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Indiana University Bloomington

Undergraduate Courses


Past Courses (Fall 2014)

Second Eight Weeks Courses

L208 Topics in English and American Literature and Culture
Justin Hodgson
TOPIC: "Rhetoric, Sports, Culture"

In 1993, Coach Jim Valvano gave one of the most impactful and memorable speeches in recent sports history. Not only did it help launch the Jimmy V foundation, which raises funds to battle cancer, but it showcased the power of rhetoric in a decidedly sports-oriented, yet culturally-significant moment. In fact, sports activities at all levels and in all facets are decidedly rhetorical. From pregame speeches to post-game comments, from dramatic representations (in print and in film) to everyday activities of sports media personalities, we are wrapped in language, beholden to our metaphors, and enlivened by our abilities to represent (in multiple media) our actions, motivations, and trajectories.

As such, this course will explore the intersections of rhetoric, sports, and culture by critically engaging selections in dramatic film (ranging from Hoosiers to The Program, from Miracle to Prefontaine), documentary film/TV (from the 30 for 30 shorts by ESPN to Hoop Dreams), and literature (from Friday Night Lights to Moneyball), and will do so with theoretical frames explored in selected scholarly writings (from Bitzer’s “The Rhetorical Situation” to selected essays from Brummet’s Sporting Rhetoric: Performance, Games, and Politics to chapters from Fuller’s Sport, Rhetoric, and Gender).

Coursework will include a mix of reading responses, blog/vlog posts, critical application essays, and/or exams.

L208 Topics in English and American Literature and Culture
DeWitt Kilgore
TOPIC: "Higher, Faster, Further: Superhero Narrative and American Culture"

Comics are, like baseball and jazz, an American art form. As a medium it creates its pleasures and effects through the curious and sometimes mysterious traffic between words and pictures. Born in the Great Depression of the 1930s it gave its writers and artists license to create remarkable characters and impossible worlds, broadcasting them to audiences hungry for excitement and escape from the drab prison of daily life. It is from this circumstance that the dominant genre in comics is that defined by the lives and adventures of superheroes: extraordinary individuals dedicated to defending truth, justice and the American way.

This course focuses our attention on American superhero narrative, its history and variety. The dynamic adventures of superheroes allow us to dig into the deep structure of American society. The superhero is an avatar that represents what freedom and morality may mean, the value of action, the kind of social order we hope for, what must be defended and who may be punished. We will cover the careers of familiar mainstream superheroes as well as the progress of less familiar, creator-owned paragons who both reflect and challenge their mainstream brothers and sisters. While we will certainly focus on the iconic characters that define public knowledge of the genre this is also a creator-focused course. This means that we will pay particular attention to the artists and writers whose work has been instrumental in making this aspect of our culture. We will examine the narrative conventions they author and the aesthetic challenges they undertake as their medium matured in the decades following World War II. We will also follow how these creators meet market forces and political reality through stories in which their heroes battle through the issues of race, gender, and national identity.

The writers and artists who will supply the foundation of this course will be Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Chris Claremont, Alan Moore, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Dwayne McDuffie, Kurt Busiek, and Sara Pichelli among others. A small selection of scholarly readings and some film and television will help us frame our reading, thinking, and discussion.

This course requires frequent writing, two exams, one research team project, active and informed classroom participation and attendance.

Full Term Courses

G208 World Englishes
Michael Adams


Speakers of English who live in the United States tend to view their English as THE English language, singular and monolithic, despite the dialectal variation within it, despite the fact that it is American English but not the English of England (or Scotland, or Canada), let alone all English, the “best” English, or the most spoken English. English does not “belong” to North Americans — it doesn’t even “belong” to the British, who gave it to subjects throughout their colonies (as has the United States to its colonies and territories). Speakers of formerly colonial English are reluctant to agree that there is one, hegemonic, totalizing English, and that the imperial power owns and controls it — the Queen has her English, and they have theirs. Arguably, there are as many Englishes spoken around the world as there are English-speaking cultures, hence the title of this course.

Nearly 500 million people across the globe speak some variety of English as their first language, making English the third largest language by number of native speakers. It very likely has the most speakers of any language, however, if we count speakers of some variety of English as a second or third language in the total. David Crystal, in English as a Global Language (2003), suggests that nonnative speakers of English (or Englishes) outnumber the native speakers three to one. Some English or another is an official language in 53 countries, the majority or an official language in countries on six continents. English is also an official language of international organizations, such as the United Nations, and serves as a common commercial language worldwide.

The status of English around the world suggests that the world is “shrinking,” that more and more people are “speaking the same language.” Paradoxically, though, this is only possible as English develops more varieties aligned with the historical, cultural, and linguistic situations of particular places and people, most of which are not English in heritage, though they are often formerly (occasionally even currently) colonies, territories, or protectorates of English-speaking countries like England or the United States (once a colony of England, itself). The purpose of this course is to use various Englishes, their structures and histories, in order to explore English-speaking cultures around the world, not in isolation but in relation to one another. We will observe the ways in which local values, traditions, beliefs, and customs shape varieties of the “global” language, which doesn’t really exist, except as an aggregate of the varieties.

Texts: Our basic text will be English in the World: History, Diversity, Change, edited by Philip Seargeant and Joan Swann (Routledge, 2012), though this will be supplemented in many ways during the term.

Assignments: Members of the course will write three brief essays (3-4 pages each), a few quizzes early in the term, and both midterm and final examinations, and will participate in designing and delivering two group presentations.

L111 Discovering Literature
Paul Gutjahr
TOPIC: “Best Sellers in America, 1791-Present”

This course will explore American literary culture through the lens of novels and other types of writing which have sold extraordinary well in the United States over the past two centuries. By looking at best-selling literary works beginning with Charlotte Temple (1791) and moving through J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter (1997), we will investigate not only why these narratives gained such popularity, but also what relationship they have had to American politics, fine arts, gender relations, racial tensions, and religion. We will also study some of the motion picture adaptations based on these books. Aside from the reading for the course, there will be two short papers and weekly quizzes. There will be no midterm and no final examination.

Other texts might include: The Life of Washington, Ten Nights in a Barroom, Quaker City, The Sheik, Peyton Place, The Godfather, and Misery.

L204 Introduction to Fiction
Jesse Molesworth
TOPIC: "Fiction of the Midwest"

This course aims to acquaint students with the fundamental elements of the art of fiction (especially including point of view, plot, character, style, narrative technique, theme, imagery, symbol, and setting). My hope is to enhance your ability to read, interpret, write about—and ultimately to enjoy and to appreciate—literary fictions.

The course will focus on a topic that unites us all: the American Midwest, as rendered in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Richard Wright’s Native Son, Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, Craig Thompson’s graphic work Blankets, and the Coen Brothers’s film Fargo. These five works could not be more different in tone, perspective, character, theme, or historical era. But what brings them together is the view of the American Midwest as a cultural unit, meaningful literary trope, and source of creative inspiration.

Assignments will include 3 medium-length essays, in-class writing assignments, and regular class attendance and participation.

L205 Introduction to Poetry
Nick Williams


Have you ever been so struck by a piece of language that you’ve written it down or memorized it? If so, then you’ve responded to the spirit of poetry. Although poetry is often seen as difficult or as the province only of experts, it really just speaks to our sensitivity to the power of language to move us, amuse us, astound us. In this class, we’ll review many of the main elements of poetry, in order to find ways to describe poetry’s ability to strike us in unusual ways. We’ll discuss a broad variety of poems and by the end of the class, students should have improved their ability to interpret individual poems and to express their senses of how individual poems work. As a writing intensive class, the course will involve several short and mid-range (around 5-page) writing assignments. Since responding to poetry is all about our own individual responses, students will also be expected to participate actively in class discussion. Texts will include a poetry anthology as well as a single-author volume.

