Our Courses


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English-4150: Cultures of Professional Writing

Instructors: Jennifer Patton and Daniel Seward

Examine writing in various workplaces. Analyze writing discourse that shapes professional organizations. Explore ongoing technological and cultural shifts required of workplace writers and the role of digital media. 

English-4189: Professional Writing Minor—Capstone Internship
Instructor: Jennifer Patton and Daniel Seward

Students work on-site in an organization doing writing-related work and meet weekly to discuss related topics.

English-4400: Literary Locations—Literary Dublin
Instructor: Sebastian Knowles

A unique opportunity to study the work of James Joyce and spend ten days walking in the footsteps of the novel itself in Dublin, Ireland, bringing the book to life.  We will also read the poetry of W. B. Yeats and visit the Lake Isle of Innisfree, the beautiful West Country, and the hills of Glendalough.  There will be a free day in Dublin.  No knowledge of Joyce, Yeats or Irish literature required.  Open competitively to all majors - a maximum of eighteen students will be accepted.
Study of sites of literary importance and texts connected with them in the British Isles, Ireland and elsewhere. Concludes with ten-day visit to location. Taught in conjunction with English 5797. 

English-4515: Chaucer
Instructor: Karen Winstead

We will read Chaucer’s magnum opus, The Canterbury Tales, which “records” the stories told by pilgrims en route to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral.  The storytelling pilgrims represent a cross-section of medieval society, including aristocrats, entrepreneurs, professionals and officers of the Church.  The stories they tell range from romances to raunchy fabliaux, saints’ legends to beast fables.  Indeed, The Canterbury Tales includes some of the finest examples of all the major literary genres of the late Middle Ages.  Honor, death, feminism, friendship, marriage, domestic violence, morality and true love are hotly debated by Chaucer’s motley crew, whose sparring elucidates the complex world of social strivings, aspirations and anxieties that Chaucer inhabited.   

English-4520.01: Shakespeare
Instructor: Hannibal Hamlin

"The remarkable thing about Shakespeare is that he is really very good - in spite of all the people who say he is very good." - Robert Bridges, British Poet Laureate, 1913-1930
Our goal is simply to read, discuss and try as best as we can to enjoy and understand a sampling of the works of William Shakespeare, who for various complex reasons is the most widely read and influential writer in the history of the world (really). We'll work with the premise that the enjoyment depends upon the understanding. To this end, we'll focus a good deal on language, since that's the medium in which Shakespeare worked (his plays were staged, of course, but his theater was a far more verbal than visual medium, compared, say, to modern film). It's a commonplace that Shakespeare's "difficulty" lies in the changes in English over four centuries, but this is only partly true. Shakespeare's first audiences must have found his plays just as challenging as modern ones do, given his delight in coining new words, warping standard usage to suit his immediate dramatic needs, expressing himself in dense metaphorical puzzles and never using words in one sense when two, three or more are available. (We can call the last "punning," but only if we recognize that it's often vastly more than the lame joking normally so-called; for Shakespeare, the "pun" can be a figure of deep thought.) We'll read five plays: Henry IV, Part 1, The Merry Wives of Windsor, King Lear, Macbeth and The Winter's Tale and sample some of his non-dramatic poems.

English-4520.02: Special Topics in ShakespeareThe Merry Wives of Windsor
Instructor: Sarah Neville
This upper-level Special Topics in Shakespeare course is designed to give students an opportunity to explore the relationship between literary texts, criticism, and performance through the hands-on experience of working on a live Shakespeare production. Lord Denney's Players are producing Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor in April 2018, and this section of ENGL 4520.02 will form the show’s backstage, promotions and front-of-house  team. 

