Karen Waldron

Karen Waldron
207-801-5727 | kwaldron@coa.edu | faculty website

karen waldronKaren Waldron sees herself first and foremost as teacher and mentor. She has been at COA since 1995 and spent ten years as an academic dean before returning to full-time teaching in 2008. Her research on 19th and 20th century American women's and minority literature is highly interdisciplinary and she has a wide diversity of literary, historical, and scientific passions, particularly the exploration of otherness and consciousness in narrative form and the power of language to represent and transform.

Karen received her B.A. in Literature and Philosophy from Hampshire College in 1974, an M.A. in English Literature from the University of Massachusetts/Boston in 1988, a second M.A. in Women's Studies from Brandeis University in 1993, and the Ph.D. in English and American Literature from Brandeis in 1994. Karen earned several teaching fellowships while a graduate student at Brandeis and from 1993 to 1995 she was an adjunct and then visiting faculty member at both Boston College and Brandeis University.

Besides reading, writing, and teaching, Karen gardens when she can, tends the plants in her office, and spends time thinking about psychology, education, religions, social identities, and ecology. She is married to a software architect and the mother of two intelligent and musical sons.

B.A. Hampshire College, 1974
M.A. University of Massachusetts, Boston, 1988
M.A. Brandeis University, 1993
Ph.D. English and American Literature, Brandeis University, 1994

Courses Taught

HS266African American Literature

This survey of African American literature from its origins in the slave narrative to the present vivid prose of some of America's best writers considers the impact of slavery and race consciousness on literary form and power. Readings include letters, essays, poems, short stories, and novels of some of the following authors: Phillis Wheatley, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Pauline Hopkins, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison. Level: Intermediate. Prerequisite: A previous literature course or signature of the instructor. Class limit: 15. Offered every other year. *HS*

HS271City/Country: Literary Landscapes 1860-1920

This class focuses on American fiction from the realist/naturalist period (roughly 1860-1920), a time when enormous changes were occurring in and on the American landscape. Increasing urbanization, immigration, and industrialization corresponded both with a desire for 'realistic' fiction of social problems, and nostalgic stories of a more 'realistic' rural life. For the first time there was a national literature, resulting from the capabilities of large publishing houses, urban centers and mass production - but this national literature was acutely self-conscious of regional differences, and especially of the tension between city and country. As writers tried to paint the American landscape in literature, their works subsumed major social issues to place and formal arguments about the true nature of realistic description. Examining works that portray factory towns, urban tenements, midwestern prairies, New England villages, and the broad spectrum of American landscapes, we look at how a complex, turbulent, multi-ethnic, and simultaneously urban and rural American culture defined itself, its realism, and thus its gender, class, race, and social relations and sense of values, against these landscapes. There are two extra, evening classes during week 7 (Short Fiction Week), and a modest lab fee. Evaluation is based on weekly response papers, two short papers, and a short fiction project, as well as class participation. Introductory/Intermediate. Prerequisite: Writing Seminar I (or the equivalent). Class limit: 15. *HS*

HS280Contemporary Women's Novels

This course selects from among the most interesting, diverse and well-written of contemporary women's fiction to focus on questions of women's writing (and how/whether it can be treated as a literary and formal category), gender identity and women's issues, and the tension between sameness and difference among women's experiences, and narrations of women's experience, around the world. The course begins by examining two relatively unknown yet rather extraordinary novels from earlier in the twentieth century: Alexandra Kollantai's Love of Worker Bees (1927) and Sawako Ariyoshi's The Doctor's Wife (1967). After these, we read from truly contemporary authors and quite varied authors published within the last twenty years, like Buchi Emecheta, Gloria Naylor, Ursula Hegi, Nawal El Saadawi, Sue Grafton, Graciela Limon, Tsitsi Dargarembga, Barara Yoshimoto, Dorothy Allison, Rose Tremain, Julia Alvarez, Leslie Feinberg, April Sinclair, and Achy Obejas. Students each choose an additional author to study and read a novel outside of class. An extensive list of authors is included in the syllabus. Evaluation be based on class participation, either two short papers or one long paper on works discussed in class, a presentation to the class of the outside novel, and a final evaluation essay. Level: Intermediate/Advanced. Prerequisite: a previous literature course and signature of the instructor. Offered every other year. *HS*