L206 Introduction to Nonfiction Prose
Scot Barnett
TOPIC: "The Question of the Animal"

“…and already the knowing animals are aware that we are not really at home in our interpreted world.”
---Rainer Maria Rilke, Duino Elegies

This intensive writing course focuses on representations of the animal in nonfiction prose, with particular emphasis on how we understand, imagine, value, and interact with other animals. We will consider how writers over the past century addressed the human/animal divide that historically contrasts the human speaking subject with the (allegedly) mute animal. As we will see, the question of the animal, particularly as it has been thought in the wake of Darwinism and its blurring of categorical distinctions between human and nonhuman animals, challenges us to confront not only the living animal before us but our own sense of what it means to be human as well. We will read and discuss a range of genres, from essays and memoirs to manifestos and philosophical treatises. Our texts will include Aristotle, The History of Animals; Jeremy Bentham, Principles of Morals and Legislation; Charles Darwin, The Decent of Man; Peter Singer, Animal Liberation or Animal Rights?; J.M. Coetzee, The Lives of Animals; Donna Haraway, The Companion Species Manifesto; and Mark Doty, Dog Years. Requirements include three essays, an exam, and class participation.

L207 Women and Literature
Christine Farris
TOPIC: "Women's Work"

In this course, we will read selected works from the 19th century to the present, with an eye toward how women authors have variously represented women’s economic (in)dependence and characterized the complex relationship between women’s domestic and workplace lives and identities. We will investigate how women’s work, informed by history and culture, is represented in literature and film through intersecting lenses of gender, race, class, and sexuality. We will be particularly concerned with the ways in which authors give voice to their own experiences and those of others and with how fictional and cinematic texts work through conflicting ideals of femininity, equality, and difference via the use of and/or the subversion of stereotypes. We will also explore the bases for our own connections to these works, as we cultivate critical reading and analytical writing skills.

Texts will include Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre; Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”; Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own and “Professions for Women”; Fannie Hurst’s Imitation of Life; Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye; Alice Walker’s “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens” and “Everyday Use”;Kathryn Stockett’s The Help; and the films I Walked With a Zombie (1943) and Imitation of Life (1943 and 1959). Assignments will include microthemes, a comparative analysis paper, a midterm, and a final exam.

L210 Studies in Popular Literature and Mass Media
Vivian Halloran
TOPIC: “When Literature and Media Get Sick: Popular Representations of Illness and Pandemics”

The controversy: The recent commercial success in America and the UK of young adult literature dramatizing life and death struggles has sparked a negative backlash among cultural critics, worried that these texts romanticize depression, cancer, and suicide. Defenders respond by pointing out no one's immune from tragedy and that death and illness have always had a place in both literature and media. At the same time, recent outbreaks of H1N1, avian flu, and Ebola around the world have prompted the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control to warn the public about the coming danger of global pandemics and the spread of superbugs resistant to antibiotics. These news report and public service announcements have given rise to apocalyptic film and lit genres which marry science, medicine and the supernatural depicting nightmare scenarios of mutated viruses that turn everyone into zombies.

This class examines whether the popular media genres of "sick lit" and scenarios of global medical epidemics exacerbate the anxieties and crises they address or whether they serve a cathartic function allowing reading and viewing audiences to better comprehend the catastrophic risks we all face individually and collectively. Are these popular narratives a symptom of, or a cure for, what ails us as a society? Comparing popular literature, film, memoir, graphic novels, news reports, and documentary film, we will debate the ethics of reading and watching reports about real people and fictional characters succumbing to illness either for informative or entertainment purposes.

Student work will culminate in a multimedia project reflecting upon the controversy surrounding this genre.The class is divided into three modules:

Tear-Jerker: what separates philanthropy from entertainment?
The Fault in our Stars by John Green (film and novel, including reviews by Susan Gubar);
This Star Won't Go Out (memoir by Esther Earl) inspiration for the novel and revenue-generator for its namesake foundation.

Ripped From the Headlines: Contagion (Steven Soderbergh)
WHO report on Ebola outbreak
NOVA: Rise of the Superbugs (documentaries)

Nightmare Scenario Genre: Global Pandemics the Supernatural. (UK)
CDC how to Prepare for Zombie Apocalypse
Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks (novel)
28 Days Later 28 Days Later Graphic Novel Omnibus 28 Weeks Later

L210 Studies in Popular Literature and Mass Media
Walton Muyumba
TOPIC: “No End In Sight: American Art in the Age of Terrorism”

Exploring American films, television shows, and literary novels, we will interrogate the influence contemporary filmmakers, show runners, and writers have on the way we shape our ideas and cultural narratives about the 9/11 attacks, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the drug war, Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters, American identity and ethnicity, the 2008 financial collapse, and religion in the Age of Terrorism. Can these artists help us understand the consequences of terrorism and war on our imaginations? Do their works offer useful revisions of the popular narratives about 21st century America? Our close readings of both the artists’ aesthetic choices and their cultural/political arguments will drive our discussions.

L220 Introduction to Shakespeare
Jessica Tooker


“He was not of an age, but for all time,” wrote Ben Jonson of his friend and rival, William Shakespeare, the man widely considered to be the greatest playwright (and arguably poet) of the English language. Fresh from his 450th birthday this April, Shakespeare continues to delight, entertain, and inspire us today. From some of the most incandescent love poetry in the English language (the sonnets), to the complex and fascinating mock-heroic epic (Venus and Adonis), to the magnificent plays which speak, presciently, to the moral, ethical and psychological issues at the core of what it means to be human—how we govern and judge, alienate and accept, love and hate, wonder and believe—this course offers an intensive introduction to the depth and breadth of Shakespeare’s remarkable body of work. Paying equal attention to the pleasures of close-reading Shakespeare’s language as art form and pyrotechnic force, and to envisioning the transformation of the reading experience into dramatic action and live performance, we will explore how Shakespeare is uniquely positioned teach us more about ourselves, the way we relate to others, and the world in which we live. In other words, what does it mean to call a work of art singularly “Shakespearean?” History matters: Our study of Shakespeare’s language will be enriched by an in-depth exploration of the time and place in which he wrote—London, the thriving cultural capital of Elizabethan England. We will examine how the key historical, political, social, psychological and gendered contexts of the poetry and plays shaped Shakespeare’s “genius” for writing—his ceaseless fascination and experimentation with the way that words read on the page, sound on the stage, and awaken our emotions. And our own cultural context matters: What is it about our historical moment which compels us to study Shakespeare today? What are the fresh insights into the artistic, filmic, social and political landmarks of contemporary culture which his work offers us? Where does Shakespeare’s “universal” appeal come from—and how has he earned it?

L223 Introduction to Ethnic American Literature
Alberto Varon

This course will provide a general introduction to ethnic american literature. We will examine some of the important and representative writers from across a wide array of ethnic traditions, including, African , Asian, and Anglo American, Latina/o, and American Indian, whose work collectively paints a more inclusive and fully realized picture of American life in the late 20th and 21st centuries. The course will ask two basic questions: what does it mean to be an American? and how does literature both represent and create that experience?

Together we will work to develop the basic skills of literary and cultural analysis, and will discuss topics such as race, class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, assimilation, immigration, nationality, history, and others. We will examine texts across a wide variety of media and genres, including fiction (both novels and short stories), poetry, film, and graphic literatures. Selected texts may include: Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian; Junot Diaz, Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao; Jose Antonio Villarreal, Pocho; Karen Yamashita, Topic of Orange; Gilbert Hernandez, Palomar, and others.

L224 Introduction to World Literatures in English
Ranu Samantrai

The novel these days is a world genre. It has always been so: derived from multiple narrative traditions, the shape of the novel has been in perpetual transition as many types of stories have jostled for space within it. But since about the mid-twentieth century it has become a site where people argue over the politics of representation, and hence over the relations between nations or cultures. In this class we’ll read Anglophone novels from around the world to think about the contentious conversations that have made the genre a globally useful narrative form. We’ll start early in the twentieth century with British novels that narrate stories of cross-cultural contact under conditions of colonialism. We’ll look to how the genre travels and changes as those once represented take up the novel to write back, to represent themselves, and to contest histories of contact. And we’ll think about the global circulation of literature now to consider whether cross-cultural contact within a world of letters might generate new possibilities for relationships and narratives. Our texts will be drawn widely from the English-speaking world, but we’ll narrow our scope by attending primarily to material written after the mid-twentieth century. Students should expect to participate actively in class discussion, do frequent informal writing, and to write two formal essays and two exams.