English-4523: Special Topics in Renaissance Literature and Culture—Literature, Politics, and Religion in the Reign of Henry VIII
Instructor: Christopher Highley

This class surveys literary and cultural production during the reign of Henry VIII, paying special attention to representations of the king himself.  Henry VIII is possibly England's most notorious and recognizable ruler, enshrined in popular lore for marrying six times and beheading two of his wives.  But the significance of Henry and his reign reaches far beyond marital politics.  When Henry ascended the throne, England was a faithful Catholic country loyal to Rome and the pope; when Henry died, England had undergone a religious and cultural revolution, emerging as an independent nation-state with its own religion and imperial ambitions. To understand this unprecedented period of historic change, we will read selections from many different kinds of texts, including Henry's own letters and religious writings; selections from competing translations of the bible; court poetry by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey and Sir Thomas Wyatt; drama by Shakespeare's precursors John Skelton and John Bale; historical chronicles by Edward Hall; and works of prose fiction like Thomas More's Utopia.  Readings and discussions will be organized by topics such as: humanism at Henry's court; war and diplomacy; courtly spectacle and chivalry; divorce and schism; resistance to Reformation; literature and the other arts; Henry's death and reputation. Finally, we will look at how Henry has been remembered over the last five centuries, especially in recent films, TV shows and fiction.

English-4540: Nineteenth-Century British Poetry
Instructor: Jill Galvan

This course covers British poetry written between 1789 and 1901, encompassing the Romantic and Victorian periods.  I’ll begin with some brief discussions of poetic elements and critical reading strategies, for those new to in-depth poetry analysis (or needing a refresher). (**You do not need to consider yourself fantastic at analyzing poetry to take this course! Part of my goal will be to help everyone become more confident approaching the genre by the end.) 
Authors will include William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charlotte Smith, John Keats, Lord Byron, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Browning, Christina Rossetti, A.C. Swinburne, Augusta Webster, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Mary Elizabeth Coleridge and Oscar Wilde. We will focus on these authors’ forms, styles and thematic concerns; at the same time, we will consider how their works respond to significant cultural/historical ideas and developments—for example, the French Revolution, abolitionism, ideas of the sublime, the “woman question” and debates about gender, momentous scientific discoveries, challenges to religious faith and burgeoning modern views about the value of art.  Students will also learn about important poetic forms (e.g., the ode, the sonnet, and the dramatic monologue), as well as about important literary modes and movements (e.g., the Gothic, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and Aestheticism). 

English-4552: Special Topics in American Poetry through 1915American Poetry in "The Gilded Age": 1873-1898
Instructor: Elizabeth Renker

The tumultuous sociopolitical world of post-Civil War America has long been called "The Gilded Age," a time when robber barons, conflict between labor and capital, wealth inequality, massive economic shifts arising from large-scale industrialization, immigration, the nation's retrenchment from Civil Rights for freedmen, and other tumultuous social changes upended social and political life. Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner's 1873 novel of social critique, THE GILDED AGE: A TALE OF TODAY, sarcastically gave this period its name. Poetry was a very popular genre at this time, and reading, reciting, and sharing poems was a routine part of daily life - like music today.  We will study an array of poets, poems, and conversations in process in the newspapers and magazines in which these poems appeared, exploring how poetry participated in larger debates about current issues.  Poets will include some who are now well known (Paul Laurence Dunbar, Frances E.W. Harper, Sarah Piatt, Herman Melville, Stephen Crane, Edwin Arlington Robinson) and others who were well known in their own time but have been forgotten. We will also briefly discuss how and why commentators call our own era a "new Gilded Age." 

English-4553: Twentieth-Century U.S. Fiction—The Great 20th Century American Novel 
Instructor: Sebastian Knowles

Starting with Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, and Ralph Ellison, we will read books that aim to recover the American experience (The Nick Adams Stories, East of Eden, Invisible Man).  Turning to Tim O'Brien, Joseph Heller, and Toni Morrison, we will read books that open those first three books and turn them inside out (Going After Cacciato, Catch-22, Beloved).

English-4555: Rhetoric and Legal Argumentation
Instructor: James Fredal

We will examine legal arguments from the perspective of rhetoric. We'll read about rhetorical theories concerning things like narrative, deduction, analogy, emotion and organization, and we'll read some important legal cases: Supreme Court majority decisions, oral closing arguments and other legal texts to see how litigants persuade.

