Fall 2020 Course Descriptions

The following courses fulfill the pre-1800 requirement for all majors: ENGL 232, 381, and 432.

ENGL 220: Introduction to English Studies
Darcy Irvin
MoWeFr: 10:00-10:50

ENGL 220 is designed to highlight sets of questions central to the discipline: What is a literary text? What is genre, and how do craft and form relate to content? How do literary texts reflect and influence the world around us? How might we engage meaningfully with text?  This course may challenge 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 social and academic politics that influence the discipline and that the discipline will enable you to influence.


ENGL 220: Introduction to English Studies
Priti Joshi
TuTh: 3:30-4:50

ENGL 220 is designed to highlight sets of questions central to the discipline: What is a literary text? What is genre, and how do craft and form relate to content? How do literary texts reflect and influence the world around us? How might we engage meaningfully with text?  This course may challenge 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 social and academic politics that influence the discipline and that the discipline will enable you to influence. 


ENGL 227: Introduction to Writing Fiction
Laura Krughoff
TuTh 11:00-12:20 

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 selections from 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 through scene writing. In the second half of the semester, students will write, workshop, and revise two complete short stories. 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 228: Introduction to Writing Poetry
William Kupinse
TuTh: 11:00-12:20

“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.


ENGL 229: Introduction to Creative Non-Fiction (Writing About Place)
Priti Joshi
TuTh: 2:00-3:20

“Creative nonfiction” is a vast genre that goes by many names such as “non-fiction prose” and even “literary journalism”; it includes many sub-genres, including the Essay, travel writing, food writing, nature writing, memoir, long-form journalism, even some forms of investigative journalism. In Fall 2020, our focus will be on Writing About Place with particular attention to our town and region. We will work to explore the novel in our midst and also defamiliarize the familiar, to see it with new eyes, as T. S. Eliot urges when he writes:
                              We shall not cease from exploration
                              And the end of all our exploring
                              Will be to arrive where we started
                              And know the place for the first time.
We will read seminal texts of travel writing about place by writers such as Rebecca Solnit who has explored and exposed her city, San Francisco, so searingly; Pico Iyer on California and Japan; Bill Bryson; Joan Didion; Anthony Bourdain; Mary Morris; Robyn Davidson and others. Students will write about place in a variety of registers, for different audiences, and on several platforms: a blog, a sense essay, a travel brochure, an essay about a public space or monument, a photo essay, and a piece that includes historical research. We will work collaboratively and each essay will be workshopped and revised; students will submit a final portfolio of materials 


ENGL 232: British Literature II
George Erving
MoWeFr 11:00-11:50

This version of English 232 focuses on literary art of the Romantic Period (late 18th C. to early 19th C.), especially its exploration of enduring philosophical questions about the nature of consciousness: to what extent does the mind create the reality it experiences? What is the mind’s relationship to the body, and to the natural world? What is the significance of creativity, imagination, and art for our understanding of ourselves and of the worldviews we hold? The course then traces the legacy of Romanticism as it finds expression in the cultural revolution of the 1960s, as well as in contemporary philosophy, neuroscience, psychology, physics, and the “Psychedelic Renaissance” of our times.


ENGL 236: American Literature and Culture: Race, Queer Sexuality, and Environmental Justice
Jordan Carroll
MoWeFr: 3:00-3:50

This course will explore literature in the U.S. after 1900. After examining racial oppression and homoerotic desire in modern and midcentury U.S. literature, the class will wrap up with an extended sequence on environmental racism that will show how postmodern and contemporary authors have written about the unequal impact of toxic pollution and other forms of environmental devastation on marginalized communities. In addition to gaining a better understanding of literary movements including modernism, postmodernism, and magical realism, students will consider how literary forms might foster a new appreciation for interconnectedness in both solidarity and oppression. The class is expected to cover authors including Gertrude Stein, Nella Larsen, H.D., Marianne Moore, Muriel Rukeyser, Patricia Highsmith, James Baldwin, Gary Snyder, Leslie Marmon Silko, Don Delillo, Karen Tei Yamashita, Ana Castillo, Claudia Rankine, and Nalo Hopkinson. 