HS861Cross-Cultural American Women's Novels

This is an intermediate/advanced course in which students will explore in depth the connections between and among modern and cross-cultural women's novels, primarily those written in the now very multi-cultural United States. We will strive to make connections between texts so as to better understand the nature of and any patterns or themes that shape women's and cross-cultural fictional narration. Historical perspective, cultural differences, and gender roles will all be taken into consideration as we analyze relatively recent women's fiction by such authors such as Toni Morrison, Maxine Hong Kingston, Gloria Naylor, Linda Hogan, Julie Shikeguni, Jamaica Kincaid, Nora Okja Keller, Cristina Garcia, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Sigrid Nunez. Participants will read carefully, prepare and ask questions of each other, write frequent response papers, and carry out a sustained independent project to be presented to the group. The outside project will focus on one or more additional texts that may be fictional, theoretical, cultural, or historic. The group presentation will put outside texts into broad cultural and historical perspectives and/or discuss them in terms of trends in women's literature, immigrant literature, women's literature of the United States, multicultural narratives, or some other course theme. Selection of the outside text will give participants the opportunity to fill in perceived gaps in their reading or explore a particular narrative or cultural form in depth. The reading load for this course is relatively heavy. Evaluation will focus on preparation, participation, insight, critical thinking, response papers, and the outside project - both its oral presentation and development in an appropriate form (visual, narrative, analytic, curricular, etc.). Level: Intermediate/Advanced. Prerequisites: a previous literature course and permission of the instructor; Contemporary Women's Novels experience recommended. Class limit: 15. Lab fee: none. *HS*

MD037Islands Through Time

14,000 years of Human Ecology on the Coast of Maine:  The coast of Maine is an ideal location for studies of the effects of changing ecologies, landscapes, and cultures on the human experience. 14000 years ago, the entire area was covered with a dense ice sheet, and at present we are facing the uncertain future of Global Warming. Between these points, the coast and islands have experienced flood, fire, earthquakes, and an enormous range of human and non-human occupants. This team-taught course will use the inter-disciplinary lens of Human Ecology to examine the consequences, implications, and potential meanings of our dwelling within both this particular landscape and other landscapes perhaps initially more familiar to students. A strong emphasis will be placed upon developing a "sense of place" through the examination of a novel, scientific writing, music, and experiential venturing upon the land and seas, learning about the history, culture, ecology, oceanography and geology of the Maine coastline, both in and by the ocean. Although a substantial element of each day's work will take the form of field trips, students will also be responsible for readings, attending a series of lectures by faculty and local experts, and working with multimedia forms. Interest in music, writing, and ecology are strongly encouraged. Students will be evaluated based on class participation, a daily log of their experiences plus several short "response pieces" to assigned readings, and a multi-media presentation capturing some aspect of their learning. Students will receive narrative evaluations and a grade of CREDIT or NO CREDIT.

Level:  Introductory.  Prerequisites: Signature of Instructor.

HS121Literature, Science, and Spirituality

A survey of Anglo-American literature from the Scientific Revolution to the present. Focuses on the ongoing debate about the role of science in Western culture, the potential benefits and dangers of scientific experimentation, the spiritual, religious, social and political issues that come about with the Ages of Discovery and Reason, and their treatment in literature. Specific debates include concerns over what is "natural," whether knowledge is dangerous, the perils of objectivity, and the mind/body dichotomy; works include Shelley's Frankenstein, Ibsen's An Enemy of the People, Brecht's Galileo, Lightman's Einstein's Dreams and Naylor's Mama Day as well as short stories and poems. Writing-focus ed option. Level: Introductory/Intermediate. Prerequisite: Writing Seminar I. Offered every two or three years. Lab fee: $10. Class limit: 15. *HS*

HS3059Native American Literature

This course is a challenging introduction to several centuries of Native American literature, the relevance of historical and cultural facts to its literary forms,  and the challenges of bridging oral and written traditions.  Authors include such writers as Silko, Erdrich, Harjo, Vizenor, and McNickle as well as earlier speeches and short stories.  We also consider non-native readings and appropriation of Native American styles, material and world views.

Level: Intermediate.  Class limit: 15.  Lab fee: none.  Meets the following degree requirements: HS

HS810Nature of Narrative II

This is an advanced course in which students practice the human ecology of literary analysis. We explore the "mind" or consciousness of twentieth and twenty-first-century fictional writing (specifically, novels) by looking at how narratives make meaning, and at how we make meaning from narratives. The course accomplishes this by surveying some of the best and most challenging works of modern fiction, with a particular focus on those novels that highlight narrative technique, stretch the boundaries of the imagination, have a rich and deep texture, and push against the limitations of prose fictional textuality. Students will hone their reading and analytic skills by working closely with texts that broke new literary ground. Authors will include several of the following: Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner, Djuna Barnes, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Toni Morrison, Manuel Puig, Italo Calvino, Clarice Lispector, Ishmael Reed, H?ne Cixous, Gerald Vizenor, Jeanette Winterson, Julio Cortazar, as well as others. We will also study some narrative and novel theory. Evaluation will be based on class participation, frequent short response and passage analysis papers, and an independent theory-based research and novel project. Level: Advanced. Permission of instructor required. Class limit: 12 *HS* *WF*

HS133Nineteenth Century American Women

This course studies the American novel as written by women of the nineteenth century. It focuses on how women's issues and styles change over the course of the century, with its revolutionary economic, technological, social and political shifts, as well as on enduring questions. As we read from among the wide selection of nineteenth-century American women novelists (who outnumbered and outsold male authors) -- such as Rowson, Foster, Child, Cooke, Fern, Stowe, Phelps, Jewett, Chopin, and Gilman -- we consider how they have shaped the tradition of the novel and social values Americans encounter today. Level: Introductory/Intermediate. Prerequisites: Writing Seminar I or signature of the instructor. Offered every other year. Class limit 15. *HS*