English-4563: Contemporary Literature—The Cultural Lives of Climate Change
Instructor: Thomas Davis

Scientists have long told us that climate change will reshape how we know and interact with our world.  There is no area of human life that is exempt from the effects of climate change: geopolitics, food security, biodiversity, social justice, energy production, economics, and urban planning to name but a few.  And yet, despite the overwhelming evidence to the ongoing changes to the Earth system, solutions and actions seem in short supply.  This class approaches climate change and its manifold problems through the cultural sphere.   We will pursue a few broad questions: first, what is the place of culture in comprehending and acting on climate change? Second, how might climate change and its attendant problems manifest differently across space and time? Third, what forms of knowledge and what kinds of interventions are generated by artworks, science fiction (cli-fi), creative non-fiction, documentaries, cinema, installation art, video games, and other cultural practices? Students will also have opportunities to interact with bioartist Brandon Ballengee, do voluntary field excursions, and engage in various forms of humanistic research into climate change.

English-4564.04: Major Author in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century British Literature—Bob Dylan
Instructor: Brian McHale

Surprisingly and controversially, the Swedish Academy bestowed the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature on Bob Dylan.  Everybody knows that Dylan is a pivotal figure in the history of American popular music, but is he a poet?  Are his writings literature?  Our course will explore these questions by reading Dylan's lyrics closely and intensively for their literary values.  It will be organized roughly chronologically, in four units: 1) Folk Dylan, 1961-64; 2) Electric Dylan, 1965-66; 3) After the Crash, 1967-78; 4) Born Again and the Endless Tour, 1979-2016.  Alongside Dylan's own lyrics we will read some of his precursors and literary models, sampling folk ballads and blues lyrics, literary ballads, the lyrics of Woody Guthrie, and poetry by Blake, Rimbaud, Eliot, Ginsberg, and his namesake, Dylan Thomas.  We will sample lyrics by some of his contemporaries, including Leonard Cohen, Lennon and McCartney, Joni Mitchell, and Paul Simon.  We will also view clips from key documentary and fictional films, including Pennebaker's Don't Look Back, Scorcese's No Direction Home, and Haynes's I'm Not There.

English-4565: Advanced Fiction Writing
Instructor: William White

Advanced workshop in the writing of fiction. This is a class for serious students of creative writing. Admission is by portfolio submission to the instructor.

English-4566: Advanced Poetry Writing
Instructor: Kathy Grandinetti

This is the advanced course in Creative Writing-Poetry designed primarily for undergraduates who have taken the series of workshops at the beginning and intermediate levels. This is a workshop course in which you create the texts we consider. We will also look at “model” poets for prompts and inspiration. Get ready to surprise yourselves!

English-4567S: Rhetoric and Community Service
Instructor: Christa Teston

In this undergraduate service learning seminar, you will experience firsthand through in-class workshops coupled with writing for a community partner how rhetoric (and writing) can affect (both positively and negatively) social change. You’ll receive one-on-one assistance from me regarding your writing for a nonprofit organization with whom I’ll pair you during the first few course meetings. Your community partnership affords you exposure to the complexity of organizational communication and nonprofit labor—exposure you may not otherwise have were you confined only to the classroom. Course deliverables include a wide range of kinds of writing for nonprofit organizations (e.g. press releases, brochures, flyers, social media content), a white paper based on your experiences with the organization you’re assigned, and a digital portfolio.

English-4569: Digital Media in English Studies—Digital Messaging and Storytelling
Instructor: Scott DeWitt

This course will take up the study of digital media and its relationship to messaging and storytelling. Students from across areas in the Department of English or in majors outside of English will work on a series of short form digital projects using rich media. The most significant part of this course focuses on the "P" word:  Production. This course is structured mostly as a studio class, where we will be working together in one of the Digital Media Project's classroom. Some of you may have experience with the technologies we will compose with. For those of you new to these technologies, I will teach you more than you need to know to be successful in this class. Please do not let your lack of experience with technology intimidate you. 

