Monsters, Ecopoetics, Shakespeare: classes fulfilling the new GE requirements

November 22, 2022

Monsters, Ecopoetics, Shakespeare: classes fulfilling the new GE requirements

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You may have heard about the new general education requirements for the incoming first-year students of 2022 and beyond at Ohio State. If you are wondering how to begin navigating this new structure, don’t worry; the English department has your back. We have created an easy-to-understand overview to help you navigate this exciting and challenging experience. These new requirements have allowed the English department to restructure past courses and create new ones to help students fulfill the new requirements. Read on to find out more about the exciting opportunities in store with the department.

The new structure features a three-part program that includes bookend, foundation and theme courses for a total of 32 to 39 credit hours. The bookend section includes a Launch Seminar, to start the program with, and a Reflection Seminar for students to end the program with. The Launch Seminar aims to help students understand the GE structure and articulate “academic and program goals and find opportunities to express those goals within the GE from various disciplinary perspectives.” It is recommended for students to take this seminar within the first three semesters at the university. The second part of the bookend courses is a Reflection Seminar that aims to help students appreciate the knowledge they have gained from their time spent at the university, especially within the GE structure. It is ideal for students to take this during their last two semesters before graduation.

The second part of the program requires students to take 22-25 hours of Foundation courses that fall within the seven categories pictured in the image below. The College of Arts and Sciences requires their students to complete an additional eighth category in World Languages. The goal of these courses is to “introduce students to academic disciplines and their modes of inquiry.” These courses are intended to give students the groundwork they need for the final area of the General Education structure, the Themes courses.

Students are required to take 8-12 hours within Themes courses, which are described as “broad, interdisciplinary and respond(ing) to questions and concerns reflecting the 21st century context informing it from historical, current and futuristic approaches.” Their major goal “is to provide students with the opportunity to examine a complex topic through multiple perspectives and disciplinary lenses,” providing them with the opportunity to delve into more critical thinking and complex examinations aspects of college coursework. Additionally, students will fulfill embedded literacy requirements in Advanced Writing, Data Analysis and Technology through courses designated by their major.


GE structure flowchart

Professor Karen Winstead has already created a course that fulfills both the Citizenship for a Diverse and Just World and the Health and Well-Being theme course requirements. English 3264 – Monsters Without and Within – was a reworked version of her previous course English 3378. “I reinvented a course I had taught many times before, which is its own adventure,” Winstead says. This course was offered for the autumn 2022 semester and the process was rigorous to get it completed by that time. Winstead explains, “I was developing the course just after the new GE was unveiled; the process was challenging ... The review process was more complex than any course review process had been.” Through this course Winstead has worked with students from across the university with all different majors and minors. Winstead says, “This range and diversity of interests enriches the course experience for everyone, including me ... it is such a pleasure to think about issues that matter with smart, creative, and engaged people.” English 3264 was also taught on the Newark campus during the autumn semester, by Travis Neel.

Professor Clare Simmons has had a similar experience when teaching her new course, English 3360 – Ecopoetics. This course focused on the environment through literary analysis to fulfill the Lived Environments theme course requirement. Associate Professor Jacob Risinger and Assistant Professor Jamison Kantor worked with Simmons and “created a course that can be taught a number of different ways, but always focusing on a specific historical context, including the present.” Similar to Professor Winstead’s course, Simmons has seen students from all different backgrounds in this course. Her students “represent many different majors and backgrounds, and work really well together.” She says, “I hope they are having as good a time as I am.” Like English 3264, English 3360 was offered on the Newark campus in autumn 2022, taught by Associate Professor David Ruderman.

Students can also look forward to upcoming English courses that were created for the new general education curriculum. Department faculty have been hard at work creating these new courses for the spring 2023 semester and beyond. Below are just a few of the new GE courses that students can sign up for in the coming semesters.

English 2221 – Shakespeare: Race, Class, and Gender
Professor Elizabeth Kolkovich has worked to create a brand-new Shakespeare course
that fulfills the new GE requirements, which will be taught for the first time this spring by PhD candidate Tamara Mahadin. The course, English 2221, focuses on Shakespeare’s work in relation to race, class and gender, a focused study that is different from other Introduction to Shakespeare courses Mahadin has taught in the past. Mahadin notes, “I can really focus on these topics with my students and unpack them.” Students enrolled in this course will look at Shakespeare’s plays within the context of race, class and gender to fulfill the Foundations: Race, Ethnicity and Gender Diversity requirement.

Professor Kolkovich developed English 2221 and discusses the challenges of creating a new course. “The process was rigorous and required several revisions, which shows the university’s commitment to making sure new GE courses are strong and committed to the same learning goals,” Kolkovich says. When initially creating the course Kolkovich was challenged when making important decisions about the course’s format, in relation to assessments and assignments. Mahadin and Kolkovich wanted to figure out the best way to assess students’ understanding of the concepts of race, class and gender in relation to Shakespeare’s work. They decided on assignments focused on students’ reflection of the texts and the key concepts of the course. "This approach embraces each student’s lived experience as key to their understanding of the material,” Kolkovich explains. Both Kolkovich and Mahadin are excited to work with students through this course and engage with the material.

Students who take this course will get to engage with Shakespeare’s texts in a different way and look at how his work represents race, gender and ethnicity. Mahadin emphasizes that this course is “asking students to engage with representations of race, gender and ethnicity ... [at] a particular moment in time.” Through this focused study students will look at original Shakespeare plays that are not as familiar, as this course allows for a deeper dive into Shakespeare’s lengthier and more involved work. “I’m very excited to teach plays that I don’t think I would be capable to teach in [other courses],” Mahadin says. Students will also get to look at modern adaptations of Shakespeare’s original plays, allowing an opportunity to link the past to the present.

