Spring 2015 Courses

The following courses fulfill the LCI (Literatures, Cultures, Identities) requirement: English 374 (380), English 383 (447), English 383 (458)

The following courses fulfill the pre-1800 requirement: English 234 (224), English 330 (342), English 432

Please note: old course numbers are in parenthesis

English 212 (267): The Craft of Literature
Denise Despres

English 212 fulfills the Fine Arts Core Rubric in developing an aesthetic and critical appreciation of formal characteristics of literature.  In addition, this iteration of the course will invite students to experiment as artists by creating and critiquing works of fiction and nonfiction prose.  We will explore a number of texts, from ancient and Renaissance drama to Capote’s journalistic novel, In Cold Blood.

English 212 (267): The Craft of Literature
Ann Putnam

This course will look at the historical and theoretical background of the development of the modern short story to try to account for the intriguing fact that in America the short story came to full fruition as it did not in England. To that end, we will try to answer some of the following questions:

1. Why did Faulkner claim that the short story was harder to write than the novel?

2. Why did the famous literary critic Frank O’Connor say that it takes a better writer to write a short story than a novel?

3. If all this is true, why is the short story so often considered an “apprentice” art form—what a writer learns to write before s/he can learn to write a novel? Why are short stories so often undervalued?

4. Why were many modern writers so dissatisfied with the traditional plot-driven narrative? And why were so many short story writers criticized for this? “No plot, no story,” Katherine Anne Porter lamented. Why did so many modern short story writers bury the plot rather than use it to drive the story?

5. Why does the modern short story seem so plotless, so sketch-like? Why would modern writers be attracted to this form?

6. If you don’t have traditional plot to hold a story together, what device takes its place?

7. Other than length, what makes a short story short?

8. What is meant by the “flash of fireflies” given off by a short story? That shimmer of indefiniteness or mysterious expansion or dilation so often described? What does a writer do to create this effect?

English 212 (267): To Build a Story: From the Voice to the Page to the Screen
Allen Jones

This course is a hands-on exploration of story building. We will treat texts like machines whose moving parts we must learn to disassemble and reassemble in order to make our own machines. In other words, we will read stories, poems, and plays with the express purpose of stealing the masters’ tricks for our own work. This building-as-learning approach, where we involve ourselves in the writerly process, will also serve as the keystone to our scholarly inquiry into literature. We will examine how traditional myths, modern stories of heaven and hell, stream-of-consciousness texts, surrealist games, transgendering biographies, magical realist tales, and digital texts, all offer us different ways to understand this thing called writing. As a final project, students will get to design an interactive 3D text. This is a fun, cutting-edge way to think about literature. Designed for non-majors, and expecting no previous experience in creative writing or literary analysis, this course will change the way you think about both literature and writing.

English 213 (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. Past readings included books such as 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 others.

English 220 (210):  Introduction to English Studies
Mita Mahato

This course, which takes “crafty analysis” as its organizing theme, will ask students to explore and practice skills and critical methods of English Studies through an engaged and reflexive examination of important texts from Shakespeare forward.  By approaching drama, poetry, short story, novel, comics, and film as texts that have been crafted with particular formal and social concerns in mind, students will consider the nuanced relationships between form, content, and context, as well as consider how texts reflect upon their own status as having been “crafted”—that is, designed for an audience, reader, or viewer.  In the process, relevant theoretical approaches (Marxism, Feminism, Post-Structuralism, to name a few), as well as their histories and developments over time, will be introduced.  Reading and viewing selections will all feature some dimension of the idea of craft—whether related to the act of making, or the act of deception (being “crafty”).  Readings might include Romeo and Juliet, Spring Awakening, Heart of Darkness, and Maus

English 227 (202): Intro to Writing Fiction
Laura Krughoff

In this course, students will be introduced to the fundamental techniques of fiction writing. We will read, discuss, and analyze the work of master short story writers in addition to reading a helpful book on craft. These readings will be used to model various literary styles and techniques, and the first half of the semester will be spent developing and honing these skills. In the second half of the semester, students will write two short stories and revise one of those stories at the end of the semester. Students will participate in observation-based workshops of their peers’ fiction, a workshop strategy we will discuss in detail in class. There will also be regular quizzes, short writing assignments, and a mid-term exam.

