ENGL 220: Introduction to English Studies
TuTh: 12:30 – 1:50 p.m.
This course will introduce you to the discipline of English Studies. Most of us are here because we enjoy 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, with attention to creative and critical thought, textual analysis, and writing. ENGL220 is designed to highlight sets of questions central to the discipline, including: What makes a text "literary"? 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 how this discipline engages with the world around us. Enrollment open to English majors and minors only, or by permission of instructor.
ENGL 228: Introduction to Writing Poetry
TuTh: 2 – 3:20 p.m.
“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 takes seriously Yeats’s idea that what seems offhand spontaneity in poetry is actually the result of careful attention and sustained effort. By stitching and unstitching multiple drafts of our poems, we develop the imagination and critical skills that enable us to grow as poets. Assignments in this course emphasize writing as a process and include the study of canonical and contemporary poems, weekly exercises, in-class discussions, and critiques of peer writing. Each workshop member will produce a collection of approximately six poems by the semester’s end, which will culminate in a public reading by the workshop members. This course counts toward the Interdisciplinary Humanities Pathway: The Artist as Humanist.
ENGL 229: Introduction to Creative Nonfiction
TuTh: 2:00 – 3:20 p.m.
“Creative nonfiction” is a vast genre that is also referred to as “non-fiction prose” and even “literary journalism”; it includes many sub-genres, including the travel essay, the food essay, nature writing, the memoir or personal essay, long-form journalism, even some forms of investigative journalism. In this iteration, 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 essays about place by Rebecca Solnit, Annie Dillard, N. Scott Momaday, James Baldwin, Saidiya Hartman, Rachael Kaadzi Ghansah, Toni Jensen, and others, with particular attention to the writings of young African-American and Native American essayists. Students will write a number of essays – on place, local artifacts, and rituals – and will intertwine their essays with maps and other visual media such as photographs. We will work collaboratively and each essay will be workshopped and revised; students will submit a final portfolio that will include both new and revised writing. This course satisfies the Artistic Approaches core requirement.
ENGL 231: Medieval and Renaissance Literature
MoWeFr: 10:00-10:50 a.m.
In this course, we will read the first stories ever written in the English language (such as Beowulf (ca. 750)), and then we’ll continue reading happily for the next thousand years or so until we end up in hell (Paradise Lost (1667)). Along the way, we’ll spend time with Beowulf in the smoky aftermath of a dragon battle, with Sir Gawain as he marches reluctantly to a showdown with the mysterious Green Knight, with the Wife of Bath as she defends the pleasures of sex to her semi-horrified male interlocutors, with Cordelia as she defies the father she loves, and yes, with Satan as he fashions a grand palace in hell and a grand plan to ruin humanity. We will think about how this literature is shaped by its many historical contexts, and what it has to say to us as readers in the twenty-first century. This means we will ask how our texts play (sometimes subversively) on the various social, political, and religious expectations of their original audiences; but we will also ask enduring questions about what it means in these stories to act courageously (you might be surprised), to live a good life in the midst of evil and suffering, to reconcile a belief in the supernatural with the experience of this world, and to seek a just society. Throughout our exploration, it’s likely you will recognize the origins of many of the characters, plots, and big questions that continue to live in the stories we tell ourselves today. But with that sense of familiarity, you will also encounter the strange, weird, and wonderful, just as you’d expect in stories written in and for cultures so far removed from us in time and space, let alone in cosmology. This course satisfies a pre-1800 requirement for the English major, the Humanistic Approaches core requirement and counts toward the Interdisciplinary Humanities Pathway: The Global Middle Ages.
English 234: American Literature I: Worlds in Conflict
Alison Tracy Hale
Journey back in time to the vibrant, violent, and often chaotic world of colonial and early America! This course deliberately complicates and confounds the progressivist timeline of US history that still persists in many classrooms; instead we’ll consider the conflicts and upheavals that affected peoples across the spaces now known as the U.S. as they came into contact (including so-called “Indian Captivity,” Indigenous acts of resistance, the witchcraft crisis, the “war between the sexes,” conflicts over enslavement and the Atlantic slave trade). We’ll interrogate the myths that have developed around the settlement and founding of what is now the U.S. with particular attention to those voices that have been largely eradicated, oppressed, or otherwise excluded from conventional histories—those of Indigenous peoples, enslaved peoples, free people of color, women, and others—in an effort to provide a messier, more complex, and richer understanding of our past. This course fulfills the pre-1800 requirement in English and the University’s Humanities Approaches core requirement.
