Fall 2019 Course Descriptions

The following courses fulfill the pre-1800 requirement for all majors: ENGL 234ENGL 357, ENGL 381, and ENGL 432.

ENGL 220A: Introduction to English Studies
MoWeFr 10:00 - 10:50 AM

Darcy Irvin

English 220 is a gateway course designed to prepare you for the English survey and upper division special topics classes. Rather than focus on literature from a specific period or genre, we will instead read a wide variety of texts in order to help us understand literature as a field of study. What constitutes a work of literature and what does literature do? What kinds of reading practices do we employ in order to study literary texts? And who decides which texts are "literary"? Although we will close read these texts through discussion and formal argumentative essays, we'll also approach these literary works through creative assignments. For Fall 2019, our major texts will likely be Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, and Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare. We will also read poetry and short stories by a wide range of authors, including Margaret Atwood, Octavia Butler, Italo Calvino, Emily Dickinson, and Haruki Murakami.

ENGL 220B: Introduction to English Studies
MoWe 3:30 - 4:50 PM

Mita Mahato 

This course serves as an introduction to the English major and minor and provides a foundation for the study of literature though reading, analyzing, and writing about a variety of literary and non-literary texts. This section, which takes “crafty analysis” as its organizing theme, will ask you to explore and practice skills and critical methods of English Studies through an engaged and reflexive examination of 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, you 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, as well as their histories and developments over time, will be introduced. Reading and viewing selections all feature some dimension of the idea of craft—whether related to the act of making, or the act of deception (being “crafty”).

ENGL 227A: Introduction to Writing Fiction
MoWeFr 11:00 - 11:50 AM

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 as an introduction to essential matters of 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.

ENGL 228A: Introduction to Writing Poetry
TuTh 11:00 AM - 12:20 PM

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 our poems, we will hone the critical skills that will allow us 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.  Each workshop member will produce a collection of approximately twelve poems by the semester’s end, and a public reading of student work will provide participants with a culminating experience.

English 234: American Literature and Culture. Alexander Hamilton’s America
TuTh 12:30 - 1:50 PM

Alison Tracy Hale

This course shamelessly exploits the popularity of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical Hamilton, using it as a lens through which to explore the literary and cultural dimensions of Alexander Hamilton’s (1755/7?-1804) era. The course will introduce you to the colonial and revolutionary world Hamilton experienced, drawing on his own biography and on a wide range of primary and literary texts including letters, essays, broadsides, fiction, and poetry. You will develop a familiarity with the preoccupations, conflicts, and aesthetics of the eighteenth-century U.S. while honing your skills in interpretation, research, and the development of evidence-based arguments. Course assignments will likely include the collaborative production of an annotated “scholarly edition” of a primary document, a biographical or historical presentation, some literary close reading and analysis, and a creative lyrical revision. In addition, of course, our conversation will include the implications of the musical—with its deliberate re- invention of America’s “founding,” its use of vernacular musical forms, and its conscious casting of actors of color in its key roles—in today’s political and social climate. This course fulfills a pre-1800 requirement.

ENGL 236A: US Fiction from Cold War to Metamodernism (WWII to the Present)
TuTh 11:00 AM - 12:20 PM

Mike Benveniste

In this course we will survey major movements and authors in American fiction from World War II to the present, emphasizing the formal analysis of contemporary literary production in dialogue with its historical context. So doing, we will explore these works as aesthetic responses to their socio-historical circumstances, which thereby offer creative, qualitative responses to and analyses of the major circumstances of US social life since World War II. These contexts include, but are not limited to: the Cold War with Russia until its putative conclusion in 1989, and the subsequent era of global geopolitical instability; the rise of postwar Liberalism, and slow transition to Neoliberal capitalism; Postmodernism, as both an intellectual and social/material context; the civil rights movement, desegregation, Multiculturalism and the rise of ethnic and racial social advocacy movements in society as well as higher education, and the development of multiethnic literature, among others. We will read and discuss primarily novels and short fiction (possibly film, too) that has emerged in dialogue with the social crises and conflicts in order to better understand the ways in which inherited literary forms are picked up and refunctioned by writers to respond to the exigent social demands of their present. The course will feature a diverse and multiethnic canon of writers which may include: Richard Wright, Carlos Bulosan, Ralph Ellison, Philip Roth, Thomas Pynchon, Maxine Hong Kingston, Ishmael Reed, Toni Morrison, Charles You, Carmen Maria Machado, George Saunders, Junot Diaz, Chang Rae Lee and Gary Shteyngart, among others. 