HS910Processing the Unexpected Journey

The third course in a three-course sequence entitled "The Unexpected Journey:  Art, Literature, and History on the Road in Nuevo Mexico" will provide students concentrated time and attention on classic, contemporary, and innovative texts of aesthetic and place philosophy as well as sustained time devoted to artistic, literary, and/or historical production. This course will include program and project orientation (Spring and early Fall 2013, as well as some summer reading), field trip debriefings while we are on the road in New Mexico, and a sustained period of study (in the literature of aesthetics), planning, and production of a substantial project centering on the literary and/or visual narrative or series of narratives they have chosen. Components of the course include:  providing of faculty-assisted time to prepare for, reflect on, and process what students have seen and experienced; the reading of a variety of texts on both the aesthetics and philosophies of place; workshop time to conceptualize and develop a design for the final project; frequent consultations with the teaching faculty on the project's development; supported studio and/or research time to bring the project to completion; and checkpoints for collaboration and critique. To the extent possible, students will share their projects with the COA community at the completion of the term.  Evaluation will be based on all these components of the course including class participation and the final project.  

All three courses must be taken concurrently: Native American Literature:  A Case Study of the Development of Literary Traditions with a New Mexico Focus (Waldron), Art and Culture in Northern New Mexico (Clinger), Processing the Unexpected Journey:  Aesthetics, Experience, and the Creation of an Interdisciplinary Project  (Clinger and Waldron).  

Level: Intermediate/Advanced.  Prerequisites: Permission of Instructor. Class Limit: 8.  Lab Fee: $1000 *HS*

HS5018The Nature of Narrative

This is an advanced writing focused course in which students practice the human ecology of literary analysis.  We explore the 'mind' or consciousness of fictional writing (specifically, novels) by looking at how narratives make meaning, and at how we make meaning from narratives.  The course surveys some of the best modern fiction, with a particular focus on works that highlight narrative technique, stretch the boundaries of the imagination, have a rich and deep texture, and push against the inherent limitations of textuality.  Students also hone their reading and analytic skills as they work closely with twentieth century texts that broke new literary ground.   Some of the authors we may read include:  Joseph Conrad, Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner, Monique Wittig, John Dos Passos, Toni Morrison, N. Scott Momaday, Bessie Head, Manuel Puig, and Margaret Atwood.  We also study some narrative (and possibly film) theory.  Evaluation is based on class participation, frequent short response and passage analysis papers, and an independent project.

Level:  Advanced.  Prerequisite: Signature of Instructor.  Offered every other year.  Class limit: 15.  Meets the following degree requirements: HS, WF

HS381Tutorial: Austen, Bronte, Eliot

This is an advanced course which explores in depth the works of three major writers of the Victorian period:  Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, and George Eliot.  The set-up of the syllabus, group meetings, and individual projects require that participants talk about connective factors between texts and the development of women writers' voices and narrative structures during this period.  Emphasis will also be placed on the construction of the heroine, the use and manipulation of the marriage plot, developments in linguistic and narrative practice, and developments in each author's work- from the juvenilia to the later fiction.  Historical perspective, gender roles, and theoretical approaches will all be taken into consideration as we analyze novels such as:  Lady Susan, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion  (Austen); The Professor, Villette, and Shirley (Bronte); and The Mill on the Floss and Middlemarch (Eliot).  Rather than prepare papers and exams, participants will prepare and ask questions of each other, develop response papers and passage analyses, and carry out a sustained independent project to be presented to the group.  The outside project will involve additional research into one of the major authors, to include both the reading of another novel, biographical information, and critical analyses.  Projects will give participants the opportunity to explore a particular author, question, or form in depth.  The reading load for this tutorial is very heavy.  Evaluation will derive from an on-going peer review focusing on preparation, participation, insight, critical thinking, and the outside project- to be presented orally and developed in an analytic fashion to be determined by the class.  There will be a third week course review.  Prerequisites:  Contemporary Women's Novels and Nature of Narrative or the equivalent and permission of the instructor. 

Level:   Advanced. Offered upon request.    *HS*

HS366Tutorial: Faulkner

This Faulkner tutorial is an advanced course in which students will practice the human ecology of literary analysis by studying a single authors works and created world in depth. The course surveys a chronological and artistic range of Faulkners work, focusing in particular on the development and elaboration of style, tone, themes, and environment. Faulkner will also be studied as a modernist U.S. Southern writer; students will read an additional modernist or contemporary text by another author and/or an additional work by Faulkner in order to create comparisons of what Faulkners world and work achieve. Students will work intensively with their reading and analytic skills by focusing on the stylistics and development of one author over time. Works definitely to be covered include: Collected Stories of William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying, The Sound and the Fury, Light in August, Absalom, Absalom!, Intruder in the Dust, and The Reivers. Evaluation will be based on class participation, frequent short response and passage analysis papers, the presentation of the outside novel, a final evaluation exercise, and an approximately 7-10 page Faulkner paper. Level: Advanced. Prerequisites: Permission of instructor required. Class limit: 6.