ENGL 238: Afrofuturism
MoWeFr: 11 – 11:50 a.m.
This course examines the theoretical foundations and aesthetics of Afrofuturism. The term Afrofuturism was coined in 1993 by scholar Mark Dery and is an all-encompassing term used to describe science fiction work (literature, music, art, etc.) that focuses on Afro-diasporic ways of being and knowing. We will examine the contours of the field of Afrofuturism and decenter traditional science fiction perspectives that erase the existence of people of color in their visions of future worlds. Scholar Alondra Nelson states, “Afrofuturism can be broadly defined as ‘African American voices’ with ‘other stories to tell about culture, technology and things to come’” (Nelson 9). Our course will explore these other stories of things to come. Afrofuturist authors speak into the legacies of colonialism and slavery as well as persistent inequality to examine their impact on imaginings of future worlds and the ongoing technological age. In our course we will read science fiction texts produced by Afrofuturist authors to study the ways that they reimagine the future from the perspectives of Afro-diasporic peoples in the New World. This course fulfills the Humanistic Approaches core requirement and the KNOW graduation requirement.
ENGL 250: Introduction to Literary Theory
MoWeFr: 9:00 - 9:50 a.m.
This course provides an introductory overview of foundational texts in literary and critical theory. Over the course of the semester, students will familiarize themselves with a full toolkit of frameworks and methods for analyzing literature, culture, and society. We will consider the nature of language, reading, and interpretation while also exploring the philosophy of art and literature. At the same time, many of the texts examined in this class will present challenging and controversial claims that seek to overturn worldviews that they describe as both misleading and oppressive. We will tackle texts by social theorists who call into question basic ideological assumptions about topics including identity, knowledge, nature, and power. These theorists will show us that everything is open to critique and, if we engage deeply with their work, we will come away with a very different understanding of who we are and how the world works. To ground our discussions, students will apply these theoretical concepts to landmark literary texts. Course content will draw on perspectives from aesthetics, Marxism, psychoanalysis, New Criticism, structuralism and poststructuralism, queer and feminist theory, postcolonial studies, critical race theory, affect theory, ecocriticism, science and technology studies, media studies, and the postcritical turn. This course satisfies the Humanistic Approaches core requirement and the KNOW graduation requirement.
ENGL 327: Advanced Fiction Writing
TuTh: 12:30 - 1:50 p.m.
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 collections of short fiction to examine how important contemporary short story writers in English 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 in a collectively-produced class anthology and an individually authored 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 358: True Crime in the U.S.
Alison Tracy Hale
MoWe: 2:00 - 3:20 p.m.
Every week there’s a new podcast, Netflix series, or “ripped from the headlines” true crime show. In this course, we will explore several interrelated questions: Where and when did the genre we know as true crime arise? Why are Americans so fascinated by these gruesome topics? What are the thematic, generic, and formal characteristics that define “true crime”? Our reading, listening, and viewing will explore the roots of true crime tales in the US, broadening to include the recent proliferation of true crime media. We’ll consider the relationships between true crime and issues of gender and race, and explore how the genre intersects with larger concerns about policing and justice, economic policy, and social inequity. Major assignments will likely include analytical essays, a presentation on a recent true crime incarnation (e.g., a book, a podcast, limited series, or documentary), and some form of creative inquiry in which you consider how best to tell a crime story. Please be aware that we will be dealing with unpleasant, occasionally gruesome, and disturbing representations of violence, including sexual violence, and that those representations will not always be respectful. While I will deliberately avoid material that is primarily sensationalistic, I urge you to think carefully about whether you are emotionally able to immerse yourself in this topic for an entire semester.
ENGL 361: South Asian Fiction (Representing India, Writing Home)
MoWe: 3:30 - 4:50 p.m.
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 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 Rabindranath Tagore, 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 students most welcome in the class; please contact the professor if you have questions).