ENGL 248: Children’s and Young Adult Literature
Alison Tracy Hale
TuTh12:30-1:50

What is young adult (YA) literature? When and how did it first emerge, and why has it become one of the most successful genres in publishing at a moment when we keep hearing that books and reading are dying out? How has YA literature, conventionally seen as distinct from serious literature, nevertheless been at the forefront of addressing some of the most pressing issues of our era? These days, YA texts deal with everything from personal questions of sexual and gender identity to issues of sexual violence, poverty, racism and police violence, societal collapse, and environmental devastation.

In this course, we’ll immerse ourselves in these and other questions, reading a wide range of YA literature across genres (romance, fantasy, horror, poetry, graphic novels), across time periods (from the 19th Century to today), and across thematic preoccupations to consider the significant generic elements and cultural concerns that motivate and define the field. We’ll read some early examples (probably Little Women and The Outsiders) as well as a range of much more recent works (TBD). We’ll also consider critical and historical approaches to the genre. Course assignments include critical analysis papers on both historical and contemporary texts; a “sample chapter” and query letter for your own YA text; an “editorial report” on a set of contemporary works of your choosing.


ENGL 327: Advanced Fiction Writing
Renee Simms
TuTh 3:30-4:50

This is an advanced workshop in the writing and craft of fiction. You are expected to have written fiction before this semester and to have a firm command of grammar, syntax, prose composition, and to have read widely. 

The work of the course is writing, reading the writing of your peers, responding to the writing of your peers, and reading and discussing the work of two prizewinning, genre-bending novels, The Changeling by Victor LaValle and The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell.

The heart of this class is the workshop. You will submit three manuscripts—two original stories/novel excerpts and one revised story/novel excerpt (submissions should be between 3,000-6,000 words).  Your final project will consist of the fully revised manuscript and two letters: one that explains the revisions you’ve made in the revised manuscript and a second letter explaining the revisions you will make in the second work.

ENGL 348: Illness and Narrative
Darcy Irvin
MoWe 2:00-3:20

How do we describe a disease, medical condition, or illness? Why do we tell stories about sickness, and who gets to tell such stories? In what ways does language sometimes falter when we try to communicate our suffering? This course will focus on how literature—and narrative, especially—intersects with discourses of illness and disease. Throughout the semester, we'll explore how literature can both produce and challenge power hierarchies between medical professionals and patients; the role that literature plays in our conceptions and definitions of illness and health; the ways in which literary texts can help us negotiate medical ethical dilemmas; the relationship between literature, empathy, and medicine; and the limitations of language and literature in describing suffering. Although our primary focus will be on literary texts, we'll also consider a number of theoretical frameworks to help us discuss both these texts and the social constructs surrounding the practice and representation of medicine and illness. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, students will have the option of a creative project in which they construct their own narrative about illness. Texts may include such works as Terry Tempest Williams’ environmental autobiography Refuge, Michael Ondaatje’s World War II novel The English Patient, José Saramago's plague narrative Blindness, and Jane Austen’s comedic novel Persuasion, as well as a variety of short stories, poems, essays, photographs, TV shows, and radio programs.


ENGL 374: Literature and the Environment
William Kupinse
MoWe 3:30-4:50

Ecology 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 that proposes that human freedom is best ensured by unregulated capitalism—threaten both 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.  The course will cover climate-related topics from the Anthropocene to immigration justice to treaty rights to indigenous ecological knowledge.  Course requirements include written essays, as well as a midterm and final exam.  Toward the end of the semester, students will have the opportunity to explore environmental activism through a creative writing project.  This course confers credit to both the English major (as a Constructing Knowledge course) and the EPDM major/minor (as a General Elective).