ENGL 240A: Writing in the Digital Age: Multimodal Composition
TuTh 3:30 - 4:50 PM

Regina Duthely

When we think of writing and composing, alphabetic writing is often the first thing that comes to mind. We have been conditioned to think about writing and composing as black letters on white paper. However, composing has never been solely limited to alphabetic forms of communication. Images and sounds have always been deployed in communication. Texts like advertisements and picture books have always used multiple modes simultaneously to communicate ideas. By expanding our ideas of what counts as writing we can, as composition scholar Claire Lutkewitte claims, “discover other ways of knowing and communicating ideas besides the ways we know and communicate through traditional print-based writing” (11). Thus, this course will explore the theoretical foundations of multimodal composition and digital writing, and engage in composing across various mediums. Students will experiment with multiple modes of communicating through composing projects that may include soundscapes, HTML and CSS coding, zines, memes, and more! 

ENGL 242A: Introduction to Native American Literature
TuTh 12:30 - 1:50 PM

Tiffany MacBain

This course functions as a survey of Native American literature from beginnings to the contemporary moment. Oral storytelling and creation narratives introduce students to traditions, subjects, and modes of discourse that characterize the literature. The Native-dictated autobiographies of the mid-nineteenth-century stand as the earliest written Native texts, but the nature of their production requires us to acknowledge and contend with the complicated conditions surrounding translation projects of the nineteenth century and, further, with the ongoing effects of such mediation. The literature of the late-nineteenth and the twentieth centuries is directly Native-authored but also socio-politically motivated and influential in its focus upon the effects of ongoing colonization. Topics of central and abiding concern to these texts include mixed-race identity, the tension between tribal custom and assimilation, Pan-Indianism, and American Indian nationalism. Twenty-first century texts continue this work but increasingly imagine (and so help to create) a decolonized future for the United States.

Through the study of canonical, non-canonical, and new-canonical texts, students develop a nuanced understanding of a long and significant—yet, to many, still unfamiliar—literary tradition. Students also gain awareness of tribal distinctions and points of critical concern within the field of study. Students write summarily and critically, and may create oral, written, and visual texts. Introduction to Native American Literature satisfies the university’s KNOW requirement and is a Foundations course in English.

ENGL 327A: Advanced Fiction Writing
MoWeFr 2:00 - 2:50 PM

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 five early drafts and three final drafts of original short fiction. The semester will culminate with your third short story and an artist’s statement that illuminates what you have learned about your own body of work over the semester. 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.

ENGL 328A: Advanced Poetry Writing
TuTh 2:00 - 3:20 PM

William Kupinse

The Fall 2019 semester of Advanced Poetry Writing will bring an ecocritical approach to the study of poetry and to the writing of poems by workshop members.  Working from the recognition that all poems—whether implicitly or explicitly—invoke a worldview with ecological implications, we will consider a range of environmental topics: ecopoetics, environmental justice, queer ecology, place attachment, climate change, the Anthropocene, and much more.  Over the course of the semester, we will consider how poetry engages with the world around us, how innovative forms of expression can bear witness to both individual and collective experience, and how poetry can inform thought and inspire action during times of ecological crisis. 

Since our writing develops to the fullest when we study the example of other writers, both established and emerging, ENGL 328 will explore a range of poems and poets with ecological commitments.  We will begin with Tommy Pico’s book-length Nature Poem (2017) as a means of considering how one writes with a relationship to tradition, even if that tradition isn’t always what the writer might have hoped for.  We will devote the greater part of our attention during the semester to the recent anthology Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology (2018), studying writing that address topics ranging from food justice, to love poems in the time of the Anthropocene, to nature’s disregard for borders.

At the same time, we will be writing and revising our own poems, with assignments that balance opportunities for reflection on environmental topics of the poet’s own choosing with open subject, open form assignments.  At times, we will move beyond the poetry classroom via a field trip to a Tacoma area environment, and perhaps even beyond our comfort zone in the form of a public poetry reading at the semester’s end.