L230 Introduction to Science Fiction
Monique Morgan

According to Paul Alkon, “Part of the game for readers of science fiction is to infer. . . the principles, whether of physical law, technological practices, or social custom, that govern an imagined world.” By playing this game and comparing the imagined world to our own, readers will achieve, in Alkon’s words, “both heightened awareness of physical or social arrangements in our world that we ordinarily take for granted and a questioning of those arrangements.” This course considers the serious implications of such game-playing in a variety of English-language science fiction literature and film, and analyzes SF’s extrapolation from existing science and technology, its incorporation of cognitive thinking, and its claim to present readers with knowledge of our own world through its description of a radically different one. We will cover a range of common tropes, such as time travel, alien encounters, dystopias, last man scenarios, advanced technology, and artificial intelligence. Novels will likely include Frankenstein, The War of the Worlds, 1984, The Man in the High Castle, Snow Crash, and Oryx and Crake, and films will likely include 2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Blade Runner, Brazil, Primer, and Children of Men. Primary texts will be paired with theory and criticism that will help us analyze science fiction’s logical and formal techniques, rhetorical purposes, ideological engagements, historical development, and relationship to other genres. Evaluation will be based on two essays, a midterm, and final exam, and regular participation in class discussion.

L240 Literature and Public Life
Christine Farris
TOPIC: "Confession Culture"

America has become a confessing culture, as individuals use social media to disclose more information, and celebrities, politicians, and corporations are increasingly compelled to publicly apologize for bad behavior. In this course, through autobiography, fiction, and real-life cases, we will examine how public performances of confession function narratively and rhetorically—in particular, how they are marked by contradictory intentions in their efforts to admit wrongdoing, express the self, seek forgiveness, and renegotiate social values. We will examine some historical examples of confession, tracing how a classical defense against the accusations of others and religious penance evolved over time into private and public rhetorical and literary performances that accomplish things other than the revelation of truth. We will consider how confessants—public figures, ordinary people, and authors of fiction—inform, persuade, and entertain, and why we respond as we do to their truths and deceptions.

Texts will include Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter; Ian McEwan’s Atonement, and J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace; Plato’s Apology; O.J. Simpson/The Goldman Family’s (If) I Did It: Confessions of a Killer; and former New Jersey governor James McGreevey’s Confession. We will also read excerpts from the confessions of Saint Augustine, Rousseau, and Bill Clinton, as well as some contemporary analysis of confession, including sections of Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality, Susan Bauer’s The Art of the Public Grovel, and Alec Wilkinson’s Mr. Apology.and Other Essays. Assignments will include microthemes, a comparative analysis paper, quizzes, midterm, and final exam.

L249 Representations of Gender and Sexuality
Karma Lochrie
TOPIC: "Breaking Away: Transgressing Gender and Sexuality, Past and Present"

In this course we will examine historical understandings of masculinity and femininity and heterosexuality and homosexuality, as well as historical forms of resistance against conventional gender and sexuality. Using queer and gender theory and historical texts from Freud to Kinsey, we will challenge our own understanding of gender and sexual identities and the nature of desire. Particular attention will be paid to the ways in which categories of gender and sexuality intersect with other kinds of identity categories, including race, ethnicity, nation, and region. The literature for the course spans the period from the late nineteenth century to the present, and it includes works from England, the U.S. and Canada. Among the works read in the course are Oscar Wilde, "The Picture of Dorian Gray," Radcliffe Hall, "The Well of Loneliness," James Baldwin, "Giovanni's Room," Alison Bechdel, "Fun Home," and Ivan Coyote, "One in Every Crowd." Requirements for the course include short response papers, two 4-6-page papers, a midterm, and a final exam.

L260 Introduction to Advanced Study of Literature
Shane Vogel
TOPIC: "Nightlife"

This course introduces students to advanced methods of literary interpretation using a range of texts and criticism that address the theme of nightlife. In the stretch between sunset and sunrise, whole worlds come into being. Nightlife has been denounced, celebrated, and romanticized; analyzed, excavated, and interpreted; legislated, protested, and reformed; written, acted, and sung. This course will take the time and space of the night as a way to introduce the concerns of humanistic study and pose questions about the uses and possibilities of literature, film, visual art, and performance, with an emphasis on the practice of critical interpretation. We will examine how writers, artists, and performers have imagined nightlife—its people and places, its sounds and sights, its ethics and values, its comforts and fears. What themes and issues become most clear in the darkness of nightfall? What activities and practices flourish while most people slumber? What are the genres, settings, and characters that make up the literature of nightlife? How does nightlife contribute to the formation of communities and identities? What goes on afterhours, either in the saloons and nightclubs of the city or in the dreamscapes of our minds? In exploring these questions, we will consider a diverse range of creative forms and genres, including short stories, poetry, novels, drama, graphic novels, philosophical texts, and film. Alongside these works we will also read scholarly criticism and consider closely the work of an English major that moves beyond literary appreciation toward more complex forms of research, argumentation, and analysis.

Students who have previously taken L202 under the topic of Nightlife are not permitted to enroll in this course.

L295 American Film Culture
John Schilb
TOPIC: “A movie is not what it is about, but about how it is about it.”

With this intriguing statement, the late film critic Roger Ebert pushed us to focus on cinematic style. This is indeed what we will do as we study several celebrated Hollywood films. Although we will consider their themes, we will focus above all on their techniques: how they use editing, photography, art design, sound, and performance to create a world. We will analyze how each movie’s style reflects not just the filmmaker’s ideas, but also trends in American history and culture at large. Another key element of our course will be genre; we will examine the relation of style to various types of cinematic stories, including film noir, the musical, the Western, and the gangster thriller.

Beginning with the dazzling style of 1941’s Citizen Kane, we will move chronologically through the following: The Big Sleep, Singin’ in the Rain, On the Waterfront, Rear Window, The Searchers, Imitation of Life (1959 version), Bonnie and Clyde, The Long Goodbye, Do the Right Thing, and American Splendor. The Monday night session will be the screenings. The Monday-Wednesday daytime class will emphasize discussion. Readings will include Cornell Woolrich's short story Rear Window and Raymond Chandler's hardboiled detective novel The Long Goodbye; selections from Harvey Pekar’s graphic novel series American Splendor; and various articles on our set of films. Required writing will entail some brief, informal reflections; a short paper analyzing a scene (3 pages); and a longer comparative paper (5 pages). There will be a midterm and a final exam.

L306 Middle English Literature
Karma Lochrie
TOPIC: "Medieval Dreaming"

"The dream is the liberation of the spirit form the pressure of external nature, a detachment of the soul from the fetters of matter," wrote Sigmund Freud at the beginning of the twentieth Century. Dreams have indeed provided writers as far back as the Middle Ages with another sort of liberation that enabled them to explore the deepest issues, mysteries, and psychic investments of their time--from love, to loss, to politics, to spiritual truths, to time and space travel. Dreams also served as portals to prophecy, Hell and paradise, and adventure. Among our readings in this course will be Chaucer's dream visions in the original Middle English, "Pearl," Julian of Norwich's "Showings," William Langland's "Piers Plowman," and Boethius's "Consolation of Philosophy." In addition to the literary texts, we will also read medieval and modern theories of dreams by way of considering what dreams "do" as literary texts and why the dream-vision became such a popular genre during the Middle Ages. Requirements include translation quizzes, two 5-7-page papers, a midterm, and a final.

L310 Literary History I: Beginnings through the Seventeenth Century
Kathy Smith

This course will introduce you to important authors, influential texts, and historical and cultural contexts of English literature from its beginnings through the seventeenth century. To that end, we will identify and practice strategies for reading and writing about literature that represents a variety of genres, conventions, and techniques as we strive to acquire a greater understanding and appreciation of works by such writers as the Beowulf poet, Chaucer, Sidney, Spenser, Marlowe, Jonson, Donne, Milton, Dryden, and Congreve. Receiving special attention will be issues related to the various conceptions of the function of poetry and the role of the poet that emerge and develop throughout this period.

Because much of the work of this course will be carried on through class discussion and other class activities, regular attendance and participation will be required. Also required will be a series of informal “first pass” writing exercises, two brief formal papers, unannounced quizzes, a midterm, and a final exam.

L314 Late Plays of Shakespeare
Linda Charnes

This course will examine literature and political psychology. Concentrating on Shakespeare's most political plays-Antony and Cleopatra, Richard II, Henry IV parts 1 and 2, Henry V, and Coriolanus-we will examine how the playwright anatomizes power politics and the dynamics of getting to be, being, or staying, "in charge." The seminar will spend considerable time looking at the historical conditions that organize Shakespeare's political thinking. Since it is an election year, we will also make connections between the politics of Shakespeare's day and our own, to see what Shakespeare can teach us about our own political psychology. Although we will conduct deep, complex and respectful political conversations with each other, the seminar will be run in a "non-partisan" manner and will remain focused on how Shakespeare himself understood and represented power dynamics. This course is NOT an introduction to literary study; it is designed only for upper-division students who have already satisfied their composition requirements and who have experience studying literature at an advanced level. Majors in Political Science, English, History, Psychology and other cognate fields are encouraged to apply, as are students of all political backgrounds and sensibilities.