(Note 1: I welcome English majors who wish to take this class for 400-level credit and will work with you to meet research expectations appropriate for a senior seminar.
Note 2: Asian Studies students are most welcome in the class; please contact the professor if you have questions).
ENGL 378: Visual Rhetoric
MoWeFr: 10:00 - 10:50 a.m.
Using social media sites as our primary critical inquiry space, this course will examine “the visual” as a rhetorical space that shapes our understanding of how we “see” the world. We will consider the relationships between the self and others through public visual representation, we’ll discuss the blurring of the boundary between public and private spaces online, and we’ll examine the ways that culture shapes and is shaped by the visual rhetorical space. This course challenges you to consider your role as both creator and consumer of visual content, and to identify the ways that race, gender, class, sexuality, disability, and other identities are rendered invisible or hypervisible in our visual digital worlds, and how that conveys messages and makes meaning. This course counts toward the Interdisciplinary Humanities Pathways: Visual Culture and The Artist as Humanist.
ENGL 381: Cleansing the Doors of Perception: William Blake and His Psychedelic Afterlives
MoWeFr: 2:00 - 2:50 p.m.
This course studies the early works of William Blake (1757-1827), British Romantic era poet, painter, philosopher, political radical, and “visionary prophet,” as well as their subsequent influence upon the 1960s counterculture and their resonance with contemporary research in neuroscience, philosophy, and “psychedelic science.” Blake’s “composite art” combines visual and verbal elements to offer a unique reading experience whose aesthetic, intellectual, and for some, spiritual dimensions hold profound relevance for our troubled times. This course counts toward the Interdisciplinary Humanities Pathway: The Artist as Humanist.
ENGL 382: The Irish Literary Revival
TuTh: 2:00 - 3:20 p.m.
“Did that play of mine send out / Certain men the English shot?” asks Yeats in his poem “Man and the Echo,” musing whether the one-act Cathleen ni Houlihan was responsible for the 1916 Easter Rising. “Certainly not,” Paul Muldoon would answer a generation later, rephrasing the couplet: “If Yeats had saved his pencil-lead / would certain men have stayed in bed?” Whether or not we accept a causal relationship between a single literary text and a given political event, that the literature produced in Ireland from the late nineteenth-century through the end of World War II shaped Ireland’s politics and its sense of national identity is undeniable. This course will examine the development of Irish literature written in English during this period, and our reading will include poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction. We will consider a wide range of writers, but particular emphasis will be given to J. M. Synge, Lady Gregory, W. B. Yeats, and James Joyce. Course requirements include regular participation in class discussion, a seminar presentation, a midterm essay, and a final paper. Note: students taking this course to satisfy a 400-level major requirement will be required to meet additional independent research expectations appropriate to a senior seminar.
ENGL 383: Domestic Disturbances: Literature of Turmoil and Promise, 1850 - 1865
TuTh: 9:30 - 10:50
We are living through a critical moment in U.S. life and culture, a moment of deep division over how we conceive of and act upon matters that affect us as individuals and a collective. In this sense, the nation is again—or perhaps still—as Abraham Lincoln described it in 1858, “a house divided.” The roots of contemporary concerns are firmly anchored in the experiences, policies, and practices of the nineteenth century U.S., a period of national self-construction replete with contradiction and injustice. This course examines the literature of that earlier age of turmoil, specifically the years that led to and spanned the American Civil War, 1850 – 1865. Students will study texts that engage with “domestic” matters in both senses of the word—the familial and the national, the personal and the political—to develop an understanding of the predominant and the radical thinking that reflected and shaped that age, as well as ages hence. The reading list will include materials of various genres and lengths, and will represent the work of authors like Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, Herman Melville, Susan Warner, William Wells Brown, Henry David Thoreau, Harriet Jacobs, Louisa May Alcott, Rebecca Harding Davis, and Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton. Students may also read one or two contemporary works that engage imaginatively with times past—for example, Simon Ortiz’s From Sand Creek, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, George Saunders’s Lincoln in the Bardo, Geraldine Brooks’s March, or Layli Long Soldier’s “38.” Note: students taking this course to satisfy a 400-level major requirement will be required to meet additional independent research expectations appropriate to a senior seminar.