Spring 2018 Courses
The following courses fulfill the pre-1800 requirement for all majors: ENGL 232, ENGL 372, ENGL 381, ENGL 383
The following courses require a permission code from the instructor: ENGL 327, ENGL 328, ENGL 434
English 213: Autobiography/Biography: Writings from the River: The Self as Hero
This course will examine the genre critically and creatively, thinking how the self both creates and is created by the text. We will explore connections and differences among autobiography, biography, literary memoir, and personal essay. We will consider how and experience why writing about the self so often entails an act of courage. In this last regard, we will give thoughtful attention to a diverse genre that spans cultures, genders, classes, and ages. And in exploring the myth of objectivity, we will also reflect on how imagination may play a part in telling the greater truths. We will read Full Moon at Noontide, A Daughter’s Last Goodbye by Professor Ann Putnam, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff, and one other memoir.
English 220: Introduction to English Studies
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'll 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? Who decides which texts are "literary"? And what kinds of reading practices do we employ in order to study literary texts? Although we will close read these texts through discussion and formal argumentative essays, we'll also approach these literary works through creative assignments. For Spring 2018, 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'll also read poetry and short stories by a wide range of authors, including Italo Calvino, Margaret Atwood, Octavia Butler, Emily Dickinson, and Haruki Murakami.
English 220: Introduction to English Studies
This class will introduce you to the discipline of English Studies. While our personal experiences with text can be productive starting points in textual analysis, the study of English requires discipline—in the twin senses of work ethic and mastery of a branch of knowledge. This course will explore what it means to study English at the university level: in short, it will introduce and help you to develop the skills of reading actively, critically, and creatively and of executing substantive literary analyses—skills that are essential to further study in English. In addition, we will consider personal, cultural, and ideological claims about what “literature” is and explore why, in an era dominated by STEM studies (science, technology, engineering, and math), English is more important than ever.
The course is designed to highlight sets of questions central to the discipline: What is a literary text? What is genre? Who should decide what “counts” as literature, and why? How ought we to read a literary text? How do literary texts relate to social contexts? This course will likely challenge some of the assumptions and beliefs you have about what it means to be an English major, about the value of different kinds of texts, and about the politics—cultural, academic, ideological—that influence the discipline. Course requirements include creative writing assignments (with the choice of genre open), short analytic essays, a group presentation, and a final research project.
English 227: Introduction to Fiction Writing
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 227: Introduction to Fiction Writing
When asked for advice on starting a band, Blondie singer Debbie Harry replied, "Learn to play your instruments, then get sexy." This class is all about mastering the basics before you can get sexy. You’ll learn the basic elements of fiction: plot, character, structure, point of view, timeline, setting, and tone. We learn them by reading a lot, including stories by Junot Díaz, ZZ Packer, and Sherman Alexie, and writing a lot: flash fictions, reading reflections, short stories, exercises. By the end of the semester, you’ll have produced three short stories and a revision, and begun a lively acquaintance with one of the world’s most flexible and exciting art forms, the short story.
English 228: Introduction to Writing: Poetry
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 232: British Literature II
This course examines the long eighteenth century (circa 1665-1830) through the lens of its visualization technologies. Beginning with the popularization of the microscope and telescope, we will trace the impact of new ways of seeing on the literary imagination. With the revelation of active worlds teeming below the normal threshold of human perception, experimental science rejuvenated ancient theories about a “Great Chain” or hierarchy of beings large and small. This attention finds poetic corollaries in intensely focused observations of the world and in imaginative projections into the lives of insects and animals. But while the microscope opened new vistas to exploration, it also encouraged nightmarish fantasies about living with acutely enhanced sensation. Rather than mourning the limitations of our senses, many argued, we should rejoice at our obliviousness to overwhelming details. Thus Alexander Pope would famously proclaim: “Why has not man a microscopic eye? For this plain reason, man is not a fly.” In considering how eighteenth-century writers grappled with the revelations of mediated vision, we will learn to attend closely to the written word across genres. Note: As a digital humanities course, we will make regular use of collaborative annotation software to track recurring themes across our readings.
English 233: British Literature III
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. As they witnessed emerging identities for women, the globalizing effects of the British Empire, and the increasing mechanization and industrialization of labor, how did Victorians grapple with their 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. 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 Bram Stoker, Elizabeth Gaskell, Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, and Zadie Smith.