L328 Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Drama
Richard Nash

This course will devote most of its attention to a very brief and important period (the reign of Charles II) and pay attention primarily to comedy and satire. In doing so, we will take more seriously than is often done the intense relationship between a particular literary genre (drama) and a moment of decisive transformation in the political state (the restoration and completion of traditional monarchy and the rise of the modern political state). Because of this double focus, students will be expected to read many plays, and also to read supplementary historical readings. Students will be responsible for one short review essay, written in conjunction with a group presentation about a third of the way through the semester; and one long paper by semester's end. There will be attention to other genres and periods, but they will be supplementary to our main consideration, which will be focused on a richer understanding of the complexities of the Restoration culture of satiric comedy, and its various consequences and legacies.

L332 Romantic Literature
Mary Favret

Romanticism never dies. It may sleep – it loves sleep (dreams, trances, reveries, swoons, and loss of consciousness more generally: e.g. intoxication). But it does not die. It is the haunt of vampires, ghosts, monsters and phantoms of delight. As other aesthetic modes and styles grow old, it grows young, always following the children: lost girls, idiot boys, dream children, reckless, thoughtless adolescents. They get lost but never die. Gone but not buried. If Romanticism turns to gaze at rocks and trees and mountains, it’s because it finds kinship in their longevity; it is hardly human.

The goal is to give you a deep familiarity with the ideas and works of British Romanticism, a movement which flourished in Great Britain in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, but spread over the globe and became constitutive for most of what we consider modern thought and culture (both high and low). In many ways and not least when we talk about art and literature, we can hardly help adopting the ideas and assumptions of Romanticism. You will be asked to hone your analytic and writing skills in response to select romantic texts, but you will also be asked to attend to the ways in which Romanticism continues undying, its ideas and figures infiltrating our present.

Required Texts:

  • Wolfson and Manning, eds., Longman Anthology of Romantic Literature (LARL)
  • Jane Austen, Persuasion (ed. William Galperin)
  • Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (ed. Johanna Smith)

L335 Victorian Literature
Andrew Miller
TOPIC: "Victorian Poetry and Prose"

This course is designed (as the course bulletin puts it) to study major works of prose and poetry written in the Victorian period. While we will be reading one novel and paying it careful attention, most of our time will be spent with poetry and non-fiction prose. Our focus will be on the ways that these texts construct “modernity,” a term that has been of continuing use as Western culture has tried to understand itself. We won’t drive that term into the ground, I hope, but we will let it organize many of our readings and discussions. We're likely to read poetry by Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, Tennyson, Christina Rossetti, and Hopkins; and prose by Mill, Arnold, Nightingale, and Darwin. The novel remains to be chosen.

L346 Twentieth-Century British Fiction
Ranu Samantrai

This course is designed to provide a broad overview of English prose literature of the second half of the twentieth century. The tumultuous period began with the nation emerging from war at once victorious and devastated, and still ruling an enormous but increasingly unruly empire. Then followed the ambitious development of the welfare state, decolonization, increased emigration and immigration, and attendant seismic changes in the class structure, gender relations, and racial affiliations of the population. England’s sense of itself was transformed during this period, and each of our texts reflects upon the state of the nation.

Using work by major writers who have shaped English fiction in the last few decades, our texts will follow the significant aesthetic and philosophical developments of the period: the new realism, postmodernism, postcolonial fiction, and contemporary ironic realism. Because the aesthetics of prose in this period owe considerably to dramatic works, we will include some plays in our readings. Each of our texts was influential in its time, both for its aesthetic innovations and because it prompted reflection upon the relation between literature and its political, social and philosophical context. We will give ourselves a thematic focus by attending to how authors address the loss or destabilization of religious, political and epistemological certainties. For instance, in many of our texts we will find anxiety regarding the significance of the individual, the basis for ethical action in an age characterized by flux, doubts cast on institutions such as the nation and religion, and the dubious legacy of previous generations.

Our readings likely will include work by John Osborne, Sam Selvon, Caryl Churchill, Tom Stoppard, Kazuo Ishiguro, Pat Barker, Salman Rushdie, Julian Barnes, Bernadine Evaristo, and Caryl Phillips. Brief, in-class lectures will provide the historical context for mapping the intellectual trajectory traced by our literary texts. Throughout the semester we’ll discuss the intricate relationship between form and content—the meeting point where authors struggle to say the unsayable, to make room for untold stories, and to create narratives that reflect and participate in the world-altering events of their remarkable times.

Students should expect to participate actively in class discussion, give a research presentation, and write two essays and two exams.

L347 British Fiction to 1800
Jesse Molesworth
TOPIC: “Enlightenment and the Novel”

Two theses have dominated eighteenth-century studies for the last half-century or so: one having to do with the “rise of the novel” and one having to do with the sway of “Enlightenment culture,” in all of its philosophical, political, and scientific dimensions. Effectively, though, these theses have been one and the same. To what extent do novels work to enlighten and to what extent to they resist enlightenment? Using Kant’s seminal essay “What is Enlightenment?” as a framework, these questions will guide our investigations into five landmark works. Topics will include the relation of the novel to the epic, the rise of Empire, the bourgeois “public sphere” hypothesis, the waning (?) of Providence, and the nature of literary realism, among many others.

Texts will include Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones, Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, Matthew Lewis’s The Monk, and Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey.

Assignments will include a short essay, a long essay, frequent reading quizzes, and regular class attendance and participation.

L348 Nineteenth-Century British Fiction
Ivan Kreilkamp

This course will offer an immersion in the world of the Victorian British novel, a genre that regularly produced artistic masterpieces that were also successful popular entertainments. Our main readings will consist of these five long novels: Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd, Olive Schreiner’s The Story of an African Farm, and Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim. A central aim of the course will be to gain a precise and nuanced understanding of the protocols, methods, and aims of nineteenth-century realism, as well as to consider how this mode emerged in relation to other important sub-genres (such as Gothic and colonial “adventure” fiction). One central topic for us will be the ways these novels define protagonists or central characters against the mass of other depicted people. How are novels ""focalized"" through the consciousness, experience, and point of view of protagonists, those special or privileged persons whom the novel singles out for attention? Along the way we will address a host of other questions and topics fundamental to nineteenth-century fiction, including free indirect discourse and ""omniscient"" narration; the Bildungsroman or novel of an individual’s development; novels and autobiographical form; nation, empire, and Englishness; representations of the city and urban experience vs. rural or country life; nature, the natural world, and environmental or ecological concerns; novels and autobiographical form; courtship and the marriage plot; social class; gender, sexuality, and feminism; modernity and the representation of historical and temporal change. We will be reading some selected critical/ scholarly texts as well.

Warning: these novels are lengthy and so this course will require quite a lot of reading, and it will be important that you keep up. Assignments will probably include the following: regular participation in class discussions (this class will be discussion-based); two papers; an in-class midterm test and a take-home final essay exam; regular reading quizzes; short reading responses on Oncourse.

L355 American Fiction to 1900
Jennifer Fleissner
TOPIC: "Novel Appetites: Eating and Meaning in Modernizing America"

This class explores nineteenth-century American novels and short stories through the lens of eating and food. As this year's themester suggests, food has recently come into its own as a topic for serious academic study. This is a development occurring simultaneously across a range of fields, including anthropology, sociology, psychology, history, philosophy, and the sciences, as well as literary studies. Indeed, most work in this area tends to take an interdisciplinary approach.

This class, though focusing on the relation between food and nineteenth-century American literature, will follow suit. Along with novels and stories, we will read related materials from these other fields, in order to gain insight into the subtle meanings afforded to food and eating in texts where these otherwise might not appear to be major subjects of concern. As a result, students will more broadly get a sense of what it means to read and study literature in an interdisciplinary cultural context, a practice increasingly common in literary studies today.

