Fall 2014 Courses

The following courses fulfill the LCI (Literatures, Cultures, Identities) requirement: ENG 449, 486

The following courses fulfill the pre-1800 requirement: ENG 224, 351

English 202: Introduction to Creative Writing: Short Fiction

Laura Krughoff

In this class, you will be introduced to the fundamentals of writing prose fiction and the essential elements of the short story form. Together we will practice and master the scene-writing skills of description, action, and dialogue, and we will explore how stories are built: scene by scene, sentence by sentence, even word by word. This course will focus on the standard short story form, and we will read and write toward the goal of mastering plot structure, point of view, dramatic conflict, character development, and thematic meaning. You can expect to write five short exercises, two complete short stories, and plenty of revisions. We will workshop your fiction in small groups and as a full class. We will also read and discuss short fiction by a wide range of contemporary authors to see how those writers who have come before us have made this path by walking it. All students of all levels of experience are welcome in this class.

English 202: Introduction to Fiction Writing

Ann Putnam

In this course, you will write two 5-6 page stories, one Short Short and one Deep Revision, in addition to keeping a writer’s log and reading lots of short stories. You will have many opportunities to participate in panels, small group workshops, large group workshops, as well as many in-class writing sessions.  Each day when you come to class, you will know exactly what to expect, but you will also be surprised.  So you'll need to be here every day--ready to do things you've never done before, remember things you've never remembered before, ready to write about things you didn't know you knew.   All you need is a brave and willing heart.

English 203: Introduction to Writing: Poetry

Beverly Conner

Through writing your own poetry and through reading a variety of poets, you will explore the genre not only as an expressive art but also as a new way of seeing: a sharper condensation of yourself and of your world.

“Let us remember . . . that in the end we go to poetry for one reason, so that we might more fully inhabit our lives and the world in which we live them, and that if we more fully inhabit these things, we might be less apt to destroy both.” --Christian Wiman, Editor of Poetry Magazine

In this class we are attempting literary art—hoping to find meaning for ourselves and to convey it to others. You will learn about meter, rhyme, imagery, free verse, and other forms and elements of poetry. Even if you do not intend to continue writing poems, you will come to a greater enjoyment of reading poetry and other imaginative work (novels, short stories, plays, etc.). You will also find that all of your writing (yes, even research papers) will be enhanced by your close attention in this class to language.

English 203: Introduction to Writing Poetry

William Kupinse

“A line will take us hours, maybe,” writes W. B. Yeats on the craft of poetry.  “Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought, / Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.”  This creative writing workshop will take seriously Yeats’ notion that the effect of spontaneity in poetry is achieved only through fierce attention and substantial effort.  By stitching and unstitching multiple drafts of their poems, participants will hone the critical skills that will allow them to become more effective writers of poetry.  Assignments in this course will emphasize writing as a process and will include the selected reading of canonical and contemporary poems, weekly exercises, in-class discussions, and both written and oral critique of peer writing.  Students will produce a polished portfolio of approximately twelve poems by the semester’s end, and a required public reading of student work will provide workshop participants with a culminating experience.

English 205: Autobiography/Biography: Writings from the River: The Self as Hero

Beverly Conner

This course will examine the genre critically and creatively, thinking how the self both creates and is created by the text. We will explore connections and differences among autobiography, biography, literary memoir, and personal essay. We will consider how and experience why writing about the self so often entails an act of courage. In this last regard, we will give thoughtful attention to a diverse genre that spans cultures, genders, classes, and ages. And in exploring the myth of objectivity, we will also reflect on how imagination may play a part in telling the greater truths. We will read On Writing by Stephen King, Full Moon at Noontide, A Daughter’s Last Goodbye by Professor Ann Putnam, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, and This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff, among several other books.

English 210: Introduction to English Studies

Tiffany MacBain

This class will introduce you to the discipline of English Studies. Most of us are here because we enjoy and are moved by reading and writing. While our personal experiences with text can be productive starting points in textual analysis, the study of English requires discipline—in the twin senses of work ethic and mastery of a branch of knowledge. This course will explore what it means to study English at the university level: in short, it will introduce and help you to develop the essential skills of reading actively, critically, and creatively and of executing substantive literary analyses. In addition, we will consider personal, cultural, and ideological claims about what “literature” is and why it’s important, and we will identify skills, terms, and perspectives you will use in any English course.

