Jené Schoenfeld teaches courses in American literature, particularly writers of African descent. Professor Schoenfeld's teaching and research are fueled by a curiosity about social boundaries, especially the American color line. She specializes in representations of the mulatto in American fiction and culture.

Currently, she is working on a book on how, under segregation, the incorporation of the mulatto into the category "black" occasioned a reconsideration of the meaning of blackness itself. The fiction of Frances Harper, Charles Chesnutt, Nella Larsen and Jean Toomer figure prominently into that study. Toni Morrison and William Faulkner are also among Professor Schoenfeld's intellectual passions.

Areas of Expertise

African American literature, American literature, mixed race.

Education

2005 — Doctor of Philosophy from Duke University

2002 — Master of Arts from Duke University

1997 — Bachelor of Arts from Univ. of California Berkeley

Courses Recently Taught

This discussion-based course introduces students to several of the most important approaches to the study of African diaspora experiences. Students taking this course will find themselves engaged with a variety of disciplines (e.g., anthropology, history, literary study, psychology, sociology and visual and performing arts). Though some of the texts may change extensively from year to year, the focus of this course will be to undertake a preliminary investigation into the connections and the relationship between Africa and several other parts of the world. No prerequisite. Generally offered every spring.

This discussion-based course introduces students to several of the most important approaches to the study of African diaspora experiences. Students taking this course will find themselves engaged with a variety of disciplines (e.g., anthropology, history, literary study, psychology, sociology and visual and performing arts). Though some of the texts may change extensively from year to year, the focus of this course will be to undertake a preliminary investigation into the connections and the relationship between Africa and several other parts of the world. No prerequisite. Generally offered every spring.

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.

Pleasurable doesn't seem like a word that would apply to the harrowing story of a mother who kills her child rather than allow her to be enslaved. Yet Toni Morrison, consummate artist and Nobel laureate, writes prose so beautiful that one could describe reading such a story as, in some sense, pleasurable, even as this beauty deepens the powerful and sometimes painful effect of her words. In this class we will read most of Morrison's novels, some of her short fiction, and some of her critical work. We will discuss the craft involved in the creation of Morrison's stunning prose, Morrison's position relative to both American and African-American literary canons, as well as the themes of Morrison's literature, including (but not limited to): race, gender and love (familial, amorous, platonic and, perhaps most importantly, self). This counts toward the post-1900 requirement for the major and the African diaspora studies concentration, as well as the women's and gender studies major/concentration. Prerequisite: junior standing or ENGL 210-291 or permission of instructor.

In Zora Neale Hurston's novel "Their Eyes Were Watching God," Nanny observes that African American women are "de mule uh de world." Her response to this situation is to marry her granddaughter to a man whose wealth might take Janie off her feet. Janie, in contrast, wants a man whose charm will sweep her off her feet. To what extent do historical circumstances, expressed in this case as generational differences, shape the meaning of marriage for African American women? What other kinds of hopes are invested in the institution of marriage in African American women's writing (and lives)? When might marriage cease to be regarded as a viable avenue for expanding African American women's opportunities? How do African American authors negotiate the loaded issue of African American female sexuality both within and outside of marriage? What circumstances could make death an African American mother's greatest gift, as in Toni Morrison's novel "Sula," for example? What circumstances could make abandonment a generous gesture, as in Harriet Jacobs' "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl?" These are just a handful of the questions that will stimulate our discussion over the course of the semester. Note: Though the texts in this course span from 1861 to 1991, this counts toward the post-1900 requirement. Prerequisite: junior standing, or ENGL 210-291 or permission of instructor.

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.

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 spring semester; students register with the Senior Honors form. Permission of instructor and department chair required.