English 227 (202): Intro to Writing Fiction
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 228 (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 233 (223): British Literature III
Darcy Irvin

This survey course covers British Literature from the beginning of Queen Victoria's reign in 1837 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 234 (224): American Literature and Culture: Colonial to Early National
Alison Tracy Hale

This course introduces you to essential texts and contexts for American literature from its origins in European travel writing and Native American oral traditions through colonization, revolution, and the social, political, and industrial transformations of the early 19th century. Focused on the intersecting and mutually constitutive categories of “contact, conflict, and community,” the course takes a comparative look at the ways in which different cultures interacted across the space now known as the United States, and emphasizes the ways in which those interactions produced new forms of identity and community—often at the expense of previous models or the exclusion of certain peoples. Expect to read both “classic” texts of early America (Franklin, Paine, Rowlandson, Poe) and those that are less familiar and that come from communities and perspectives outside of the Anglo-American canonical tradition. Course requirements include short writing assignments, a 5-6 page paper, midterm, and final exam. This course fulfills the department’s pre-1800 requirement.

English 235 (225): American Literature and Culture: Long Nineteenth Century
Tiffany MacBain

This course introduces students to significant developments in American literary history from the “long nineteenth century,” spanning the post-Revolutionary era to the start of World War I. The course offers a thematically structured and comparative approach to literary works in relation to their socio-historical contexts. Drawing upon a variety of genres, this course provides students with a foundational understanding of important traditions and transformations in literary history and aesthetics.

English 327 (402): Advanced Fiction Writing
Laura Krughoff

In this advanced fiction workshop, we will consider what it means for a writer to develop a body of work. While we will continue to practice and hone the fundamental skills and techniques used in narrative prose, the expectation in this course will be that you are ready to produce complete works of short fiction and are beginning to explore your own voice, aesthetic, subjects, and themes as a writer. To this end, our work will be two-fold: we will read selections from seven collections of short fiction to examine how important contemporary American short story writers pursue particular themes, return to and re-examine various topics, and develop a recognizable style or aesthetic. You will simultaneously produce a total of six works of original fiction, and the semester will culminate in a portfolio that curates your best work augmented by an artist’s statement that illuminates why you have chosen the stories you have and what the portfolio reveals about your own body of work. This course is, obviously, reading and writing intensive. A great deal is going to be asked of you. It is my hope that by dint of the hard work you will put in over this semester, each one of you will grow as a reader and a writer, as a thinker and a critic, and, most importantly, as an artist with a vision.

English 328 (403): Advanced Poetry Writing
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 selected reading of canonical and contemporary poems, weekly exercises, in-class discussions, and peer reviews.  Students will produce a polished portfolio of approximately ten poems by the semester’s end, and a public reading of student work will provide a capstone experience to the workshop.

English 330 (342): Genre: Novel: The Rise of the Novel in America
Alison Tracy Hale

This course investigates the relationship between the emergence and increasing significance of the novel and the development of the United States from the 18th century through the mid-19th century. Many critics have remarked upon the simultaneous historical emergence of the novel genre and the American nation, and suggest that both responded to an increasing emphasis—political and aesthetic—on the activities, beliefs, and experiences of the “common” individual. Our course will thus investigate the ways that the form and content of the novel negotiated the social and political transformations of early America. We will begin by exploring the origins of (and precursors to) the novel in Britain and British America, study the genre’s defining characteristics and its role in the construction and contestation of U.S. “national identity” during the final decades of the 18th century, and investigate several of its divergent 19th century iterations: the romance or sentimental novel, the political or philosophical novel, the gothic or sensationalist novel, and the realist novel. Course readings will likely be selected from among the following possibilities: Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance or The House of Seven Gables; Charles Brockden Brown, Wieland or Edgar Huntly; Foster, The Coquette; Rebecca Rush, Kelroy; William Wells Brown, Clotel; or the President’s Daughter; Lydia Maria Child, A Romance of the Republic; Maria Cummins, The Lamplighter; Ruth Hall, Fanny Fern. Expect a heavy reading load (these novels are long and dense, but great fun!), a shorter essay (6 pages), close reading (2 pages), a class presentation on a critical/secondary work, and a longer seminar essay (12 pages, including historical or critical research). Prerequisite: ENGL 220 and one other 200-level course in the major. This course fulfills the department’s pre-1800 requirement.