The course is designed to highlight sets of questions central to the discipline: What is a literary text? What is genre? Who should decide what “counts” as literature, and why? How ought we to read a literary text?  How do literary texts relate to social contexts? What is the discipline of “English”?  This course will likely challenge some of the assumptions and beliefs you have about what it means to be an English major, about the value of different kinds of texts, and about the politics—cultural, academic, ideological—that influence the discipline. 

English 210: Introduction to English Studies

John Wesley

Think: literature, history, theory. Probably you have some sense of how to ‘do’ English based on literature classes taken in high school and perhaps even college, but you will find this course to be introductory of the discipline in a number of important and specialized ways—all of them related to the demands of college-level English. A major undertaking for our meetings and assignments will be to cement strong analytical skills, which will involve doing and testing a lot of close reading work (this is essential for critical thinking), as well as recognizing the interpretive rigor that emerges from a deepened understanding of form, genre, and period, including their histories and the various problems related to their definitions. At the same time, we will need to explore why we study a subject that can be quite difficult to define, and then come to terms with the sometimes surprising epistemological, ontological, and political implications of the ways we read texts, which we will address as we engage with literary theory. To accomplish these goals, you must be prepared to re-read texts with which you are already familiar (re-reading is fundamental to this discipline), with the expectation that doing so will enrich your ability to respond critically to content and formal features. As well, you should be prepared to take seriously literature from a number of periods—from medieval to modern—in order to better appreciate how genres and styles develop. Finally, you should be prepared to read a wide variety of theoretical work, and use it interpretively. The idea here is that with your hard work you will get a solid grounding in the discipline, a foundation on which you will continue to draw even as your interests evolve.

English 220: Intro to Literature: Time and Technique: A Hands-On Approach to Literature

Allen Jones

We take time for granted. We set alarm clocks, make appointments, fear deadlines, and speak of time as if it exists as concretely as a bird or the morning dew. It is literature’s job to open our eyes to deeper experience, to question our assumptions, and literature tells us that time is not so simple. In this introductory course, we will explore how writers and storytellers have repeatedly reinvented time as a fundamental key to understanding the world and our place in it. We will examine Creation Time, End Times, Instantaneous Time, Surrealist Time, Postmodern Time, and Digital Time. We will use this investigation to track the way literature has explored reality from the very beginnings of human history right up to the digital revolution. This is a hands-on course, so while students will write critical essays, in each segment of the course, students will also be asked to practice using these different kinds of time as formal elements in their own creative work. The final project will be the reinterpretation of a paper-based text as a piece of electronic literature. Students will learn how to put a piece of literature into the world of the computer. This exciting and challenging process will serve as the seed for original twenty-first century critical work examining the changing role of time as a structural and thematic element in literature. This course fulfills the Artistic Approaches Core requirement.

English 223: British Literature III

Darcy Irvin

This survey course covers British Literature from the beginning of Queen Victoria's reign in 1832 up through the present. Together, we will examine a wide range of literature from the last two centuries, from novels and short stories, to poetry, drama, and prose. For the nineteenth century, we will pay close attention to how the Industrial Revolution radically shaped emerging political, cultural, and social views. From paradigm shifting new theories about human evolution, to increased mechanization and production, how did Victorians grapple with a rapidly changing, modern world? And how did they represent that world, and themselves, in the literature they produced? Turning our attention to the twentieth century, we will continue to press on issues of modernity. Reacting to the perceived conventionality of the Victorians, how did writers before, during, and after the two World Wars respond to the massive political and social upheavals they faced? And how are contemporary writers today continuing to embrace modernity as it emerges in new forms? Authors in this course may include Dickens, Eliot, Hardy, Wilde, Yeats, Joyce, Woolf, and Smith.