English 357A: The City as Text
MoWe 2:00 - 3:20 PM

Alison Tracy Hale

What does it mean to “read” a city? How have city spaces produced—and how do they continue to negotiate—our understandings of our history, our present, and our identities? This course considers such questions through a focus on the city of Philadelphia, drawing from a wide variety of materials—literature, newspapers, images, maps, film, essays, ephemera, etc.—to consider how the city was read, understood, and experienced by its inhabitants, as well as by wider publics and audiences, in different eras and contexts. We will explore how the city has historically served as a key site of contest over notions of “the urban,” “the public,” “citizenship,” and other significant ideological concepts. We will further consider how key moments in Philadelphia’s history expose the racial, cultural, and political tensions that lurk beneath—or, perhaps, intersect with--the city’s celebrated identity as the birthplace of our democracy, home to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. The course will focus on several discrete eras in the city’s history, including the Yellow Fever outbreak of the 1790s and the racial and economic unrest of the 1980s, during which Philadelphia police infamously bombed a row house that sheltered members of the radical Black liberation group MOVE. The course is not designed as a “history” of Philadelphia but as an examination of the competing populations, narratives, discourses, and interpretations that have circulated at distinct points in its history. Come prepared to read widely in multiple genres as we consider the different meanings Philadelphia has assumed in the local and national imaginary. This course fulfills a pre-1800 requirement.

ENGL 361A: Representing India, Writing Home
MoWe 5:00 - 6:20 PM

Priti Joshi

This course will focus on the variety and complexity of writing from India. We will concentrate on novels, introduced to India by the British, and consider whether the genre is a colonial import. Our focus will be
on the ways the novel form struggled simultaneously to absorb, distance, and refashion itself from the British. We will ask the following questions: What role, if any, did the novel have to play in colonialism, anti-colonialism, and nationalism? Is the novel an appropriate form to represent “Indians”? How do the novels participate in definitions of what constitutes an “Indian” and do these definitions shift in the course of the century? Can the Indian novel represent the concerns of “home” as well as it does nation? Does the novel serve the interests primarily of men? Why have women chosen to write short stories – and avoided colonial topics? Readings: works by Mulk Raj Anand, Salman Rushdie, Anita Desai, Vikram Chandra, Amitav Ghosh, Sadat Hassan Manto, Vikram Chandra and others. We will supplement the literature with historical readings and post-colonial theory. All readings will be in English. (Asian Studies/PacRim students most welcome in the class; please contact the professor if you have questions).

ENGL 374A: Literature and the Environment: Imaginative Interventions in the Climate Crisis
We 4:00 - 6:50 PM

William Kupinse

cology and economics share the same etymological root; each derives from the Greek word oikos, meaning home. Despite this common origin, present day neoliberal economic practices—neoliberalism being the political philosophy proceeding from the questionable claim that unregulated capitalism best ensures human well-being—threaten our planet’s ecology and its ability to support its inhabitants, both human and non-human. This course examines how imaginative writing might intervene in the most existential of all of neoliberalism’s many catastrophes: the climate crisis.

Through our reading of recent and contemporary novels, poetry, investigatory journalism, and ecocritical theory, we will seek to understand how literature can help us to imagine a just and genuinely sustainable future. We will thus be particularly interested in how writers with ecological ethical commitments envision writing as a form of activism. We will study a range of writers from around the world, including Helon Habila, Barbara Kingsolver, Craig Santos Perez, Naomi Klein, Donna Haraway, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, and Aka Niviâna, with a concluding unit devoted to the Pacific Northwest. Topics we will address include include immigration justice, treaty rights, indigenous ecological knowledge, ecofeminism, and queer ecology. In addition to a more traditional midsemester essay, toward the end of the semester, students will have the opportunity to participate in a creative, collaboratively designed project that takes the skills and knowledge developed during the semester and applies them to an environmental issue beyond the classroom. (A recent class created a podcast series on local water issues, for example: Literature and the Environment: Water Podcast.)

ENGL374 welcomes both English majors/minors (for whom regular 300-level prerequisites apply) and EPDM majors/minors (for whom the English major prerequisites are waived). ENGL374 gives credit to English students as a Constructing Knowledge course and to EPDM students as an EPDM General Elective. No add code is needed to register.

ENGL 378A: Visual Rhetoric
TuTh 9:30 - 10:50 AM

Mita Mahato

This course unsettles traditional approaches to reading by emphasizing the visual qualities of text. Through critical and creative assignments that utilize both word and image, students 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 fundamental questions we will ask of visual literacy as we turn to illustrated novels. From there, we will spend time examining the emerging medium of comics, in which the argument of the book depends upon the 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 construct 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, Shaun Tan’s  The Arrival, and Maya Deren’s “Meshes of the Afternoon.” 