English 374 (380): Literature and Environment
William Kupinse

English 374 will explore the development of environmental writing in English-language texts with an emphasis on twentieth-century fiction, poetry, and memoir.  Covering a wide range of geographical settings and literary genres, we will examine each text as an argument for a particular “reading” of the environment, and we will further inquire about real-world consequences of that reading.  Our investigation will address questions of both historical and topical importance:  Is the Romantic legacy of engaging with the natural world harmful to current efforts to address environmental challenges?  How can imaginative literature play an activist role in engaging with pressing ecological threats such as global climate change and ocean acidification?  How do we understand the relationship among the environment, technology, and the human body?  How does thinking about our ethical obligation to animals shape our understanding of environmental issues?  What does environmental literature have to add to current scholarship on race, class, and gender?  Writers studied will include Terry Tempest Williams, Margaret Atwood, Richard Hugo, Karen Tei Yamashita, and Octavia Butler.  Our study of primary texts will be supplemented with scholarship on ecocritical theory, including selections from Stacey Alaimo's Bodily Natures, Timothy Morton's Ecology without Nature, and Rob Nixon's Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. This course fulfills the department’s LCI requirement.

English 381 (360): Major Authors: Thomas Hardy
Darcy Irvin

As an author, Thomas Hardy is perhaps best known for his late Victorian novels that focus on people living in small, isolated towns and villages in the English countryside. In this course, we'll consider Hardy as a transitional figure into Modernism, looking carefully at his radical and challenging depictions of gender and sexual desire, focusing especially on how his characters grapple with restraints such as conventional Victorian marriage structures, class boundaries that inhibited upwards social mobility, and of course the isolation individuals can experience within small, tightly-bound communities. Many of his novels and poems take place in the fictional "Wessex" countryside, which Hardy mapped (both literally and metaphorically) onto the real county of Essex in England. As one of the nineteenth century's greatest environmental writers, how did he construct a disappearing vision of rural life and the natural world? And how did he represent these "Wessex" landscapes and the figures who populate them as increasingly swallowed up by an industrialized modern age? Although most of our conversation will be on Hardy's major novels, we'll also read across genres into his popular short fiction, his well known Wessex poems, his failed attempt at sensation fiction, and even his novels translated into film (Hardy set in Gold Rush California!). In addition, we'll situate Hardy's rural narratives and especially his depictions of the New Woman in a Victorian literary context by occasionally reading supplementary texts (short fiction and non-fiction) that focus on gender roles, industrialization, and sexuality. Major texts may include Far from the Madding Crowd, The Mayor of Casterbridge, The Return of the Native, and Jude the Obscure. Supplementary texts may include short works and excerpts by Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Oscar Wilde, Sarah Grand, and Mona Caird.

English 383 (447): Frontier Mythologies
Tiffany MacBain

At the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, historian Frederick Jackson Turner delivered the speech, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History.” In it, Turner relies upon well-trodden (and still-familiar) images to describe the American frontier: it is a tabula rasa, the “outer edge of the wave” of westward expansion, “the meeting point between savagery and civilization.” While Turner ultimately declares that “the frontier has gone”—closed, retreated—he argues that it leaves behind “the striking characteristics” of the “American intellect” that it forged. Today the idea of the North American frontier, a component of the American West, continues to loom large in the United States cultural imaginary. While contemporary scholars reject elements of Turner’s thesis, they remain convinced that frontier experiences were, and continue to be, formative.

This course examines literature from the 19th century and earlier to trace the development of national ideologies and mythologies indebted to experiences and imaginings of the North American frontier. Rather than limit ourselves to popular representations of a mid-19th-c space west of the Mississippi, we cross temporal, spatial, and cultural borders to achieve a fuller understanding of the literary frontier.  We consider the ways in which texts that articulate a variety of experiences connect with and complicate each other. Primary texts include pre-contact oral narratives, western exploration narratives, captivity narratives, pioneer narratives, and frontier fiction. While the majority of course materials concern iterations of the frontier prior to 1900, we end the semester by identifying and interrogating contemporary efforts to resuscitate or reimagine frontier experiences. The course includes a living-history component, which involves either a field trip or a class visitor. This course fulfills the department’s LCI requirement.

English 383 (458): Logics of History: Historical Narrative and Late-20th C. American Literature
Mike Benveniste

Engaging with Postmodernism and poststructuralist thought, late-20th C. American literature evinced skepticism about ‘facts,’ ‘truth,’ ‘referentiality’ – representation, really – through parody, hyperbole, and auto- or meta-referentiality. Somewhat paradoxically, historical fiction reemerged as a major genre during this period; so much so that many scholars take this genre to be a quintessential Postmodern form. Using this intellectual context as its point-of-departure, this class will explore the questions of how and why diverse writers of this period none-the-less chose to narrate history, and what value such ‘fake’ histories might nonetheless have.