English 236: Modern U.S. Literature (1917-Contemporary)
This survey course outlines the literary production of the United States from (roughly) WWI to the present. Much of what has shaped the course of modern American Literature has been an on-going debate, implicitly and explicitly, over what “American Literature” is, who would be included in such a canon, and, whether or not such a grouping is meaningful at all. Rather than attempting to confine the literature of this period to a single historical narrative, this course will to attend to the myriad ways that writers have adapted inherited notions of literature and aesthetics as a part of their response to their political and historical moment. Consequently, we will strive to cultivate a dialectical understanding of texts as simultaneously historical artifacts and creative projects. So doing, we will explore a diverse group of writers who have claimed their place within the literature of the U.S. over the last hundred-plus years, endeavoring to understand their work as a mediated response to the exigencies of their socio-cultural context.
What this means is that this class will not be about ‘the Story of American Literature’; no such unifying story exists. Nor will this class be about learning about US history through literature. Instead, this class will be about literary history in context, and, therefore the goal is not so much a single narrative of history or literature, but a way of thinking about the relationship between literature and history. As we explore this changing relationship, we will see that literary history is ultimately located in the way writers receive and innovate upon aesthetic forms (like Modernism, Postmodernism, etc…) as they respond to or engage the pressing issues of their day.
English 237: American Literature and Culture: Beyond Borders: Afrofuturism and Dreaming of the Beyond
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 an Afro-diasporic epistemology and ontology. Afrofuturism proposes that visions of the future and the media technologies that enable them are always profoundly marked by the histories of colonialism and slavery as well as present-day racial inequalities and exclusions. With the popularity of YA dystopias like The Hunger Games and the Divergent series, a turn to explore the Afro-diasporic presence in literature that imagines the future is necessary. In our contemporary digital moment Afrofuturism asks the question, who remains when the world has ended? Our course will explore the place of Blackness in imaginings of the potential future. We will 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. This course introduces students to the aesthetic of Afrofuturism, which uses elements of science fiction, fantasy, and non-Western cosmologies to both critique the present-day dilemmas of Black people and re-examine historical events of the past. Readings may include texts by Octavia Butler, Colson Whitehead, Samuel Delany, Nalo Hopkinson, and Nnedi Okorafor as well as additional viewing and listening material.
English 327: Advanced Fiction Writing
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 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: Advanced Poetry Writing: Poetry and Environmental Justice
In her introduction to a special issue of Poetry magazine devoted to the topic, Melissa Tuckey describes ecojustice poetry in terms of both its interconnection and its sense of urgency; ecojustice poetry is “poetry born of deep cultural attachment to the land and poetry born of crisis.” The Spring 2017 semester of ENGL 327 will employ an environmental justice perspective to 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 intervene in cultural conversation at a time of ecological crisis. Since our writing develops to the fullest when we study the example of other writers who have come before us, ENGL 327 will explore a range of poems and poets committed to issues of environmental equity, beginning with recent work by poets such as Javier Zamora, Angélica Freitas, and Jamaal May, shifting to consider Muriel Rukeyser’s long modernist poem series The Book of the Dead (1938), and culminating in Benjamin Alaire Saenz’s Dreaming the End of War (2006). At the same time, we will be writing and revising our own poems, with assignments that balance opportunities for reflection on environmental justice topics of the poet’s own choosing with open subject, open form assignments. Students will complete a substantial poetry portfolio by the semester’s end. The course will conclude with a public reading of poetry produced in the workshop.
English 372: History of Rhetorical Theory
Who gets to speak, to whom, and under what circumstances? As we study the history of rhetorical theory from antiquity to the present, we will give particular attention to relationships between rhetoric and knowledge, identity, and power. We will examine rhetoric as an epistemic tool—that is, a tool that defines the reality within which people engage with each other. We will consider how our own personal identities facilitate and constrain our own rhetorical acts.
We will be reading examples of rhetorical theory as works within The Rhetorical Tradition, to use our textbook’s title, but we will also be reading them as specifically “theoretical” works, works that are designed to be both descriptive of and prescriptive for the ways that words function in the world. We will be asking what each new theory brings us as a descriptive tool: Does this theory help us to describe and understand how people use words, and especially words for persuasion? We will also be asking what each new theory brings us as a prescriptive tool: Can this theory help us use words more effectively in our own lives? Readings for the course will progress in basically chronological fashion for most of the semester, but we will be ending the semester with grouped readings on activist rhetoric, rhetorical education, and recent development in rhetoric(s).