Both Kolkovich and Mahadin hope students will gain new skills and ways of thinking about Shakespeare’s work in relation to the concepts of race, gender and ethnicity through this course. Mahadin says, “I really hope that [students] realize that through us analyzing representations of race, gender, ethnicity and all those intersectionalities, how those conceptions are present and continue to be in our culture.” Kolkovich has similar hopes for students taking this course. She says, “I hope students will come out of this course with a greater awareness of how deeply conceptions of race, gender and ethnicity have affected the Anglophone world for centuries. And I hope they will feel empowered to read old texts in new ways.” Students can look forward to enrolling in this course for the spring 2023 semester.

English 2381 – Introduction to Black Atlantic
Assistant Professor Jamison Kantor, a faculty member at The Ohio State University at Mansfield campus, researches and teaches 18th- and 19th-century British literature. But in recent years he has been widening his areas of interest to “more Transatlantic forms of literature,” Kantor says. This includes literature from across the Atlantic Ocean, and more specifically Black Atlantic literature. Kantor’s new course, English 2381, serves as an introduction to Black Atlantic literature. Students enrolled in this course will explore a broad variety of texts to fulfill the Foundations: Race, Ethnicity and Gender Diversity requirement. Kantor explains, "In the course we're looking at literary forms that are specific to Black writers in English that have their own moves, their own conventions.”

Through this course Kantor believes students will learn to understand racism in its earlier phases. Kantor notes that one of the unique elements of this course is that it “can offer students ... an early literary exploration of race and racism.” He points out “we might be more familiar with certain racisms – plural racisms – that are familiar today ... this is ... an ongoing conversation since the birth of the country.” English 2381 serves as a course for students to learn how important it is to “understand racisms in its earlier phases.” As this course focuses mainly on the period from 1725 to around 1865 students will read works that they may be less familiar with. This exploration of earlier periods allows students to examine how the racisms of the 18th and 19th centuries evolved into the 19th and 20th centuries and beyond.

Kantor got the inspiration for the course after watching the news back in 2020. “I saw there were demonstrations in Paris where Parisians were chanting the name George Floyd, and this felt like a kind of an amazing moment to me, not just as an American to see a kind of transatlantic solidarity, but as a scholar to see that this conversation about transatlantic struggle against racism is back,” Kantor says. Director of Undergraduate Studies Elizabeth Hewitt helped Kantor develop this course. Hewitt and Kantor were able to take his inspiration to create this new general education course.

English 2381 will also allow students to use modern works in conjunction with the earlier texts. Some of the modern works the class will be interacting with include watching the film Black Panther and playing a video game. “We look at again the contemporary heritage of the Black Atlantic tradition in all sorts of media, and it's really amazing and great to see how many examples there are of that,” Kantor says. Kantor has been enjoying teaching this course so far and will teach it again for the spring 2023 semester at the Mansfield campus.

English 3110 – Citizenship, Justice, and Diversity in Literatures, Cultures and Media: Social Reform Literature in the U.S.
Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies Elizabeth Hewitt has also developed another course under the new GE curriculum. English 3110 focuses on the literature of social activism in the United States to fulfill the Citizenship for a Diverse and Just World theme course requirement. Students who take this course will get to read a variety of works, all focused on the history of reformist and radical literature within the U.S. “I think they [students] will learn a great deal about political debates over equality, justice and liberty in the United States,” Hewitt says. Students will look back at initial debates over the Constitution and its inequalities, learn about the inequity and injustice built into American governance, and read works critiquing this system.

Professor Hewitt initially was unsure whether this course should take a broad or narrow focus. But she eventually decided on a broader study for this general education course. “The advantage of breadth is that students become exposed to a lot of material and that allows us to make really interesting synthetic connections,” Hewitt says. The topics in this course are not only important in the classroom, but also have a far-reaching importance outside of the classroom. “Learning about the real history of citizenship in the United States ... can bring real clarity to our current moment and contemporary discussions about justice, equality, and liberty,” Hewitt explains. Through this course, students can work to connect the past to today’s world and its inequalities.

English 3395 – Literature and Leadership
Professor Susan Williams will be teaching a new course in the 2023-2024 academic year, English 3395, Literature and Leadership. Students in this course will study leadership and analyze how literary genres explore leadership. “This course will give students a way to think about their own leadership styles and assumptions through case studies of specific literary characters,” Williams says. Students will get to read works by writers like Langston Hughes, Wallace Stevens, Robert Frost and more. These readings will also be paired with writings from leaders within The Ohio State University to help students reflect on leadership in their careers and beyond. “I think this will help students see how studying English can enhance leadership skills within and beyond higher education,” Williams says. Students will explore the ideas of leadership and literature to fulfill the Citizenship for a Just and Diverse World themes course general education requirement.

Professor Williams developed this course using techniques she learned from her summer institute at Drake Institute for Teaching and Learning. “I used backwards design to plan the course. I started with the learning outcomes associated with the citizenship theme for GE and then identified specific goals for the course,” Williams explains. The creation of this course has allowed Williams to explore new topics and resources that she can learn alongside her students. “I’m most excited about reading reflections on leadership written by literature professors at Ohio State and elsewhere who have become leaders in higher education,” Williams says. This course will also be a part of the new Leadership Studies major that is under development in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Students enrolled from Autumn 2022 and beyond will have to follow the new general education requirements and will get to participate in these exciting courses that also meet the requirements of the old GE structure to accommodate the needs of the students who enrolled before 2022. These are just a few of the department courses that allow students to explore the new GE curriculum. The English department faculty and staff strive to accommodate the needs of students and through these courses, allow students an exciting, new way to fulfill their GE requirements.

By Kira Kadar and Jayasree Sunkireddy

Additional reporting by Han Chen and Anushka Mukherjee

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