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Indiana University Bloomington

Undergraduate Courses


Past Courses (Summer 2014)

E301 Literatures in English to 1600
Michael Adams

This course is a survey of early English literature, full of exciting stuff, a necessary foundation for reading later literature: it will be a literary adventure — even if you’ve read some of the works before, you won’t have read them in the way we will this term. Among these texts, you can count on Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (both in Modern English translations), some of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, lyric poems from Chaucer to Shakespeare, the late medieval dramas The Second Shepherd’s Play and Everyman, Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus, and selections from Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene. I admit, you may not like everything in this list equally well, but you’ll admire everything we read, appreciate the authors’ literary daring, and learn from their humane insight. Our work is also foundational to the major, and we’ll spend some time on the techniques of reading, the history of literary forms, and other matters that prepare you to be a successful student of literature, with some social, political, ecclesiastical, and intellectual history interleaved wherever helpful.

Texts: Our texts are The Norton Anthology of English Literature (8/e), edited by Stephen Greenblatt and others, Volume A: The Middle Ages and Volume B: The Sixteenth Century and Early Seventeenth Century. If you already own Volume 1 of the two-volume version of the anthology, that will work just as well.

Coursework will include two essays (5-8 pages), two examinations early in the term, and a final examination.

L202 Literary Interpretation
Cathy Bowman


The Post-(Harry) Potter Nation: Literature of the Occult

The mega-popularity of Harry Potter and Stephen King are examples of the 21st century’s obsession with magic, wizards, ghosts, telepathy, divination, alchemy and mystical systems. Since the publication of the Harry Potter series there seems to be an increase in the publication of young adult and literary fiction dealing with magic and the occult. This class will explore various expressions of the spooky, the strange in contemporary poetry, fiction and film. The occult is defined as something hidden, concealed, not exposed to view. We will read poems, fiction and watch several films where the occult acts as conduit for creation, a system for making art and transformation. We will most likely focus on the figure of the vampire, the golem, ghosts, necromancers, shape shifters, magicians and tarot readers. We will compare the ways that writers have used the occult to break with traditional culture and mainstream religions, to ask questions about the primacy of science, rationality and the empirical. We will think abut how the occult offers a means to explore sexual identity, race, gender, cultural taboos, technology, the outsider, otherness and the processes of the psyche and the subconscious. We will also look at occult rituals some writers practice. And the ways some writers define themselves as magicians or shamans. Throughout the semester we will ask questions about who or what is being demonized and why as we explore the nature of difference in the literature of the occult. We will practice close readings and critical analysis of our readings. We will spend our time discussing how to talk and write about literature. Rather than a daily lecture, the format of the class will be discussion based. Students will be required to actively engage in readings and class discussions. Students will engage in both critical and creative writing. No prior experience necessary. This class meets the writing intensive requirement: students will write both creative and critical papers and short responses over the course of the summer session.

L204 Introduction to Fiction
Jacinda Townsend
TOPIC: “Character and Setting in the Short Story Intensive Writing Section”

Over the course of eight weeks, we will discuss a diverse group of short stories to introduce ourselves to the analysis of literature.

This is a discussion, rather than lecture, course: in our examination of the stories at hand, we will focus on the ways in which character and setting operate not to enhance not only the thematic underpinning of each piece, but the reader’s appreciation of them as well. Student writing will include three papers and in-class writing assignments based on your very individual interpretation of the stories at hand.

L381 Recent Writing
Jacinda Townsend

“Tell the truth,” says memoirist Stephanie Klein, “or someone will tell it for you.” In this class we will not only shape and fashion our own realities on the page, but discuss how memoirists bend and shape their works to reflect on past occurrences that are to be read by future audiences. What is truth, exactly? In what ways do we both accurately record it while making it serve as a quite deliberately reconstructed window? In answering these questions, students will turn in twenty to twenty-five pages of original work.

L391 Literature for Young Adults
Romayne Rubinas Dorsey


L391 is an upper division course designed to introduce adult readers to contemporary young adult literature, literature read by and written for (or featuring) people 12-to-18 years of age.

We will read several young adult novels as well as supplementary materials. As we read this material we will formulate our own definition of young adult literature. Topics we will explore will revolve around the role of the imagination and literacy in adolescent life and development and will include: notions of adolescence and young adulthood; perceptions of adults and adulthood from adolescent perspective; the role of imagination and fantasy in the lives of adolescents and their relationship to literacy both textual and cultural; censorship and what it means to be literate in a free society; and issues of identity and representation including age, class, gender, race and sexuality.

Possible texts include:

  • Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
  • Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games
  • Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Madeline L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time
  • Walter Dean Myers, Monster
  • Rainbow Rowell, Eleanor and Park
  • Craig Thomson, Blankets
  • Markus Zusak, The Book Thief