The meanings of food in society are often thought to alter significantly—and chiefly, to proliferate—with the advent of what is broadly referred to as “modernity” in the West. In general, one sees a movement away from a treatment of eating as simply a basic survival activity (occasionally embellished with social or spiritual meanings at moments of religious ritual or feasting), and toward a situation we now take for granted, in which eating has become a practice very often saturated with significance above and beyond bodily need—whether it is the dieter’s sense of food as enemy, the nutritionist’s treatment of eating as part of a larger moralization of bodily practices, or the immigrant’s or the traveler’s view of food as a sign of the porous boundary between cultures, to take just a few examples. In the literary texts we read, we will see these familiar meanings of eating reflected, but also often transformed and made new and strange.

Literary texts will include novels by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Elizabeth Stoddard, Kate Chopin, and Upton Sinclair, and short stories and novellas by Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, Abraham Cahan, Charles W. Chesnutt, and Henry James. We'll read these alongside essays on such topics as the history of manners, the changing meanings of fasting and food refusal, the rise of dieting and nutrition, and food's relation to freedom for the enslaved.

L359 American Literature, 1960-Present
Josh Kates
TOPIC: “Novel Communications”

As the world is changing around it, literature in this period undertakes a number of experiments: both with how novels work and how they relate to other media and forms of communication. The postal system, comic books, memoirs, letters, and, yes, power point, are but some of the jumping-off points for these experiments. Thus, reading a range of novels (from Thomas Pynchon’s 1960’s classic The Crying of Lot 49 up to Jennifer Egan’s 2010 A Visit from the Goon Squad), we will investigate the way that the novel thinks about its own possibilities while simultaneously opening on to the world around it. Steady attendance, class preparation, two medium length papers, a midterm and a final, as well as a few short assignments will be required.

L360 American Prose (excluding fiction)
DeWitt Kilgore
TOPIC: “Popular Science: Scientists as Writers”

In this course we will explore the literary and cultural activity of scientists who have combined employment in the sciences with active writing careers. These writer-scientists have created a distinct literary genre that is generally called “popular science” or “science popularization.” A good definition for the genre is: non-fiction prose about scientific knowledge for non-specialist but interested audiences. The form is distinctly didactic but its practitioners also seek to inspire as well as inform, to produce narratives that entertain while demonstrating science’s intimate imbrication in the way our world is ordered. The overall aim is to produce a scientific literacy that is reliably informed, socially cogent and culturally persuasive.

We will be concerned with some of the questions raised by science writing. Is the knowledge shared by through this form an accurate reflection of science? What are the conventions that make popular science a distinct form of writing? How does the genre make its case for science as a vital part of the social/political world we inhabit? What do we make of the role that celebrity can play in the advocacy of a writer-scientist? What is the relationship between science popularization and science fiction?

For the sake of disciplinary and narrative coherence we will focus on authors in the fields of astronomy, biology, physics and cosmology. The course will likely include James D. Watson, Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Neil de Grasse Tyson, C.P. Snow, and Brian Greene as our representative writer-scientists. Please note that while the course number indicates a focus on American prose science is an international affair; we will consider authors from the United Kingdom as well as the United States.

During the semester we will also sample popular science activity in other media. To this end we will screen episodes or clips from television programs, documentaries and filmed lectures from a variety of sources.

This course requires two papers (3-5 typewritten pages, double-spaced), two exams, one research team project, active and informed classroom participation and attendance.

L369 Studies in American and British Authors
Scott Herring
TOPIC: “Sexuality and the Post-World War II Novel”

This seminar surveys the major genres and historical contexts that inform the post-World War II LGBTQ novel in America. Over the course of several months we will explore a variety of literatures such as lesbian pulp fiction, the slumming/urban travel narrative, the transgender historical novel, Down Low middlebrow romance fiction, the metronormative white gay novel, and several fictive negotiations of Black and white lesbian feminism and separatism. As we do so we will see how historical events such as the Lavender Scare, the Stonewall riots, the rise of Gay Liberation Fronts, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the cultural dominance of ""post-gay"" homonormativity impacted aesthetic formulae over six and a half decades of queer writing. Readings will include:

  • James Baldwin, Giovanni's Room
  • Ann Bannon, Odd Girl Out
  • Ann Bannon, I Am a Woman
  • Rita Mae Brown, Rubyfruit Jungle
  • Leslie Feinberg, Stone Butch Blues
  • E. Lynn Harris, Invisible Life
  • Andrew Holleran, Dancer from the Dance
  • R. Zamora Linmark, Rolling the R’s
  • Toni Morrison, Sula

L369 Studies in British and American Authors
Andrew Miller
TOPIC: "The Modern Essay"

We’re in the midst of a great revival of the essay form. This course will study that revival, focusing mainly on essayists devoted to the arts and literature. While we may read some earlier English and American essayists—Virginia Woolf, Walter Pater—most of our essayist will be still-active ones. Among the writers we’re likely to study are the following: Joan Didion, Susan Sontag, John Updike, Zadie Smith, James Wood, Adam Gopnik. We’ll also explore video-essays. Students will likely be asked to write a couple imitations, some short responses, and two essays of their own.

L371 Critical Practices
Judith Brown

In this class we'll examine some of the major theories that have shaped critical reading practices over the past one hundred or so years. What assumptions determine the ways we read? What cultural narratives govern our understandings of human life? What role does interpretation have in the ways we view the world around us? And what role does literature play? Through our readings in semiotics, psychoanalysis, Marxism, deconstruction, identity-based theories (centered on race, gender, and sexuality), postcolonialism, and postmodernism, we'll consider how they transform the ways we read. We’ll read theoretical work alongside three novels – all detective fictions of sorts – in order to think through the possibilities opened up by theoretically-informed interpretation. Students should expect a challenging semester. Course work will include multiple one-page papers, two longer papers, and a quiz.

L371 Critical Practices
Patricia Ingham
TOPIC: "Meaning and Pleasure"

How do literary texts entice, enchant, or move us? In what ways do they (alternately) frustrate, puzzle, or infuriate us? This course is designed to offer an introduction to the critical practice of literary studies by way of a consideration of our pleasure as readers: Where is our pleasure in the text, and how is that pleasure related to literary meaning? Where and why do texts frustrate our desires for easy reading pleasures? We will use the categories of “meaning” and “pleasure” to examine a variety of critical and theoretical approaches to texts and how they mean. Readings will include examples from psychoanalytic, deconstructive, structuralist, poststructuralist, materialist, French Feminist, postcolonial and queer theories. Our primary work will be to engage questions of meaning and value, particularly the current meaning and value of aesthetic and literary experiences. At various points during the semester we will read works of fiction that display a concern with the problems of meaning and pleasure also articulated via our theoretical texts.

L380 Literary Modernism
Judith Brown

When Virginia Woolf claimed that the year 1910 marked a change in human character, she noted a fundamental shift in human experience, in self-understanding, and in the possibilities for artistic expression in the early twentieth century. Ezra Pound exhorted his generation to “Make it new!” and writers began the difficult work of tearing down a culture’s way of seeing, reading, and interpreting the world around them. Modernists rejected the conventions of former generations and attempted to bring literature into line with a rapidly and violently changing world. Fueled by the catastrophe of the first world war, the technological innovations that were changing the texture of everyday life, and the recognition that nothing in the world was stable – not God, not knowledge, not the earth beneath them – modernists forged a literature that would establish a new relationship with language itself, and thus with the changing reality of the twentieth century. In this class we’ll study the revolutionary ambition and aesthetic innovations of this literary movement from high modernism to late modernism to transnational modernism.

L381 Recent Writing
DeWitt Kilgore
TOPIC: “Black, Brown, Metal and Tentacled: Race and Alterity in Postwar American Science Fiction”

In a 1984 article Thulani Davis surveyed the landscape of American science fiction and found that the “Future May Be Bleak but It's Not Black.” Davis correctly points out that over the past eighty years science fiction's most durable social conventions encourage political scenarios dominated by Euro-Americans. However, following the Second World War, North American science fiction's future history narratives have allowed for far more than that. The social and political upheavals of the 1950's and 1960's were mirrored in within genre. New writers came into the field, articulating political positions challenging the racial status quo; older writers responded by opening up their own notions of human social futures. A great variety of racial narratives appeared as a result; from futures in which racial difference is either tolerated or harmonized out of existence to ones in which it is only a small plurality within a galactic club including extraterrestrial beings.