English-4572: Traditional Grammar and Usage
Instructor: Lauren Squires

You will learn to describe and analyze the structure of English sentences, developing technical terminology and practicing ways of representing sentence structure through diagrams. Rather than memorizing and applying rules for "correct" English, you will become familiar with the concepts and patterns of grammar from a linguistic—a scientific—perspective. The focus of the class is not “how to write well” or “how to have good grammar.” Instead, we will seek to understand the linguistic principles that underlie all speaking and writing in English. This will ultimately equip you with the skills to more critically understand speaking and writing style, including “good writing” and products designed to encourage it, such as usage handbooks.

English-4578 (20): Special Topics in Film—Film and Video Games
Instructors: Jesse Schotter

Special Topics in Film: Film and Video Games - In the last decade, the video game industry has eclipsed the movies in popularity. This class will examine how films from Hollywood and around the world have reacted to the rise of video games as a new and increasingly dominant medium. We'll spend the first few weeks articulating the similarities and differences between video games and cinema, and looking at the ways in which video games have become more like films. In so doing, we'll explore theories of video games and of the relationship between competing media forms. The bulk of the class will focus on an examination of recent films that seek to emulate or improve upon the unique characteristics of video games.  We'll examine issues of narrative, spectatorship, performance, and gender representation. Films may include The Matrix, Children of Men, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Run Lola Run, Holy Motors, and Being John Malkovich. Assignments will include two papers, as well as two brief responses and presentations about individual video games.

English-4578 (30): Special Topics in Film
Instructors: Jian Chen

Examination of particular topics, themes, genres, or movements in cinema; topics may include particular directors (Orson Welles), periods (The Sixties), genres (horror). 

English-4580: Special Topics in LGBTQ Literatures and Cultures—Baldwin, Lorde and LGBT Liberation
Instructor: Koritha Mitchell

James Baldwin (1924-1987) and Audre Lorde (1934-1992) were prolific writers who offered insights through several genres. Their artistic contributions continue to shape many people's understanding of the workings of capitalism, racism, sexism, and heteronormativity. Lorde famously dubbed herself a "black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet" while Baldwin never claimed labels, but generations of artists, scholars, activists, and ordinary citizens (who find affirmation in their work) now celebrate them both as Black Queer Artists. This course will explore their contributions by sampling some of their most influential texts. Readings will likely include Baldwin's essays and novels as well as Lorde's essays, poetry, and her "biomythography" ZAMI. We will end the semester with Janet Mock's Redefining Realness in order to consider how Baldwin's and Lorde's efforts in the 1940s through the 1980s helped make a path for more recent articulations of LGBT liberation.

English-4582: Special Topics in African American Literature—Homemade Citizenship
Instructor: Koritha Mitchell

Even when they embody everything the nation claims to respect, African Americans cannot count on being treated like citizens. Simply consider the black soldiers and nurses who served in the Civil War, WWI, and WWII only to be disfranchised and denigrated … or consider the Ivy League-educated constitutional lawyer who rose to the office of president only to face demands that he “show his papers,” his birth certificate and academic transcripts. This course gives students an opportunity to explore the ways in which African Americans have made home and made citizenship from scratch. Despite the nation's constant attempts to convince them that they should never feel at home and never feel like citizens, they have cultivated a sense of belonging nonetheless. So, rather than assume that Black-authored texts primarily protest injustice, we will examine how Black cultural expression affirms what community members ideally already know about themselves and each other. Readings will likely include nineteenth-century works by Henry "Box" Brown, William & Ellen Craft, and Frances Harper, and twentieth-century works by Zora Neale Hurston, Audre Lorde, and Tayari Jones.

Likely Requirements: careful, consistent reading; thoughtful class participation; a scholarly annotation assignment; at least one presentation.