English 224: American Literature Survey I: Beginnings to 1865 (Race, Place, and the American National Imaginary)

Alison Tracy Hale

This course introduces you to the literary history of colonial, early-national, and antebellum America using the interwoven conflicts over land, race, and national identity that animated these periods. Beginning with exploration narratives, the course includes poetry, political essays, sermons, fiction, and drama from the 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries and features works by both the big names and lesser-known figures, including Mary Rowlandson, Jonathan Edwards, Benjamin Franklin, Judith Sargent Murray, Walt Whitman, Harriet Jacobs, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edgar Allan Poe, Lydia Maria Child, Frederick Douglass, Phillis Wheatley, and many others! This course fulfills the breadth requirement for the major, as well as the “Literature before 1800” requirement.

English 225: American Literature II

Mike Benveniste

This survey course outlines the literary production of the United States from the Post-Civil War Realism through the present. Much of what has shaped the course of modern American Literature has been an on-going debate, implicitly and explicitly, over what “American Literature” is, who would be included in such a canon, and, whether or not such a grouping is meaningful at all. Rather than attempting to confine the literature of this period to a single historical narrative, this course will to attend to the myriad ways that writers have adapted inherited notions of literature and aesthetics as a part of their response to their political and historical moment. Consequently, we will strive to cultivate a dialectical understanding of texts as simultaneously historical artifacts and creative projects. So doing, we will explore a diverse group of writers who have claimed their place within the literature of the U.S. over the last hundred-plus years, endeavoring to understand their work as a mediated response to the exigencies of their socio-cultural context.

What this means is that this class will not be about ‘the Story of American Literature’; no such unifying story exists. Nor will this class be about learning about US history through literature. Instead, this class will be about literary history in context, and, therefore the goal is not so much a single narrative of history or literature, but a way of thinking about the relationship between literature and history. As we explore this changing relationship, we will see that literary history is ultimately located in the way writers receive and innovate upon aesthetic forms (like Realism, Naturalism, Modernism, etc…) as they respond to or engage the pressing issues of their day.

English 226: Survey of Literature by Women

Ann Putnam

After setting up some initial terms and contexts, we will follow a chronology which traces the development of the female literary tradition from the Medieval and Renaissance Periods up to the present.  We will place each work in its historical, cultural and literary context.   Sometimes we’ll read works which seem to speak to each other from across the expanse of decades or even centuries, though chronology will be the main way we’ll organize our readings. Several of the issues we’ll address include: (1)  What are the canonical issues which come from a study of women’s literature?  what issues emerge concerning the idea of the canon in general and the Norton Text in particular?  Why has it come under such criticism?  Why is there no Norton Anthology of Literature by Men?   What works have been discovered or reclaimed?  What happens to a developing literary tradition when key works have been lost or devalued?  For this we will examine both “The Awakening” and “Life in the Iron Mills,” to name two.  (2)  Are there significant differences in women’s literature which we can characterize?  Is women’s literature different from literature by men in some essential way?  If so how?   We will begin by looking at Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own.  (3)  How have women been characterized through the ages in works written by men?  Why have such concepts or images as the gaze, the mirror, silences, the blank page, a room of one’s own, the monster, the madwoman in the attic become gathering metaphors we encounter again and again in literature by women? (4)  What has it been like through the ages to be both a woman and an artist?  What has it cost women to follow their creative urgings?  Why have they agonized over this?  And why have they so often thought of their writing as something monstrous, perverted, abnormal, something to be hidden and composed anonymously and in private? What obstacles have women writers faced throughout history?  What forces work against them and what strategies do they often employ to make their voices heard?  How have women found the voice to write?  What has changed?  What has remained the same?  We will examine what Emily Dickinson meant when she said, “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant” by looking at the strategies women writers have employed through the ages. We will contrast the strategies of outright rebellion; disguises and masks; apology and deference; and transposition.   This course satisfies a Humanities Core requirement and is crosslisted in Gender Studies.

English 346: Historical Perspectives on Writing and Rhetoric

Julie Nelson Christoph

“Rhetoric” is among the most slippery concepts in modern writing theory; during its long history, the term has been used to name everything from specific stylistic devices to holistic ways of understanding and making meaning. This course examines major concepts and theorists within the rhetorical tradition, beginning with antiquity and ending with the present. Issues central to the course include whether truth pre-exists discourse, whether selectively choosing among available means of persuasion is ethical, whether the goal of rhetoric is necessarily persuasion, and whether the mode of presentation in speech or writing alters the meaning of rhetoric. Throughout the course we will consider questions about power and access to public discourse: Who gets to speak, to whom, and under what circumstances?