This course examines the work of science fiction writers who have created narratives in which human racial variety is represented and challenged within the genre’s future visions. The first half of the course will explore Euro-American tales that both replicate and challenge dominant stereotypes of minority identity and socio-political position. African and Asian American science fiction writers will take center stage in the course’s second half. The class will trace how minority writers have both worked within the conventions of the genre and challenged its erstwhile exclusionary tendencies. Along the way we will also explore traditional genre concerns such as space travel, alien contact, robotics, technological utopianism, and human evolution.

Authors will likely include Samuel R. Delany, Ursula Le Guin, Robert A. Heinlein, Octavia E. Butler, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Greg Pak and Nalo Hopkinson. A small selection of scholarly readings and at least one film will help us frame our reading, thinking, and discussion.

This course requires two papers (3-5 typewritten pages, double-spaced), two exams, one research team project, active and informed classroom participation and attendance.

L389 Feminist Literary and Cultural Criticism
Rebekah Sheldon
TOPIC: "Feminist Science Studies"


Radical biologist Lynn Margulis liked to say that nature is one tough broad. In life-forms like extremophiles whose habitats skirt the edge of the inhabitable and slime molds whose life-cycles defy taxonomic categorization, we can see that nature is indeed tough. But why is nature a she?

In this course, we will examine the web of relations that gives this personification its sense. In the first half, we will concentrate on questions concerning representation and reality. We will ask: What are the consequences of figuring nature, Earth, land, and place as feminine? What normative understandings of sexuality and gender are put in motion by and justified through recourse to these metaphors? Conversely, how does this scripting of gender and sexuality into the scenography of the natural contour scientific representation? At the heart of these questions is a more foundational inquiry: Do we know what we know because of what we see? Or do we see what we see because of what we think we know? These are questions of epistemology and they are as important to the sciences as they are to literary and cultural study.

In the second half of the course, we will witness a growing dissatisfaction with the epistemological. We will track the turn back to nature in order to consider how gender, sexuality, and science change when they are no longer used to stabilize the boundary between the natural and the unnatural.

Authors may include Luce Irigaray, Donna Haraway, Chela Sandoval, Judith Butler, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Elizabeth Grosz, Jane Bennett, Melinda Cooper, Karen Barad, and Stacy Alaimo.

L390 Children's Literature
Ray Hedin

This course will focus on children's stories, ranging from fairy tales to contemporary fiction and film. It will emphasize the ways in which stories express and give shape to basic wishes and basic fears. We will also emphasize the strategies by which stories either convey or subvert prevalent cultural values. We will address such questions as: Why do stories fascinate children (and others)? What is the relationship between the structure of stories and the emotions and values they convey? How does children’s literature address central issues such as the relationship of adults to children, the ambiguities of growing up, the lure and dangers of imagination, and the experience of death? To what extent are stories gender-coded (and how might we respond when they are)? How has the notion of childhood changed over time and what do the changes imply culturally? Why have so many prominent children’s books been banned? What is the role of magic and the imagination in children’s books and films? What should an adult (parent, educator) do about a children's story whose values are different from his or her own? Why is the analysis of a children’s story a useful adult activity?

These issues will not be addressed in the abstract, but in the context of discussing specific, influential children's stories.

The class will meet twice a week in a mix of lecture, discussion, and occasional panel presentation and once a week in discussion sections. Students will be expected to have read the assigned material or to have viewed the assigned film by the first day on which it is considered in class. Students may either attend a film screening or watch the film on their own. Students will also write two 5-7 page essays, a mid-term and final exam, and frequent response papers. One of the essay assignments may be fulfilled by a creative paper - e.g., a children’s story or a set of illustrations to one of the books we will consider. Additional, short readings may be assigned for discussion sections.

Course Materials: This list is not final; there may be a few changes.

  • selected fairy tales
  • Beauty and the Beast (Disney film)
  • Sexton, "Snow White" and "Cinderella"
  • Potter, The Tale of Peter Rabbit
  • Barrie, Peter Pan
  • Wilder, Little House on the Prairie
  • Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
  • White, Charlotte's Web
  • Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat
  • L'Engel, A Wrinkle in Time
  • Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen
  • Fitzhugh, Harriet the Spy
  • Lobel, Frog and Toad Are Friends
  • Lobel, Frog and Toad Together
  • O'Brien, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh
  • Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Paterson, Bridge to Terabithia
  • Lowry, The Giver
  • Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends
  • Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
  • Ryan, Esperanza Rising
  • Collins, The Hunger Games
  • Gaiman, The Graveyard Book
  • Sachar, Holes

L396 Studies in African American Literature and Culture
Walton Muyumba
TOPIC: “Whose War: African/American Literary Fiction in the Age of Terrorism”

Exploring realist and postmodern literary novels, we will interrogate the various ways that contemporary African, Afro-Caribbean, and African American writers have responded to our cultural narratives about the 9/11 attacks, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the drug war, Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters, the 2008 financial collapse, and American identity and ethnicity in the Age of Terrorism. Our discussions will be framed by our attention to both the artists’ aesthetic choices and their cultural/political arguments. We might begin by asking: can black literary writers help us understand the consequences of terrorism and war on our imaginations?

L480 Seminar in Literature and History
Linda Charnes
TOPIC: “Subjects, Rebels, Citizens: From Divine Right to Democracy”

This seminar will track the discourses surrounding the decline and fall of the Doctrine of Divine Right of Kings and the emergence of philosophies and political ideas that culminate in the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. We will begin with several of Shakespeare’s history plays, then read works by Thomas Hobbes, John Milton, John Wilmot, Aphra Behn, Thomas Paine, Edmund Burke, Mary Wollstonecraft, Thomas Jefferson, Susanna Rowson, Adam Smith, and Ben Franklin, among others. We will explore how transatlantic literature helped to transform the subject of monarchy into the nascent citizen of democracy. Recommended pre-requisites might include courses in literature, history, philosophy, or political science. This is designed to be a “capstone” course; consequently priority will be given to those who have already done a significant number of college humanities classes. Students will prepare a research presentation on a topic of their choice (which may include early slave narratives, colonial texts, or other literature not on the syllabus), and write a fifteen page final seminar paper.

W103 Intoductory Creative Writing
Bob Bledsoe

W103 is an introductory-level creative writing course in poetry and fiction designed for students who do not necessarily have experience in creative writing, but who possess a genuine desire to learn more about it. Through practice, assigned readings, lectures, and discussion, students will gain a better understanding of how poems and stories are made. Students will learn to read as a writer reads not only for what a text is saying but how a text is saying it, and apply that to the writing of original poems and short fiction assignments.

The class meets three times a week: once in Monday lecture and twice (Wednesday and Friday) in discussion sections.

W103 Intoductory Creative Writing
Catherine Bowman

This introductory creative writing class offers a stimulating introduction to the fundamentals of poetry and fiction writing with in-class writing and discussion, reading and writing assignments and a focus on craft and revision. This is a course for budding poets and fiction writers and those that would like to try out writing poems and fiction. The course is structured as a large lecture on Mondays with workshop and discussion on Wednesdays and Fridays. In the workshop students practice various aspects of craft, discuss the readings and receive feedback on their poems and stories from the instructor and the students in the class. You have the opportunity to offer critiques and feedback to your classmates’ stories and poems. There will be two exams, reading outside of class and a final portfolio containing the work you have written over the semester.

W170 Introduction to Argumentative Writing: Projects in Reading and Writing
Andrea Whitacre and Elizabeth Maffetone
TOPIC: "Representations of the Chosen One in Science Fiction and Fantasy"

16681 9:05a-9:55a MWF

16683 1:25p-2:15p MWF

Neo. Ender Wiggin. Frodo Baggins. Anakin Skywalker. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Ash Ketchum. Avatar Aang. King Arthur. Harry Potter. The most common heroic type in science fiction and fantasy (SF), especially in the young adult genre, is The Chosen One. They are the ones spoken of in prophecy, or the last of their kind, or the secret heirs to unique powers--in short, the only one who can save the day. Who is the Chosen One? For what are they chosen, and by whom are they chosen? What obstacles do they encounter on their way to their destiny? We will consider these questions and others through SF texts, primarily Harry Potter, Pan's Labyrinth, and The Matrix. This course will investigate the cultural uses of the Chosen One story and how it might support or subvert various cultural fears and desires regarding heroism and monstrosity. We will discuss new levels of meaning in some of the best-known works of popular culture.