English-4587: Studies in Asian American Literature and Culture—The South-Asian Diaspora
Instructor: Pranav Jani

This course investigates literature, film and nonfictional texts by and about South Asian Americans, paying special attention to the politics of identity formation. What notions of religion, gender, nation, class, and sexuality govern these identities? Where have South Asian Americans fit in terms of the racial and ethnic dynamics of American society? How have ideas about the "exotic" or "spiritual" East and the "materialist" West shaped the image (and self-image) of this group? Throughout, our aim will be to see the historical contexts within which these questions have changed—especially since greater immigration from Asia was allowed in 1965. We will specifically discuss how cultural identities have been shaped recently by corporate globalization and the global popularity of everything "Indian," from Bollywood, bhangra and mehndi to writers and software engineers. The South Asian-British experience will also be referenced by way of comparison. By drawing on literary, cinematic, historical and ethnographic texts, this course seeks to provide students with an interdisciplinary framework for understanding the diverse and often conflicting ways through which the desi experience is portrayed and understood. Grading will be based on intensive class participation, an oral presentation, regular blog posts, two short papers and a longer research paper.

Required Texts (along with shorter pieces on the final syllabus): Monica Ali, Brick Lane; Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of Loss; Mohsin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist; Jhumpa Lahiri, The Interpreter of Maladies; Vijay Prashad, The Karma of Brown Folk; Kamila Shamsie, Kartography

English-4592: Special Topics in Women in Literature and Culture—Medieval Women
Instructor: Karen Winstead

This course will examine literature written by, for and about women during the Middle Ages. We will read Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim, medieval Europe's first dramatist; Hildegard of Bingen, a Rhineland nun, mystic, advisor to rulers and popes, and author of poetry, music, plays and treatises on topics ranging from botany to sex; Margery Kempe, wife, mother of fourteen, entrepreneur and would-be saint; and Christine de Pizan, young widow and controversial "proto-feminist" who supported her children and mother by writing poetry, political allegories and self-help books at the court of France.  We will also read about remarkable gender-benders, including the military leader and martyr Joan of Arc and the (fictional) Silence, born a woman but raised to be a great knight.  

English-4595: Literature and Law—The Outsider in the Courtroom
Instructor: Clare Simmons

"Literature and Law" is a course in the representation of law in literature and the literary analysis of legal discourse; it is not a course in the study of law, but should be of interest to anyone who wants to engage with the role of law in culture; the legal and literary representation of human rights; and how law uses language. Literature and Law can be applied towards the English major and Human Rights minor; many students from other departments also take it to fulfill upper-level course requirements, so the course provides an excellent opportunity to meet students from a wide variety of fields who are interested in law and perhaps thinking about Law School.  We will read both some legal materials and some literature that represents law in action. The special topic of this course is "The Outsider in the Courtroom," so we will read some actual cases and also a variety of fictional representations of law in action, and consider how the rights of outsiders are protected, or sometimes forgotten, by the law.  We will also practice some courtroom procedures of our own in mock-trials.  Readings will include a 2000-year-old murder trial; some medieval animal trials; Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice; the Amistad trial; Wilkie Collins's novel The Law and the Lady; Reginald Rose's Twelve Angry Men; and Kate Rose Guest Pryal's Short Guide to Writing About Law.  

English-4597.04H: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Narrative in the Contemporary World—Serial Storytelling Across Media
Instructor: Sean O'Sullivan

Stories told in installments have been wildly popular since the nineteenth century—and they play a huge role in our current digital moment.  In this course, we will examine serial narratives across eras, platforms and media—including television, podcasts, film, comics and novels.  We will consider central questions of how we experience time, routine, memory and character and how we connect and distinguish the part and the whole.  Our materials are likely to include, among other stories: the Serial podcast; the TV series Breaking Bad and Atlanta; A Tale of Two Cities; and Groundhog Day.”

English-4999: Undergraduate Research—Thesis
Instructor: Staff

A program of reading arranged for each student, with individual conferences, reports and a paper and/or thesis.

English-4999H: Honors Research
Instructor: Staff

A program of reading arranged for each student with individual conferences, reports and an honors thesis. Open only to candidates for distinction in English.