is strongly recommended for anyone contemplating an English major. Prerequisite: ENGL 103 or 104.
An introduction to the theory of narrative, through reference to five paradigmatic narrative texts: Daniel Defoe’s "Robinson Crusoe", Jane Austen’s "Pride and Prejudice", Charles Dickens’ "Great Expectations", Frederick Douglass’ "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave", and Henry James’ "The Portrait of a Lady". Main topics include the essentials of narrative form (plot, character, voice, perspective) as well as their different functions (aesthetic, social, cognitive). Discussions will explore a wide range of issues including the power of narrative closure; the narrative representation of the individual mind; how narrative patterns time; the development of realism across the history of the novel; the practice of narrative in psychology and medicine; and the ethics of narrative engagement. This counts toward the approaches to literary study or the 1700-1900 requirement for the major. It is open only to first-year and sophomore students. Prerequisite: ENGL 103 or 104.
"Modernism" refers to art that aimed to break with the past and create innovative new forms of expression. The modernists, writing between 1890 and 1939, tried in various ways to make literature newly responsive to the movements of a rapidly changing modern world. Alienated by the upheavals of modernity, or inspired by modern discoveries and developments in psychology, technology and world culture, modernist literature reflects new horrors and traces new modes of insight. Experimental, often difficult and shocking, modernist literature pushes language to its limits and tests the boundaries of art and perception. This course studies the nature and development of modernist literature, reading key texts in the context of the theoretical doctrines and cultural movements that helped to produce them. The key texts include poetry and fiction by T. S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Nella Larsen, Marianne Moore, Langston Hughes, William Faulkner and Ezra Pound. The secondary material includes essays, paintings and manifestoes produced at the moment of modernism, as well as later criticism that will help explain what modernism was all about. This counts toward the post-1900 requirement for the major. Open only to first-year and sophomore students. Prerequisite: ENGL 103 or 104. Offered every year.
Long ago, in answer to the question, "What is time?" St. Augustine wrote: "If no one asks me I know but when someone does I do not." Time continues to be hard to define or explain. But where philosophy and physics fail, some say, narrative succeeds. Narrative engagement, as the creative record of history, or the form of personal recollection, or the way to trace the succession of moments in an ordinary day, may be the cultural form through which we truly understand the meaning of time. To test this theory, this course will read narrative fiction that experiments with the representation of time to see: (1) what such fiction has to say about time and (2) how the problem of time determines the forms, styles, and techniques of narrative fiction. Primary texts will include novels and stories by Charles Dickens, Leo Tolstoy, Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner, Jorge Luis Borges and others. Secondary reading will include philosophical treatments of time, literary-critical accounts of the time-narrative relationship and cultural histories of time's changing meanings.This counts toward the approaches to literary study requirement for the major. Prerequisite: junior standing or ENGL 210-291 or permission of instructor.
For at least 100 years now, novelists have experimented with ways to make fiction "modern," to make it better able to reflect and resist the perils and pleasures of modernity. This course explores the ways they have done so, tracing the evolution of the modern novel from its origins in the realist fiction of the 19th century to its contemporary incarnations. We will consider such authors as Thomas Hardy, Joseph Conrad, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, E. M. Forster, Zora Neale Hurston, William Faulkner, Anthony Burgess and Salman Rushdie. This counts toward the post-1900 requirement for the major. Prerequisite: junior standing or ENGL 210-291 or permission of instructor.
This course examines the novels, stories, essays, letters and diaries of Virginia Woolf, seen as contributions to Modernist aesthetics, feminist theory, narrative form, the history of sexuality, avant-garde culture, English literary history and literary psychology. This counts toward the post-1900 requirement for the major. Permission of instructor required.
Individual study in English is a privilege reserved for senior majors who want to pursue a course of reading or complete a writing project on a topic not regularly offered in the curriculum. Because individual study is one option in a rich and varied English curriculum, it is intended to supplement, not take the place of, coursework, and it cannot normally be used to fulfill requirements for the major. An IS will earn the student 0.5 units of credit, although in special cases it may be designed to earn 0.25 units. To qualify to enroll in an individual study, a student must identify a member of the English department willing to direct the project. In consultation with that faculty member, the student must write a one-to two page proposal for the IS that the department chair must approve before the IS can go forward. The chair’s approval is required to ensure that no single faculty member becomes overburdened by directing too many IS courses. In the proposal, the student should provide a preliminary bibliography (and/or set of specific problems, goals and tasks) for the course, outline a specific schedule of reading and/or writing assignments, and describe in some detail the methods of assessment (e.g., a short story to be submitted for evaluation biweekly; a thirty-page research paper submitted at course’s end, with rough drafts due at given intervals). Students should also briefly describe any prior coursework that particularly qualifies them for their proposed individual studies. The department expects IS students to meet regularly with their instructors for at least one hour per week, or the equivalent, at the discretion of the instructor. The amount of work submitted for a grade in an IS should approximate at least that required, on average, in 400-level English courses. In the case of group individual studies, a single proposal may be submitted, assuming that all group members will follow the same protocols. Because students must enroll for individual studies by the seventh class day of each semester, they should begin discussion of their proposed individual study well in advance, preferably the semester before, so that there is time to devise the proposal and seek departmental approval before the established deadline.
This seminar, required for students in the Honors Program, will relate works of criticism and theory to various literary texts, which may include several of those covered on the honors exam. The course seeks to extend the range of interpretive strategies available to the student as he or she begins a major independent project in English literature or creative writing. The course is limited to students with a 3.33 GPA overall, a 3.5 cumulative GPA in English and the intention to become an honors candidate in English. Enrollment limited to senior English majors in the Honors Program; exceptions by permission of the instructor. Undertaken in the fall semester; students register with the Senior Honors form as well as the individual study form. Permission of instructor and department chair required.