This course fulfills the KNOW graduation requirement, as well as the pre-1800 requirement for the English major.
English 381: The Worlds of William Blake
This course studies the works of William Blake (1757-1827)—poet, prophet, painter, engraver, political radical, religious nonconformist, hero of the 1960s counter-culture, and canonical exemplar of the British Romantic Era. Our readings immerse us in the interlocking dimensions of Blake’s literary art, where we will discover the political world of a severely divided British nation at war with itself and with France over the social and political ideals advanced by the French Revolution, the underground world of London artisans, political dissidents, and eccentric religious cults, and the visionary world of his illustrated poetry, wherein the imaginative energy of the artist does battle with the dark forces of social, economic, political, and spiritual oppression.
English 382: Movements: Rhetorics of Resistance: Contemporary Activist Movements in the United States
In August 2016 NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem prior to games. Kaepernick’s act of silent protest ignited ongoing debates about race, protest, and acts of resistance in the public sphere. Social justice activism across multiple groups and spaces has been an essential part of the democratic process. Without acts of resistance, power and oppression would be free to run rampant. Acts of disruption and eruption in the 20th and 21st century helped to make a way for many marginalized groups (African Americans, women, LGBTQIA, Latinx, Indigenous, etc.) to assert themselves in the public sphere. With movements like Occupy Wall Street, No DAPL, and Black Lives Matter transforming our current political landscape, it is a ripe moment to examine the rhetorical acts that shape and define contemporary protest discourse. Our course this semester will explore the rhetorics of various resistance movements in the United States. Using the Collins Memorial Library zine archive as a primary source, we will examine the motivations of these movements, and explore the rhetorical acts that drive social justice activism in the United States. Students will engage in a semester long independent digital research project as well as lead the discussion at least once for the semester. Potential readings may include What Democracy Looks Like: The Rhetoric of Social Movements and Counterpublics, From Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation, Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement, documentaries, films, and other media.
English 383: Eras: Dante, Chaucer and the City
Medieval Writers envisioned Jerusalem as a heavenly city, the perfect realization of the earthly city that medieval cosmology held to be the center of the world. However, just as Rome, the capital of Western Christendom, fell to the Visigoths, Jerusalem fell to Saladin in 1187 after eighty-eight years of Christian rule. The earthly city, as Augustine would argue in his encyclopedic City of God, provided the conceptual tool for examining the relationship between God and humanity, time and eternity, spiritual and material, self and other. This Eras course will introduce students to real and ideal medieval cities (primarily Florence and London) as the construct of human community. For Dante and Chaucer, like most late-medieval and early-modern humanists, the self—and especially the writing self—is a product of urban experience. Students will read all of Dante’s Commedia (the Robert and Jean Hollander translation); Chaucer’s most ambitious and complete work, Troilus and Criseyde (in Middle English); and a selective (rather than voluminous!) historically contextualizing course pack of primary and secondary materials. Students who have taken John Wesley’s History of the English Language or British Literature I will have excellent preparation for this discussion intensive class. Students who primarily wish to fulfill an early literature requirement should probably keep shopping around!
English 432: Senior Seminar in British Literature: Modernist Environments
Modernism, particularly that array of texts collected under the heading “British modernism,” has long been understood as emphasizing urban experience and the impact of technology—a focus that has discouraged environmental approaches. Yet one has only to consider such canonical figures as Katherine Mansfield, Virginia Woolf, and James Joyce to see how interested British modernist writing is in ecological topics, which it investigates via a broad set of environments. Whether focusing on subject formation amid the suburban settlement of Wellington, New Zealand; imagining the urban nature of Bloomsbury through literary experimentation; or limning the biopolitics of Edwardian Dublin (to cite respective examples from each of these three writers), British modernism is deeply committed to engaging with the natural world.
ENGL 432 brings ecocritical approach to a wide range of modernist authors and works. In addition to the figures cited above, we’ll consider writers and texts that may be less familiar to course members, such as Herbert Read’s fantasy novella The Green Child (1935) and Mulk Raj Anand’s novel The Village (1939). We’ll also take a long view of modernism, ending with science fiction writer J. G. Ballard’s The Drowned World (1962), a text that resonates with the recent interest in ‘cli-fi’ (climate fiction).
