Academic year
2021/2022 Syllabus of previous years
Official course title
Course code
LMJ050 (AF:355727 AR:186488)
On campus classes
ECTS credits
Degree level
Master's Degree Programme (DM270)
Educational sector code
2nd Semester
Course year
Go to Moodle page
The course is part of the core offering of the MA degree in American, European and Postcolonial languages and Cultures and of the MA degree in Language Sciences. It aims to offer students and advanced knowledge and advanced competences in English. The module focuses on the development of US English and provides students with the necessary tools to master the English language not only as far as interaction and oral productions are concerned but also in writing, as well as theoretical tools to further their reflection on language.
Upon completion of the course, students will be able to
• Show knowledge of the development of US English:
• Show knowledge of ideas on language by a representative cluster of classic, modern, and contemporary American thinkers, writers, critics and critical theorists
• Reflect on the link between US English and the intellectual life of the nation;
• Develop an awareness of the power of US English to articulate key ideas of our time across national and geographical borders;
• Gather and process complex theoretical material of relevance to a deeper knowledge of American English and its relation to American and transnational intellectual life;
• Show the ability to respond to the work of the peers, offering productive feedback;
• Participate actively with an oral presentation and lead a post-presentation discussion;
• Carry out a research task of relevance to the course materials;
• Produce a research paper, showing knowledge of the conventions of academic writing.

Level C1 of the Common European Framework of Reference.
The course assumes a proficient user at the C1/C2 level of the Common European Frame of Reference.
Moddule title: Language and America: from Jonathan Edwards to Judith Butler

In this class we will read a variety of landmark texts in English. With my guidance, you will practice comprehending their contents, understanding the nuances of their meaning, through a focus on lexicon and language structures. You will use your language skills to debate the selected texts and write about them. The main aim is to concentrate on the acquisition of skills in oral production and interaction, and in research and written academic production. To this end, I selected a cluster of manageable passages from texts that loosely fall under the rubric: “Language and America.” The idea is that, as you deepen your structural knowledge of American English, these passages will afford a first-hand insight into the historical development of US English. You will learn to appreciate its use through the study of written documents by a selection of thinkers, writers, critics, and critical theorists that are highly representative of intellectual life in America from colonial times to the present. While analyzing linguistic structures and cementing your linguistic competence, you will be simultaneously introduced to an important line of reflection on language (both its use and its theory) that is firmly rooted in the US while at the same time interestingly connected to the European tradition. This line of reflection spans from the work of Jonathan Edwards, America’s first great theologian, to original nineteenth-century writers and thinkers like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, from Charles Sanders Peirce, America’s first and greatest semiologist, to Adrienne Rich and Audre Lorde, courageous twentieth-century women who pioneered work on gender and language, to queer theorist Judith Butler, who continued the work of her predecessors. In this module, you will reap the fruits of the work you did in the Triennale cycle and boost your language competence while reading what great Americans have to say about language. The module champions an informed encounter with US English as an important gateway to the study of language in its structural, institutional, psychological and affective dimensions.

Weekly schedule:

1 Introduction: Presentation of the Course
2 Saussure in America I
3 Images of American English: From the Puritans to Thomas Jefferson
4 The World of Jonathan Edwards
5 Ralph Waldo Emerson: Language and Nature
6 Henry David Thoreau and language theory
7 Dreaming Arisbe: Charles Sanders Peirce with Susan Howe
8 The Development of American English: H. L. Mencken
9 “The meaning of the term ‘the American language’”: T. S. Eliot
10 Language and Loneliness: a Feminist Narrative of Speech
11 Race, Gender, Speech, Silence: Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich
12 Difference: Barbara Johnson
13 Saussure in America II
14 On Linguistic Vulnerability: Judith Butler
15 Conclusion

NOTE: The COURSE READER is our main textbook. It comprises short selections from the following sources, all of them available on our Moodle page:
Ferdinand de Saussure, from Course in General Linguistics. Trans. Wade Baskin. Edited by
Perry Meisel and Haun Saussy. New York: Columbia, 2011. 8-12; 32-33.
John Winthrop, from A Model of Christian Charity (1630). In The Puritans in
America, edited by Alan Heimert and Andrew Delbanco. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985. 82-92.
Thomas Jefferson, “Logan’s Speech,” from Notes on the State of Virginia, Query VI (1787)
Ed. William Peden. Institute of Early American History and Culture at Williamsburg, Virginia. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1955. 62-63.
Jonathan Edwards, “Beauty of the World” (1725). A Jonathan Edwards Reader. Ed. John E. Smith Harry S. Stout, and Kenneth P. Minkema. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1995. 14-15.
Jonathan Edwards, from “A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections”(1746). A Jonathan
Edwards Reader. 141-144.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Language,” Chapter IV of Nature (1849). Ralph Waldo Emerson. Edited by Richard Poirier. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1990. 12-17.
Henry David Thoreau, “Reading.” From Walden (1854). The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau. Intro. By Joyce Carol Oates. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989. 99-110
Charles Sanders Peirce, “What is a Sign?” (composed 1894). The Essential Peirce: Volume 2.
Edited by The Peirce Edition Project. Indiana University Press, 1998. 4-10
Susan Howe, “Arisbe.” From Pierce-Arrow. New York: New Directions, 1999. 1-30.
H. L. Mencken, “Verbs.” From The American Language: An Inquiry into the Development of English in the United States. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1947. First edition 1919. 191-201.
T. E. Eliot, “American Literature and the American Language.” Sewanee Review (1966): 1-20.
Hannah Arendt, from The Human Condition, “The disclosure of the agent in speech and
action.” Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1958. 175-179.
Audre Lorde, “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action.” Sister/Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press, 1984. 40-44.
Adrienne Rich, “Twenty-One Love Poems.” From The Dream of a Common Language. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1993. 23-36.
Barbara Johnson, from “Muteness Envy.” The Feminist Difference. Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press, 1998. 129-135; 139-144.
Judith Butler, from Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative. London: Routledge, 1997. 1-4; 48-49.

Suggested readings:
Robert McCrum, Robert McNeil, and William Cran, The Story of English. London: Penguin,
Zoltán Kövecses, American English: An Introduction. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview
Press, 2000.
Attending students
The course requirements refer to the elements of evaluation. The main elements of evaluation are: active participation, a student presentation, a final research paper (5-7 pp) on a topic supervised by the professor, and a final oral exam. The final exam will consist in a conversation on the contents of the course required readings.
The research paper must be submitted on the first Friday after the end of the Module. Please use the MLA stylesheet (8th edition). For your convenience, the MLA stylesheet is available at:

Non-attending students/student workers:
All of the required texts listed above, and one of the additional texts at your choice from the Suggested readings.
Non-attending students should hand in their final research paper (5-7 pp) MLA stylesheet (8th edition) before the final exam. For your convenience, the MLA stylesheet is available at:
Non-attending students are strongly encouraged to contact me during the semester to discuss their work in progress.

The course builds on the competences indicated by the CEFR at that the C1/C2 and furthers them, with special regard to the ability to reconstruct the arguments of others and produce coherent individual presentations. Students practice how to enter an ongoing academic debate by offering their reflections for peer discussion and by producing a well-structured and well-documented research paper. The paper will exhibit all the defining features of an academic paper, including a solid engagement of the work of others in the relevant realm of research, a coherent argument through solid and effective paragraphing, and an overall awareness of the academic ethical code.
Student presentations
Interactive class discussion
Teaching language: English
written and oral
Definitive programme.
Last update of the programme: 16/03/2021