In his 1973 book Metahistory, theorist Hayden White argued that written history is fabricated according to the principles and tropes of fiction; that, in a sense, history is fictional. In this class, we will read historical narratives from the period of the (so-called) Postmodern to the present as we try to answer the question of what point there is to narrating history without the belief that its true? What are the uses and motives of fictional histories? What ends might they serve? Might these novels do anything other than declare that history is a fiction?

To answer such questions, we will read from a multi-ethnic canon of authors, and consider the ways in which racial and ethnic identity inform their fictional projects. Authors may include Toni Morrison, Don DeLillo, Karen Tei Yamashita, Julie Otsuka, Richard Powers, Alejandro Morales among others. Our fiction readings will be paired with a steady diet of theory, covering theories of historiography and historical fiction, Postmodernsim, and theories of fictionality. Selected authors may include Hayden White, FR Ankersmit, Jean Francois Lyotard, Slavoj Zizek, Richard Walsh and Thomas Pavel.

[Note: in addition to a very substantial reading load (300-400 pp per week), this class will have a pronounced theoretical component, involving primary readings in philosophy and critical theory.] This course fulfills the department’s LCI requirement.

English 432: Desire and the Invention of Western Romantic Love
Denise Despres

Patristic thinkers constructed a moral psychology that subordinated human desire to the faculty of the Will.  Earthly desire was a legacy of the Fall, the central paradigm of the corruption of the Will.  Even Augustine, whose writing on married love is sympathetic and supportive, viewed sexual desire as an erosion of the Will.  For other influential patristic writers, such as Jerome and Ambrose, a rejection of voluptas, the capacity for sensual pleasure, was the sole means of conquering the fallen flesh and thus regaining, in some measure, the innocence of Paradise.  A celibate medieval clergy disseminated such views to the laity, attempting to enforce sexual abstinence through penitentials and sermons.  Nonetheless, a classical tradition of wholly amoral and asocial desire (fin amors or courtly love) dominated the cultural scenes of courts from the twelfth through the fifteenth centuries, influencing not only literary production, but also providing the basic construct for desire that still influences Western notions of sexual love today.  In turn, this construct of courtly love generated playful resistance in literary genres like the fabliaux. This course fulfills the department’s pre-1800 requirement.

The historical development of a distinctly Western form of “desire” is the focus of this seminar.  We’ll consider the particular historical moment of its conception, its problematic morality and reception in medieval Catholic culture, its circulation between courtly and mystical literary texts, its growth from and influence on medieval views of gender, sexuality and its use as a vehicle for poetic explorations of “selfhood” (defined in a medieval context).  All of the primary works I’ve selected for discussion are distinctly contradictory in their presentations of desire, both celebrating human desire as an individualizing experience and rejecting sexual obsession as abandonment of free will and thus spiritual rectitude.  Scholars and critics have been delighted and frustrated by these classics, as we will no doubt be.  Our particular purpose, however, is to explore medieval culture through a cultural construct that modern students might mistake for simple, natural emotion, to show how even the way we fall in love  and experience sexual desire is, in part, a legacy of Medieval culture.

English 497: The Writing Internship
Julie Christoph

This course provides an academic setting in which students analyze cultures of professional writing, through both fieldwork and classwork.  In their fieldwork, students will explore career goals by interning 120 hours during the semester either in a writing-related field (such as advertising, publishing, public relations, or journalism), or in a position involving writing in the for-profit or not-for-profit sector. The classroom component is conducted as a once-a-week senior seminar, in which students will workshop writing from their internships and discuss internship experiences through the lens of course readings.

Readings include theoretical articles on such topics as copyright law, ethics, authorship, and technological change, as well as selections from workplace ethnographies. Course assignments will include journal entries connecting internship experiences with academic coursework from the past four years at Puget Sound, a workplace ethnography, and presentations on writing- and work-related issues that arise out of internship experiences. Students will leave the course with a better understanding of how knowledge transfers (and doesn’t) from college to the workplace and will develop personal and vicarious knowledge of the writing and culture of the internship sites represented in the class as a whole.