ENGL 378: Visual Rhetoric
Jordan Carroll
MoWeFr 9:00-9:50

This course investigates how texts might generate and require a literacy that is visual before it is lexical. By tracing the relationship between words and images in a variety of genres including illustrated novels, photographic essays, comic books, film, and zines, students explore how images convey, argue, and narrate cultural, political, and personal stories. In addition to these primary texts, readings include seminal essays in semiotics and cultural studies that enable students to examine the distinctions between visual literacy and print
literacy, the relationship between word and image, and what it means to be visually literate.


ENGL 381: Major Authors: John Milton
John Wesley
MoFr 12:00-1:20

John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667) takes the reader from hell to heaven, and everywhere in between. This is the epic to end all epics—the story not only of human destiny, but also of the origins of epic itself. Here is the first war, the first love affair, and the first heroes and villains. In presenting this archetypal story, Milton lifts Adam, Eve, Satan, a host of demons and angels from their spare figurations in the Bible, and fleshes them out with rich description, interiority, and speech. What could have prompted such an ambitious endeavor? We begin our study of Milton with his early poetry and prose, and we will use these texts in order to develop historical, theological, and political frameworks with which to eventually analyze the epic for which he is best known. Whatever your own inclinations (aesthetic, political, religious) my hope is that you gain a critical appreciation for what is widely considered the most learned poetry written in the English language—poetry that distills centuries of ancient philosophy and literature while at the same time producing strikingly original images and concepts. Indeed, you will find Milton conventional and conformist, and yet also radically countercultural and non-conformist; culturally and subjectively foreign, yet strangely familiar. Above all, Milton’s work rewards patience (note that I don’t require agreement, but I do require engagement). As we move through the course, you are encouraged to track certain ideas or themes that interest you, one of which you will develop into a final research paper of ~12 pages.


ENGL 431: Senior Seminar: American Gothic America
Alison Tracy Hale
MoWe 2:00-3:20

As Toni Morrison observed, “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.

Conventional narratives contend that US national identity is based on progress, reason, and optimism; the literature you will read in this course intentionally undermines that narrative, reinscribing the American "dream" as an American "nightmare." While the gothic genre was once derided as an escapist form of sensational fiction unworthy of critical attention, recent work has challenged such an easy distinction between America’s progressive mythology and its gothic undercurrents, situating gothic texts as central to the expression, articulation, repression, and management of significant tensions in American culture and identity. Over the semester, we will explore the very idea of an American gothic through both literature and theory: 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?

In addition to short critical and creative assignments and a presentation on a critical text, this senior seminar culminates in individual student projects.  The research process involves multiple stages: identifying a topic, refining a research question, and using primary and secondary sources to produce a substantial, original contribution to the critical conversations surrounding the gothic. To facilitate that work, the course will adopt some of the characteristics of a writing workshop, incorporating peer-review and ongoing revision.


ENGL 432: Senior Seminar: Art and Magic
Denise Despres
TuTh 9:30-10:50

The controversial term “magic” has been used in Western culture since the 5th century, when the Greeks applied it to their “foreign” enemies the Persians as a marker of alterity.  Although applicable to practices and objects, “magic” came to be associated in the West with illusion and artifice (Art), in contradistinction to Science (empirical knowing) or Religion (legitimate cultic observance).  As an “art” or “craft,” magic is like fiction writing, theater, and all imaginative enterprises in its ability to simulate “reality” to foster mimetic desire (emotional contagion), employ a special language in performance, and encourage associative thinking. Our course is an intensively participatory seminar on Art and Magic from 5th century Athens to Neil Gaiman’s magical realism.  Our course reader is an interdisciplinary work entitled Defining Magic, featuring writings on magic from Plato to British anthropologist Susan Greenwood (who is a practitioner of magic).  We’ll read primary works inclusive of Medea (Euripides), Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare), Frankenstein (Mary Shelley),  I Tituba (Maryse Conde), and Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I expect that most of my students have read one or two of these influential works and will find it intriguing to look at them together from an interdisciplinary (historical, anthropological, cultural, and even popular and nonacademic) perspective.  The writing load for the course will be appropriate to a 400-level seminar but will provide an opportunity for creative work in the final project.