As a class, we will use theory to examine the rhetoric of our everyday lives and will explore the implications of rhetorical theory for modern America—particularly through examining the intersections between rhetorical theory and writing instruction, political and social activism, and visual media. Along with two short papers and a longer researched paper, the course requires in-class presentations and active participation. 

English 351: Shakespeare

John Wesley

What explains the continued relevance of plays written over 400 years ago? Interest in Shakespeare and his work abides with each passing decade, a modern sign of which is our eager consumption of the annual conveyor belt of Hollywood film adaptations. One of the most persistent claims in Shakespeare criticism since the early twentieth century is that, at their heart, the plays are morally ambiguous, and this, for some scholars, explains their enduring popularity. According to this understanding, Shakespeare’s drama can morph, so to speak, to fit the values of any culture because—rhetorically and structurally—questions of right and wrong regarding central conflicts are left open rather than answered definitively. So, for example, one may encounter A. P. Rossiter’s claim that Shakespeare’s plays are marked by a “doubleness of vision,” Norman Rabkin’s vision of “Either/Or,” and Graham Bradshaw’s thesis of “perspectivalism,” positions which some argue find their roots in William Empson’s Seven Types of Ambiguity (1930), or even the influence of Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity. The focus of this course will be to investigate the validity and usefulness of these claims, many of them upheld by both postmodern criticism and even the more traditional historicist studies of sixteenth-century education. How or in what sense are these plays ambiguous? Should we think of them as ‘questions’ rather than ‘answers’? To engage these problems, we will situate our textual analysis of the plays within the context of Renaissance culture, including humanist education, Reformation theology, print culture, Elizabethan and Jacobean court politics, an emergent historical consciousness, and the theatrical practices of the Tudor and Stuart commercial stages. The study of seven or eight plays will be supplemented with critical and contextual readings, as well as the occasional visual analysis of performances, either on film or stage (depending on availability). The course fulfills the pre-1800 requirement.

English 402: Advanced Creative Writing: Fiction

Laura Krughoff

This class will explore what the short story is and what it can do through a consideration of various story structures: standard, episodic, disrupted, lyric, and eccentric. You will be asked to write in multiple forms, points of view, and narrative modes. We will read selections from a number of story collections to examine how an author develops a body of work and pursues a subject or an idea from one story to another.  All of this, of course, will be in service of your own development as writers of short fiction. You will write two story clusters over the course of the semester; each story cluster will consist of three stories that tackle the same idea, topic, or event from various points of view or in various story structures. We will consider how revision is truly a matter of new and different vision, of opening ourselves up to creative possibility, and of giving ourselves room to make bold aesthetic decisions. At the end of the semester, you will curate a portfolio of your best short fiction accompanied by an artist’s statement that explains how your work engages formally and thematically with the concepts and questions we’ve encountered over the semester.

English 410:  Visual Rhetoric

Mita Mahato

In this seminar, we will unsettle traditional approaches to reading by approaching text as a visual medium.  Through critical and creative assignments that utilize both word and image, we will work from the premise that the act of reading generates and requires a literacy that is visual before it is lexical. Our brief study of children’s books will provide us with the basic questions we will ask as we turn to more “adult” illustrated texts. From there, we will spend time examining the emerging medium of comics, in which the argument of the book depends entirely upon the careful interplay between word and image, author and artist. The sequential art of comics will lead us to our discussion of the sequential art of the montage film; we will examine how montage theory provides us with a means of making sense of the visual narratives we create every time we open our eyes. Finally, we will examine how those visual narratives manifest themselves in hypertext and new media formats. Critical readings in semiotics, visual rhetoric, and visual literacy will provide us with a vocabulary and set of frameworks that will challenge us to scrutinize personal perceptions in light of broader cultural and counter-cultural meanings.  Primary texts might include Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Neil Gaiman’s “Ramadan,” Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, Chris Marker’s “La Jetée” and Maya Deren’s “Meshes of the Afternoon.”  