Humanities 303: The Monstrous Middle Ages
Denise Despres

Today, we naturally “connect” the medieval period with monstrosity, and rightly so. While popular culture has relegated the monstrous to subgenres of film and literature, medieval culture embraced monstrosity and all its ambiguity as the border between human ingenuity and Platonic form, culture and the darker forces of fallen nature, self and the ever-present other (Saracen, Jew, Mongol, Hermaphrodite, to name a few). Humanities 303  explores medieval ontology, the nature of creation and our human ability to know it fully, through the monstrous. Recent research in art history, geography, anthropology, literary history, and cultural studies enables us to offer undergraduates current scholarship in an interdisciplinary format; as cultural historians whose published  scholarship ranges from the disciplines of art history to literary and religious studies, we welcome the opportunity to collaborate in search of an answer to Bernard’s haunting question. Why does monstrosity assume such a visible place in medieval culture?  In turn, we expect that our students will emerge with a critical methodology for cultural studies in other periods. They will not be surprised when they discover that Renaissance historiographers, sharing the classical heritage with medieval intellectuals, were equally fascinated with monstrosity and compiled their own “scientific” works on the marvelous.

SSI2 134: Dreams and Desire: Explorations of the Threshold World
Ann Putnam

The theme of this course is the exploration of the liminal world—the terrain for which there is evidence but no proof.  For example, what do religion, anthropology, philosophy, medicine, psychology, and literature have to say about the seen and the unseen, the threshold between life and death—issues that shoot to the core of human existence and exert the strongest hold on the human spirit?  Students explore the validity of claims about belief and unbelief, the world beyond the senses, made by prophets, priests, poets, shamans, scientists, philosophers.  As both writers and speakers, students construct persuasive arguments based on an evaluation of sources that either contradict or defend given assumptions about the role of liminality in culture, history, identity, and the natural world. Students begin with texts that insist upon controversial readings, such as Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Louis Owens’ Wolfsong, Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits.

SSI2 134: Dreams and Desire: Explorations of the Liminal World
Bev Conner

The thematic content of the course is the exploration of the concept of liminality.  The implicit if not explicit framework of the course will be the construction of persuasive arguments that examine moral, ethical, intellectual, and artistic responses to the concept of liminality—issues that shoot to the core of human existence.  As both writers and speakers, we will construct persuasive arguments that either contradict or defend given assumptions about the role of liminality in culture, history, identity, and the natural world.  Our readings and research will represent divergent points of view that may oppose traditional texts in creative, compelling ways, becoming countertexts, as it were, that question long-held assumptions about our deepest epistemological and existential concerns.

SSI2 138: Theatre and Comedy
Kane Anderson

This writing course studies the theories and uses of comedy in relationship to dramatic literature. We will apply a scholarly eye to plays and other media to break down how certain forms of comedy work and discuss their applications in plays and culture. Through a variety of plays, we will address comedy in conjunction with issues of gender, race, and class to locate the motivations and processes of humor.

SSI2 160: Modernism: Early 20th Century Art, Literature, and Music
Allen Jones

The early 20th century saw a flowering in the arts unmatched since the Renaissance. Picasso, Matisse, Dali, Woolf, Stein, Loy, Stravinsky, the names alone ring out as invocations of genius. Working with figures in all genres and mediums, students trace the development of a style that pushed the boundaries of every art form as it attempted to understand a radically changing world. Students become fluent in the characteristics and techniques (yes, we will try them) of the multiple movements within Modernism (Imagism, Cubism, Surrealism, the Harlem Renaissance, Bauhaus, etc.). Students ponder their dreams with Freud, sing off-key with Stravinsky, turn the world into geometry with Picasso, and figure out why Frank Lloyd Wright would stick a house right on top of a waterfall. As a final project, students will build an online annotated timeline of the period. This is an exciting chance to sharpen critical skills while taking part in an ongoing Digital Humanities research project.

SSI2 177: The Digital Present and Our Possible Techno Futures
Laura Krughoff 

This course is designed to explore the wildly ramified effects digital technology is having on people's intellectual, educational, social, professional, and economic lives. Students will be introduced to a number of arguments about the nature and consequences of some of the changes digital technology is fostering; however, each student is asked to pose his or her own scholarly question within this broad field of inquiry. These questions, and the research they inspire and require, will shape the true content of the course. Students leave this course with new and important information about the potential futures made possible by digital technology. More importantly, however, they leave this course with information literacy, research practices and habits, analytical and argumentative strategies, and rhetorical skills they use across the Puget Sound curriculum and throughout their intellectual lives. 

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