ENGL 379A: Special Topics in Theory: Contemporary Black Feminist Theory
MoWe 3:30 - 4:50 PM

Regina Duthely

This course will examine contemporary Black feminist theory and the ongoing conversations about feminism in pop culture. As intersectionality (coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw) has become a household term, and Twitter users debate whether or not Beyoncé is truly a feminist, a turn to reexamine the history of Black feminist theories as well as an examination of Black feminism in the public sphere is vital. This course will begin to take up that examination. Together we will trace the recent history of Black feminist scholarship from inside and outside of the academy. Readings may include Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower, Thick: And Other Essays, Black Feminism Reimagined: After Intersectionality as well as earlier Black feminist work by Audre Lorde, bell hooks, and Patricia Hill-Collins. Students can also expect to study pop culture representations of Black womanhood in media such as film, music, and television.

English 381A: Major Authors: William Blake
MoWeFr 2:00 - 2:50 PM

George Erving

This course studies the works of William Blake (1757-1827), canonical Romantic period poet, artist, prophet, political radical, religious nonconformist, and inspiration for the 1960s counter-culture. Aided by the William Blake Digital Archive and a variety of critical essays written by influential scholars in Blake studies, we examine Blake’s oeuvre from various interpretive angles—formal, artistic, archetypal, psychological, political, theological, and philosophical—and immerse ourselves in his composite art, where verse and illustration interact to create a uniquely profound aesthetic, intellectual, and for some, spiritual experience.

ENGL 431A: Senior Experience Seminar--The Literature of Identity: Contemporary US Fiction
TuTh 2:00 - 3:20 PM

Mike Benveniste

After WWII, with the ascendancy of Liberalism and with it Late Modernism, Postmodernism, and Whatever-is-after-Postmodernism, scholars noted the decline of the realist novel, the political novel, and linguistic referentiality, in general. However, in that same period, scholars have recognized the political force of ethnic literatures, focused on its capacity to represent identity. As such, literature (and cultural representation) came to be understood as a central cite for identity politics, and the politics of identity. This suggests that literature is, paradoxically, both representational and non-representational, and in recent years, some scholars of ethic literatures, like Candace Chuh and Kenneth Warren, have challenged the notion ethnic literatures represent ethnic identities/collective subjects. In 2011, Warren’s brilliant and incendiary What was African American Literature? alleged that African American literature no longer existed, per se, but had been replaced with a more elastic “literature of identity,” leaving many to wonder who, and what, ethnic literatures might then represent.

So, how do we use fictions of identity? And, how does the context of the present affect the way we, and writers, might do so? In this course we will explore the problems and possibilities of representing identity in fiction. Specifically, we will examine how contemporary writers confront this expectation, and how they manage the “burden of authenticity” (Chuh) placed on ethnic writers. Our enquiry will be framed by a number of conceptual issues: What do we assume ethnic fictions represent/do? What formal challenges does collective identity present?  What – and how – does fiction ‘represent’ and, thus, in what sense can identities be represented in fiction? What is the relationship between representation and narration? More centrally, we will consider whether ethnic fictions need to ‘represent’ identity in order to examine race and ethnicity. Though these questions will be framed by theoretical readings (in narratology, philosophy, and theories of fiction and identity), they will be answered through our readings of contemporary ethnic writing. Authors covered might include Junot Diaz, Colson Whitehead, Chang Rae Lee, Karen Tae Yamashita, Jesmyn Ward, Paul Beatty, Toni Morrison, Catherine Lacey, or Nell Zink, among others.

NOTE: This course will involve an extremely substantial reading load, sometimes as many as 400 pages per week, and will also cover challenging readings in contemporary literary theory and narratology.

ENGL 432A: Senior Experience Seminar--Shakespeare Redux
MoWeFr 2:00 - 2:50 PM

John Wesley

In this class, we’ll study a selection of Shakespeare’s plays, locating them in their early modern historical and cultural contexts, before turning to some works they inspired in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Alongside theories of adaptation, genre, language, and culture, we will consider the purpose and significance of reimagining Shakespeare’s plots and characters in a variety of forms (but primarily novels and film). To what extent do these retellings maintain, stretch, or undo their originals? What do they tell us about the priorities of our own culture, including what it means to accept or dismiss traditional canons? And what lies behind the invocation of Shakespeare, if not canonicity? As part of a final independent research project, students will write on a play and a retelling of their own choosing.