The course will fulfill the English Composition requirement through a focus on critical reading and thinking, textual and filmic analysis, and modes of academic writing.

W170 Introduction to Argumentative Writing: Projects in Reading and Writing
Mary Mitchell and Tracey Hutchings-Goetz
TOPIC: "So Scary, It's Funny: The Cultural Expressions of Horror and Humor"

11512 1:25p-2:15p MWF

8238 11:15a-12:30p TR

Popular cultural phenomena like The Addams Family, The Evil Dead film series, Sweeney Todd, and Rocky Horror Picture Show unite the frightening and the funny, and are examples of the enduring popularity of humor and horror in modern films. Although familiar from recent comedy-horror movies like The Cabin in the Woods (2011) and Warm Bodies (2012) the conventions of humor and horror have been combined in cultural objects as disparate as medieval manuscript marginalia, eighteenth-century political satires, popular Victorian ghost stories, and the figure of the evil clown. This class will explore the ways in which the popular conventions of horror and humor permeate well beyond the niche and hybrid genre of the horror-comedy film into a diverse array of cultural objects. Using a variety of films, television shows, essays, poems, and short stories this course will teach students the skills of analytical reading and writing necessary to discuss the complex ways in which horror and humor are often deployed together.

The course fulfills the English Composition requirement, and, as such, it is primarily a writing course with a strong focus on critical reading and analytical writing skills.

Warning: This course features some representations of graphic violence and sexuality.

W170 Introduction to Argumentative Writing: Projects in Reading and Writing
Christopher Thomas and Jeffrey Kessler
TOPIC: "Sympathy for the Devil: A Cultural Analysis of Villainy"

11841 4:00p – 5:15p MW

11840 5:45p – 7:00p MW

18552 2:30p- 3:45p TR

Why is it that the character we should hate most often becomes the one we are most interested in? As the title suggests, we will examine the cultural fascination with villains and the ways in which we forge emotional connections with them that are often surprising given their supposed “evil” status. From Milton’s Satan to Breaking Bad’s Walter White, our culture has had a long-standing and complicated relationship with those we identify as villains. This course will examine a broad range of texts depicting and discussing the figure of the villain in popular culture, including critical essays from several disciplines, literary fiction, film, television, and music. This course will question many cultural assumptions: what it means to be a villain? Can we feel sympathetic for someone who is patently evil? How do our cultural assumptions shape the ways we understand evil and villainy? Students will interrogate these issues through a wide range of writing assignments to explore these ideas. Their work will culminate in a final paper driven by their own case study in villainy.

The course fulfills the English Composition requirement, and, as such, it is primarily a writing course with a strong focus on critical reading and analytical writing skills.

W170 Introduction to Argumentative Writing: Projects in Reading and Writing
Kelly Hanson
TOPIC: "The spy Who Loved Me? Sex, Gender, and the Culture of James Bond"

20043 11:15a-12:30p TR

18552 1:00p-2:15p TR

“The name is Bond. James Bond.” --James Bond

Bond is back, as you’ve never seen him before: as the topic of your writing class. This class begins with the premise that most of us know who James Bond is. Even if we’re not fans, we have a vague image of a handsome gentleman in a tuxedo who kills for queen and country, right? Wrong--or at least, not the whole story.

Six different men have played 007 since the film franchise began in the 1960s, and each has offered audiences a different Bond, ranging from suave and sexy, to campy and absurd, to dark and brooding. Using films from the last 50 years, the famous Bond theme songs, a sampling of Ian Fleming’s original novels and short stories, and one of the many James Bond video game adaptations, we will ask how different James Bonds construct and value gender and sexuality in different ways. Sure, there are Bond girls and a handsome spy. But what else is going on with Bond? Why does Bond always get the girl? And why, as Jennifer Lawrence noted at Oscars this year, is the music of James Bond “as irresistible as 007 himself?” Why, in short, is sexiness so central to Bond? By looking at the sex-gender system of the fictive world of Bond, we’ll think about how this answer changes from the Cold War to the Iraq War, from Connery to Craig. Our readings of Bond will focus on questions of gender, including masculinity, femininity, sexuality, desire, and sexual violence.

This course will draw on a range of James Bond-themed cultural objects, including films, novels, music, and video games. Beginning with the iconic Bond film Goldfinger, we will sample films from all 6 Bonds over the last 50 years, ending with Daniel Craig’s most recent contribution, Skyfall. Students will read essays and pop culture accounts of James Bond, film reviews, film theory, and critical essays on gender and sexuality studies. Students should be prepared to have their notions of Bond changed in this course, and to approach the material independent of their own feelings or ideas about Bond.

As this course fulfills the composition requirement, it will privilege writing as its primary method of inquiry with the ultimate goal of helping students develop the ability to write at a college level.

W240 Community Service Writing
Joan Linton
TOPIC: "Going Public: Writing Wellness in the Community"

N.B. As a service-learning course that fulfills an Intensive Writing requirement, W240 requires students to perform a minimum total of 20 service hours over 10 weeks. Most of us are familiar with the conventions and requirements of writing and research within our academic disciplines, over time developing proficiency as communicators. How do we adapt these skills in the service of others, relocating the writing self from the academy to the community? How do we reorient ourselves from being professionals in training to being engaged citizens, addressing public audiences on public issues in public venues? What new responsibilities come with citizenship, and how do we develop a voice that goes beyond our individual and academic needs and interests to address larger public issues? Going Public aims to help students develop as public communicators through a holistic approach to health and wellness in the community. This course invites students to practice and expand the critical skills of synthesis and analysis, and rhetorical skills of persuasion through service, writing, and research in the community. In going beyond the classroom, students will develop the knowledge and understanding needed to address issues of health and wellbeing, and find their own voice in communicating this knowledge to public audiences--the very people whose lives are affected by these issues. While community service provides real-life situations in which we may apply our academic skills and knowledge, analysis of that experience will allow us to reflect on our roles as service--learners and writers, as grounding for research into related social issues. Through readings and reflection, we shall see (1) how our life experiences, socio-economic status, and other visible or invisible kinds of differences shape our perceptions of each other and the people we serve; (2) how larger social structures and global forces operate beneath the apparent randomness of social interactions and autonomy of our choices; (3) how through social networking people can develop a community's assets and leverage its resources in meeting collective challenges and dreams; and (4) how such lived knowledge of a community's "ecology" gained through service and writing informs our public role as citizens wherever we live. Readings, discussions, and reflections will emphasize the following areas: (1)holistic approach to health and wellness: going beyond a bio-medical model to understand the many factors--mental, social, financial, spiritual, behavioral, environmental--that affect our wellbeing (2) cultural literacy and co-production: developing the cultural understanding and social skills needed for community service, community-based research, and social action (3) critical literacy: skills of research and analysis relating to social problems most acutely felt locally and personally, addressing the causes in their communal, social, and global contexts. (4) rhetorical skills and strategies for telling public stories, framing ethically sound and powerful arguments; selecting appropriate forms and language in persuading readers and stake-holders.

W301 Writing Fiction
Elizabeth Eslami

Prerequisite for applying: W103 or W203 (or equivalent)

This is an intermediate fiction writing workshop, open to all interested applicants who have successfully completed either W103 or W203 (or the equivalent) with at least a B, and have a sincere interest in reading and writing fiction.

To obtain permission, submit form here.

W301 Writing Fiction
Alyce Miller

Prerequisite for applying: W103 or W203 (or equivalent)

This is an intermediate fiction writing workshop, open to all interested applicants who have successfully completed either W103 or W203 (or the equivalent) with at least a B, and have a sincere interest in reading and writing fiction.

In this class you will read and discuss selected works of contemporary fiction that represent a wide range, write and show in workshop approximately 35-40 pages of new creative work (two to three short stories), revise, write weekly critiques of peer work (approximately 30 pages all semester), and contribute actively and substantively in class. We will explore not only issues of artistry and aesthetics, world view, and ideas, but technical and craft issues as well, through the outside readings and our class discussions.

You will be graded according to both the quality and quantity of work submitted, active class participation, and preparation and regular attendance. All of the above are essential to your success in the class. There may be a few quizzes, and a short exam over all the readings. You will be expected to adopt a regular writing schedule, and dedicate a fair amount of time outside of class to your writing so that you can bring your best work to the table.

To obtain permission, submit form here.