Modernism’s environmental focus is inherently interdisciplinary, so we will consider a range of texts that illuminate literature’s connections with philosophy, biology, and sociology. Thus we’ll read excerpts of the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead in the context of The Green Child. We’ll study the work of soil scientist Albert Howard alongside The Village. And we’ll set the urban planning of Patrick Geddes alongside Joyce’s fiction. Along the way, we’ll consider such topics as environmental justice, ecofeminism, and the New Materialisms.
As a senior seminar that meets once a week, ENGL 432 requires significant reading and preparation, and it asks course participants to take an active role in how we collectively explore texts and ideas. Course activities include presentations, discussion leadership, and a creative writing assignment. The course will build toward a 15-page. essay on an original topic, to be developed in consultation with the instructor.
English 433: The Politics of Visual Rhetoric
Politics is a visual operation, manipulating and determining a people’s perceptions through the calculated use of signs, billboards, clothing, memes, photo-ops, press interviews, advertising, and other image-based messaging. However, to what degree is visual rhetoric, even outside of blatantly political contexts, always already an ideological and political enterprise? Is visual language and the acquisition and practice of visual literacy charged with cultural and political imperatives? Can seeing be apolitical and under what conditions?
This senior experience seminar will approach these questions through the study, exploration, and application of foundational and current theories in semiotics, visual rhetoric, and visual literacy. The opening weeks of the course will explore these theories through primary texts drawn from narrative painting (e.g. Jacob Lawrence), comics (e.g. Wonder Woman, Superman), documentary and recruitment film, photography (e.g. Margaret Bourke-White, ), and other visual texts that offer both charged and subtle imagery situated largely within United States contexts. These explorations will be accompanied by both analytic and creative exercises and, toward the middle of the term, will become the basis for continued and student-led conversations leading up to individual final research projects. Please note that the course is designed not to engage political debate, but to explore carefully how various constituents and interest groups have deployed, co-opted, and subverted visual rhetoric.
English 434: Advanced Creative Writing
This Senior Seminar is designed to facilitate the research, writing, and revision of a long-form creative project in any genre: a poetry chapbook; a collection of short stories or a novella; a work of dramatic literature; or a substantial work of creative non-fiction. As is true with all Senior Seminars, each student’s final project for this course will be grounded in thorough and original research. In the early weeks of the semester, we will read two poetry collections, a novel, and a play cycle that each gives a glimpse into what a deeply researched creative work might look like. Students will then identify a point of creative curiosity, create a research plan for grounding their project, and identify the genre most suited to the project and their own creative inclination and training. A significant portion of the class time will be dedicated to workshopping drafts of student projects and identifying strategies for moving from early drafts to completed works of literature. Please note that ENGL 434 will meet once a week (Thursdays from 3:30-5:50) and full participation in class discussion and in-class workshops will be required to successfully complete the course.
SSI2-141: Architectures of Power: “Fight the Power!”: Hip-Hop Culture and Inequality in the United States
In 1989 rap duo Public Enemy released their iconic song “Fight the Power.” Group members Chuck D and Flavor Flav engaged in resistance rhetoric and called members of the hip hop community to join them in revolution. At the 2017 BET Hip-Hop Awards Detroit rapper Eminem performed a freestyle that criticized the current United States president. The internet was buzzing with the overtly political and subversive moment (despite the questionable skill level demonstrated through the rap). While Eminem is not the first or only overtly political rapper, this is the most recent moment in an ongoing hip hop resistance culture. Hip-hop has always been political and served to disrupt and reject mainstream desires for Black conformity, and pushed back against systems of oppression that have served to marginalize and oppress Black and brown people. Artists like J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Queen Latifah, Kanye West, KRS-One, and countless others have used their art as an outlet for protest. However, even popular non-political hip hop provides a mirror through which to examine hegemonic social structures. Our seminar will use hip-hop as a framework for exploring questions of race, class, gender, and power in the United States. We will view music videos, films, and listen to myriad songs. Potential readings may include Rose’s The Hip Hop Wars: What We Talk About When We Talk About Hip Hop--and Why It Matters, Forman and Neal’s “That’s the Joint!”: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader, and Perry’s Prophets of the Hood: Politics and Poetics in Hip Hop.
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