English 444: Special Topics in Victorian Literature: Victorian Underworlds

Darcy Irvin

Many of us have rather romanticized notions of the Victorian period: huge crinoline skirts, ornate home furnishings, and lots of horse-drawn carriages. In this course, we'll peer into the less polished aspects of the nineteenth century. Together, we'll examine literature that left the drawing room and went out into the streets, exploring a range of topics such as city slums, criminal conspiracies, and so-called "fallen" women. We'll begin by considering literary works that exposed the secrets hidden in seemingly respectable middle class homes, and then move on to the mid-century "Sensationalists": novelists who challenged conventional notions of gender, class, and morality through works deemed by contemporary critics to be dangerous and addictive. Rather than focus entirely on novels, however, we'll turn our attention also to prose, in the form of contemporary investigative news journalism and celebrated criminal cases, poetry, and popular melodrama, in order to help us think about how authors throughout the nineteenth century struggled to represent controversy and scandal. Authors may include Wilkie Collins, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, Robert Browning, Christina Rossetti, Thomas Hardy, and Oscar Wilde.

English 449: 20th Century American Literature: Labor in the US Novel: Class and Identity in a Material World

Mike Benveniste

A sad truth is that the majority of us will spend the better part of our adult lives working; our daily routines, material habitus, and even social bonds are circumscribed by this material circumstance. That said, this important human environment is not as frequently the focus of novels as one might assume, although it does help to organize the televisual imaginary. After dipping briefly into 19th century representations of the laboring body, this course will examine the role of labor in the US novel from the early-20th century to the present day. In particular, we will look at representations of labor in various narrative modes – Realism, Modernism, Surrealism, Postmodernism, etc… - and consider the relationship between representations of labor, issues of realism, and social justice. We will read from a multi-ethnic canon of authors – like Carlos Bulosan, Richard Wright, Charles Yu, Junot Diaz, Joshua Ferris, Toni Morrison, or Thomas Pynchon, to name a few possibilities – in order also to consider the relationship between class/labor and ethnic identity. Is class a constitutive component of racialization? Or can class be viewed as an identity in its own right? To what degree does our work define us? In other words, does that thing we do for most of our lives affect our identity? We will pursue such social issues, from the Modernist protest fiction of John Dos Passos to Colson Whitehead’s post-apocalyptic zombie novel, Zone One.

One additional note: this will be a very intensive course featuring at least 10 full novels, as well as substantial weekly readings in cultural history and literary theory. Students should expect to read approximately 300-400 pages a week.

English 470: Gothic America

Alison Tracy Hale

As no less a figure than novelist Toni Morrison has noted, “it is striking how dour, how troubled, how frightened and haunted our early and founding literature truly is” (Playing in the Dark, 1992). A course in the American Gothic, by definition, inhabits the dark side of American identity, society, and history. Familiar narratives about the U.S. suggest strongly that our national identity is based on progress, reason, and optimism; the literature you will read in this course undermines that narrative, reinscribing the American "dream" as an American "nightmare." Long considered trivial and "non-literary," the gothic genre was once derided as an escapist form of sensational fiction unworthy of critical attention. Recent work, however, has challenged such an easy distinction between America’s progressive mythology and its gothic undercurrents, and this course will be devoted to investigating gothic texts as central to the expression, articulation, repression, and management of significant tensions in American culture at the collective and individual levels. Over the semester, we will explore the very idea of an American gothic: how is a genre associated with the haunted castles, demonic noblemen, and ancient mysteries of Europe re-envisioned in particularly "American" ways? How do American authors and texts re-imagine gothic tropes and images in order to convey uniquely American anxieties? When and how does the genre allow for subversive approaches to pressing questions, and in what circumstances might it perhaps reinforce the status quo? Readings will likely include works by Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Stephen Crane, Shirley Jackson, Flannery O’Connor, Truman Capote, William Faulkner, and Colson Whitehead. Requirements: two substantial literary analysis essays, shorter assignments, and the presentation of a critical/secondary source. Prerequisites: English 210; English 224 or 225.