W303 Writing Poetry
Catherine Bowman
TOPIC: "Serious Play: A Poetry Workshop in Discovery, Ritual and Revision"

"I have never started a poem yet whose end I knew. Writing a poem is discovering."
Robert Frost

When we write poems we play and make things with words. Emily Dickinson famously wrote, "If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off. I know that is poetry." William Carlos Williams described a poem as a little machine made out of words. Robert Frost believes poetry is "a wild tune, a necessary stay against confusion." Wallace Stevens called the poet "The priest of the invisible." Carl Sandburg said "poetry is the journal of a sea animal living on land, wanting to fly the air." All of these definitions of poetry suggest elements of serious play: the examination, reshaping and remaking of a perceived reality, intensity, activating imaginations, song, ordering, custom and ritual, displacement and shape-shifting: discovery. In this intermediate workshop we will engage in serious play in the making and creation of poems and in our group engagement. There will be lots of in-class writing that is play oriented, poetry assignments, imaginative journal writing, revisions, some memorization of poems and poetic terms and extensive reading outside of class. There will also be some nature hikes, bike rides, films, music, dream explorations, tastings, museum trips and other outings and explorations to support you in becoming "the professor of the five sense"—as Lorca called the poet. This is an intermediate workshop for emerging poets and prose writers who want to continue to develop their writing through the exuberantly rigorous and delightedly intensive practice of reading, writing and revising poems. Class will be mostly workshop based. We will read four collections of contemporary poetry. We will also read a packet of ancient, conical and contemporary works from poets from other cultures and countries. The workshop, the in-depth reading and the comprehensive discussions of prosody and craft will serve to expand your knowledge of the writing and reading of poems.

To obtain permission, submit the form found here.

W311 Writing Creative Nonfiction
Alyce Miller
TOPIC: "The Personal Essay"

This exciting writing class is open to all interested applicants who have successfully completed either W103, W203 (fiction or poetry), W301/303, or the equivalent, with at least a B, and have a sincere interest in writing creative nonfiction with a focus on the personal essay. You do not have to be an English major to apply, and nontraditional students are always extra-welcome!

Class will be organized around weekly themes, generated from readings by such varied practitioners of the personal essay across culture, century, and experience: Seneca, Sei Shonagon, Charles Lamb, Virginia Woolf, Jorge Luis Borges, Roland Barthes, Natalila Ginzberg, James Baldwin, Joan Didion, Edward Hoagland, Joy Williams, Alice Walker, Edwidge Danticat, Joanna Beard, Luc Sante, fred D'Aguiar, Edward Abbey, Gerald Early, John Edgar Wideman, Cynthia Ozick, Darryl Pinckney, richard Selzer, Cheryl Strayed, etc.

Some of our themes may include constructing the "self" in relation to family, love, the heart in conflict, the human body, animals, medicine, law, culture, society, social justice, travel, etc. You will be asked to write short as well as long essays, using your own life and interests as subject matter.

Class format: we'll focus on close readings and discussions of assigned essays, and workshop (your own writings). You will write approximately 35-40 pages of creative nonfiction over the semester which will be shown according to a workshop schedule. Other assignments might include an occassional quiz, a few short critical presentations on the readings, and a short, end of the semester exam over the readings. Enthusiastic participation in workshop discussions and the willingness to give and receive constructive criticism in discussions, as well as in written critiques, are key.

To obtain permission, submit the form found here.

W350 Advanced Expository Writing
Scot Barnett
TOPIC: “The Human and Nonhuman in Science Fiction Film”

In this course we will examine science-fiction films—both historical and contemporary—focusing on the issue of what constitutes, and is opposed to, “the human,” and whether the “non-human” is technological, alien, or monstrous. In this context, we will also emphasize representations of gender, sexuality, race, and class within science fiction. Films to be discussed will include Metropolis, Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, The Matrix, District 9, and Avatar (students will be required to screen many of the films outside of class). Readings will include critical commentaries on the films and on the broader cultural and technological issues they explore.

Writing assignments will include short assignments that practice close reading, summary, and critique--building toward critical analysis papers using in-course and outside source material. As part of your drafting and revision process, there will be regular peer review workshops and writing conferences with me.

W350 Advanced Expository Writing
Justin Hodgson
TOPIC: “Rhetoric, Play, & Games"

In the wake of the video game explosion in the early 1990s, scholars began to investigate the teaching/learning potential of games, the knowledge-making practices of games, and the cultural implications of games. Not surprisingly, games have been exceedingly fruitful for these discussions: from understanding how games offer immersive learning models (cf. James Paul Gee) to how games, based in critical theories of play, have proliferated the histories of humanity (cf., Johan Huizinga). Beyond those considerations, games offer us access to wide range of conversations, from narrative theory to new media practices. Add to this the fact that the gaming industry rivals the cinema industry in terms of yearly sales, and we see not only a cultural shift occurring but also a need for us to critically and creatively consider the rhetorical possibilities emerging with games.

As such, this course will focus on gaming rhetorics: from rhetorical considerations of ludology (theories of play) to conversations on social media, games, and gaming communities, to serious games (games designed to make critical/cultural commentary or to engage in civic/social issues). Along the way, students will be asked not only to read texts on games and game theory, but to play games. Playing will be a central part of this course. And students will be asked to use those play/gaming experiences to inform their research, writing, and digital making activities.

Course artifacts will include readings from James Paul Gee, Johan Huizinga, Roger Caillois, Mary Flanagan, Ian Bogost, Jesper Juul, and Jane McGonigal (as a sample) and a few targeted games (ranging from Candy Crush to World of Warcraft, as potential examples).

W350 Advanced Expository Writing
Deanna Jessup

This course is designed to assist multilingual students in developing the experienced writer's style and analytical capabilities necessary for upper-division writing assignments. We will focus on the interconnected modes of writing and reading, especially the kinds of responding, analyzing, and evaluating that characterize many fields in the university. Readings will focus on gender and race in the United States, and students will work to closely analyze and synthesize texts, as well as intervene more decisively in the intellectual exchanges debated throughout the semester, requiring students to develop new knowledge and an authoritative voice that speaks to other writers and academic audiences.

Texts will include Julie Otsuka’s When the Emperor was Divine and articles taken from Ms. Magazine; bitch magazine; The New York Times; National Public Radio; and various scholarly articles. Assignments will include microthemes, colloquial presentations, and essays exploring evaluation and close analysis; associating works and synthesizing sources; and contributing to an intellectual conversation.

W381 The Craft of Fiction
Bob Bledsoe

PREREQUISITE: Completion of ENG-W203 or W301 or W311 or by permission. To obtain permission, submit the form found here.

This course will focus on the most important elements of craft in fiction. We will focus on reading like writers, examining both the content and the technique writers employ to create their fiction. We will also write a series of short exercises intended to stimulate new writing. Our goal will always be to push our understanding of fiction writing and encourage each other in class discussions.

W383 The Craft of Poetry
Ross Gay

Prerequisite: W203, W303 or permission of the instructor. To obtain permission, submit the form found here.

In this craft class we will explore a number of different forms sonnet, villanelle, bop, blues, etc). We will also (and maybe most significantly) spend a substantial amount of time on things such as scansion, punctuation and the sentence. By the end of this class you will be able to scan a poem and write in meter. You will also understand how formal constraints can help liberate you in your own work.

W401 Advanced Fiction Writing
Samrat Upadhyay

In this course you will deepen your study of the craft of writing fiction. You will read selections from the anthology, A Stranger Among Us, with stories by acclaimed international authors. A large part of the course will be in the workshop format, where you will read and discuss one another’s work. Expect to write three to four stories during the semester, and also to provide written critiques on your colleagues’ work. The aim is to deepen your understanding of the fiction through writing, reading, and critiquing. You will also do individual presentations, in which you will discuss your literary interests and books that have inspired you. The course will challenge you by pushing you into new arenas of form and content.

To obtain permission, submit the form found here.

W403 Advanced Poetry Writing
Richard Cecil

This course is a workshop in writing poetry. Students will turn in a poem a week, which will be discussed in class. The poems will be formal exercises drawn from Wendy Bishop’s Thirteen Ways of Looking for a Poem. Students will learn to work with accentual and syllabic meters, as well as to create contemporary versions of ancient forms such as sonnets and sestinas. No tests. No auditors. Students will distribute copies of their work to all members of the class.

Approval of the instructor is required for admission.


To obtain permission, submit the form found here.