English 472: Extended Project in Creative Writing

William Kupinse

ENGL 472 is a workshop-based Senior Experience Seminar designed to facilitate the research, writing, and revision of imaginative writing in any genre.  The course is designed to support the completion of a substantial piece of work: a poetry chapbook; a short-story collection; a play; a screenplay; a graphic novel; or a significant part of a novel or other genre of writing.  The first section of the semester will focus on envisioning, outlining, and researching the project, with particular emphasis to be placed upon identifying both texts and textual strategies that will inform the project.  The larger part of the class will be devoted to the actual writing of the manuscript and to the manuscript’s subsequent revision in response to class critique.  To be eligible to enroll in the course, students should have senior status and and have taken the culminating creative writing class in the genre in which they plan to do work or request permission from the professor.  Please note that ENGL 472 meets once a week for an extended class session (Tuesday evenings from 5:30 – 7:50 p.m.). Permission code from instructor required.

English 486: Native American Literature

Tiffany MacBain

This course introduces students to Native American literature from the early nineteenth to the early twenty-first centuries.  Beginning with the complicated matter of translation and moving into issues of mixed-race identity, custom and assimilation, and American Indian nationalism (to name a few), students will develop a nuanced understanding of Native American literature during the period and become familiar with areas of contemporary critical concern within the field.  The breadth of our study calls for a somewhat heavy reading load; we are, after all, covering more than 150 years in sixteen weeks’ time.  While the tradition begins much earlier than the early nineteenth century, our course begins with the advent of English-language written texts, for I want us to enjoy a true seminar experience that involves the close examination of a relatively small sampling of literature and the deep knowledge that such study can yield. In addition to the primary literary texts, students will read primary historical and secondary critical sources to orient themselves in time and place and to enable them to articulate with sophistication their own responses to the literature.  Students will contribute to our knowledge base by performing independent research.  They will write summarily, reflexively, and critically; and they will create oral, written, and visual texts. 

Humanities 290:  Introduction to Cinema Studies

Mita Mahato and Paul Loeb

In this course, students develop the skills necessary to communicate intelligently about the artistic medium of film.  Drawing on the expertise of two professors (Loeb and Mahato), students consider key terminology related to visuals, editing, and sound; apply those concepts to a wide variety of examples from the advent of film to the present; consider critical approaches to the medium; and, potentially, produce creative projects that build on formal and critical concepts.  In the past, films screened have included Nosferatu, Touch of Evil, Vertigo, Mulholland Drive, and Julien Donkey Boy.  In addition to regular class sessions, film screenings are required.  This course satisfies the Fine Arts approaches core requirement.  

Humanities 367:  Word and Image  

Denise Despres

Contemporary readers of medieval poetry immediately notice the dreamlike effects of the medieval visual rhetoric:  medieval poetry is often more like virtual reality than the print culture process of private reading. Images, in patterns through repetition or in complex association as in allegory, convey meaning.   Often the images that are most prominent, however, are rooted simultaneously in the religious and material culture the narrative explores; we have to reconstruct these contexts to read beyond the poem’s literal surface to interpretation.  Our “print culture” habits work against the dramatic and visual nature of medieval composition, in which “words” were to be heard aloud and “images” visualized, accessing the moral faculty of memory. If we immerse ourselves in the material culture and its images; take advantage of scholarship that helps us forge meaning; and imagine our way back to a slower, more visual and aural reading process, we can recover the pleasure and meaning of medieval literature.   A Fine Arts core aims to provide students with an esthetic experience of the arts that informs, delights, and even leads to new artistic creation.   We have inherited the habits of print culture reading, thus the beauty and the complexity of early literature becomes clearer for us when we are sensitized to an active, performative mode of reading.  We can see how becoming the pilgrim or dreamer, involved in the process of “decoding” images, heightens our sensitivity to details. Further, we too can store them away in our memories, a rich repository of shared texts and symbols, for future application.  Poised between an older print culture and a visual computer culture, we can appreciate both the losses and gains in the transition from a manuscript to a print culture that took place between the eighth and fourteenth centuries in Europe.  Humanities 367 is interdisciplinary:  students should be prepared to use ArtStor; access digitalized manuscripts and historical websites; work with manuscripts facsimiles in the Collins Library archives; and respond to readings both critically and imaginatively.

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