English Literature Graduate Course Descriptions

Fall 2015

English 515--Shakespeare™, © 1593-1709
CRN 16571
Fran Connor

William Shakespeare was a flesh-and-blood human being born in Stratford in 1564 who made a living as a shareholder in a London theatrical company for which he occasionally wrote and acted in plays.  He is most famous as a published author; his poems and plays appeared in print and circulated in manuscript throughout his lifetime.  But Shakespeare was also a successful businessman who did not appear to be above allowing his authorial reputation to be used as a brand name to sell his (and his company's) poetic and theatrical ventures.  After his death, the Shakespeare brand accrued other meanings–some consistent with Shakespeare's work, others not–as his plays and poems continued to circulate in an increasingly complex literary marketplace.

The course will focus on four works that appeared in several versions, editions, and/or adaptations during the period encompassing Shakespeare's first attributed published work (Venus and Adonis in 1593) and Nicholas Rowe's first modern collected edition of Shakespeare's plays in 1709: the plays Taming of the Shrew, King Lear, and The Tempest, and the narrative poem Lucrece (with a handful of shorter works as well). Comparing Shakespeare's versions of these works with subsequent rewritings and publications will both contribute to our understanding of Shakespeare and the literary gatekeepers (publishers, booksellers, critics, individual readers, etc) who used his work and fame to lend credibility to particular cultural and political interests. This will appeal to students interested in Shakespeare, book history, publishing, seventeenth-century English history, or the intersection of literature and commerce.    

English 540—Introduction to Critical Theory
CRN 16059
Chris Brooks

Introduces students to critical literary theory. Topics may include readings in gender theory, historicism, psychoanalytical theory, cultural criticism, Marxism, reader-response theory and deconstruction. May also offer a survey of classical and early-modern critical methodologies from Plato to the formalist schools of the early 20th century.

Where appropriate and with program coordinator approval, this class may be used as a special topics course.

English 546—Studies in Ethnic Literature: Native American Storytelling
CRN 16060
Jean Griffith

In The Truth about Stories, Thomas King writes that “stories are wondrous things. And they are dangerous.” Our course in Native American storytelling will use King’s work of non-fiction as a lens through which to explore fiction as well as various other genres, such as poetry, autobiography, and the vast oral literature that predates and continues to inform Native American writing. In doing so, we will take up such questions as: why do we tell stories, and how are the stories we tell informed by who we are? What opportunities do written stories--an art form foreign to traditional tribal cultures--hold for Native Americans? How can a “foreign” form of expression articulate Indian sovereignty and self-preservation? How can stories be “dangerous?” Our exploration of such questions will consider the relationships between written and spoken texts, between history and literature, and between tradition and change. In addition to King’s book, we will read works by writers such as Momaday, Erdrich, Ortiz, Silko, and Alexie as well as earlier writers and storytellers.

Where appropriate and with program coordinator approval, this class may be used as a special topics course.

English 680—Theory and Practice in Composition
CRN 16071
Danielle Koupf

This course introduces students to theories of rhetoric and writing, major research questions in the field of composition studies, and best practices for teaching writing in schools and colleges. We will investigate writing processes, analyze varieties and examples of school writing, and hone our own writing skills by drafting, revising, and evaluating our own and others’ work. As we read significant publications in the field, we will continually consider the relationship between theory and classroom practice. Assignments will give students experience reading challenging pedagogical and theoretical texts; posing complex and worthwhile questions about the teaching of writing; performing research; drafting course materials for current or future writing classes; reading instructional texts critically; and responding effectively to student writing. Designed especially for prospective and practicing teachers; may not be taken for credit by students with credit in English 780.

English 700—Introduction to Graduate School
CRN 16076
Fran Connor

The purpose of graduate study is to help students develop into independent, autonomous scholars pursuing their individual research agendas.  The practical goal of this course is to initiate you into WSU's MA program, both by preparing you for its requirements and expectations, and by refining your research and writing skills and demonstrating how to initiate and develop the kinds of projects expected in graduate study and beyond so that you may contribute to the ongoing conversations fundamental to our discipline.  Thematically, we will focus extensively on our own cultural moment, in which the noble ideals of the University seem threatened by a hypercapitalist  turn in which the humanities are often considered marginal or vestigial. To this end, we will consider the development of English departments and what they contribute to the contemporary university, as well as the purpose of 'literature' (however you construe that term) and what they contribute to the world we live in and life in general.  We will take an expansive view of 'literature', including discussions of trade and academic publishing, bookselling, copyright, libraries, and scholarly and popular reading communities. While we will consider a number of critical and theoretical approaches to literary work, the course will emphasize new innovative approaches coming from digital humanities and print culture & material studies, which offer potentially fruitful avenues for reimagining literary study and English departments for the future.  This course is a prerequisite for all literature courses above the 700 level, and it is only offered in the fall.

English 703--Seminar in American Literature I: Of Madcaps and Sleepwalkers; or, Early America's Subversive Literature
CRN 16078
Rebeccah Bechtold

In Beneath the American Renaissance: The Subversive Imagination in the Age of Emerson and Melville, David S. Reynolds unsettles the traditional belief that our canonized early writers—Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Ralph Waldo Emerson and the like—were “isolated subversives” producing “act[s] of rebellion…against a dominant culture.” Such a reading, Reynolds argues, tends to ignore the impact of sensational and other popular literary forms on the productions of these so-called “great” authors. As Walt Whitman wrote in 1845, “all kinds of light reading, novels, newspapers, gossip etc., serve as manure for the few great productions and are indispensable or perhaps are premises to something better.” This English 703 course thus takes as its primary study the “manure” of the antebellum period: the “bizarre, nightmarish, and often politically radical” narratives associated with the formation of American literature. Our reading list includes Charles Brockden Brown’s Edgar Huntly, Or, Memoirs of a Sleep-Walker, George Lippard’s The Quaker City, Or, the Monks of Monk Hall, E.D.E.N Southworth’s Hidden Hand or, Capitola the Madcap, Herman Melville’s Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Marble Faun, and the short fiction of Edgar Allan Poe.

Where appropriate and with program coordinator approval, this class may be used as a special topics course, a genre course, or an American literature before WWI course.

English 780—Advanced Theory and Practice in Composition
CRN 16079
Darren DeFrain

For teaching assistants in English. Review of new theories of rhetoric, recent research in composition, and new promising developments in composition programs in schools and colleges. Students are given practice in advanced writing problems, situations and techniques and may propose projects for further special study.

English 816–Graduate Studies in a Major Author: Jane Austen
CRN 16082
Mary Waters

This seminar will examine one of the most popular and accomplished novelists of all time, focusing on her statements about politics, manners, society, and gender relations through her acute and often critical depictions of the ordinary.  To contest the all-too-frequent classification of Austen as an eighteenth-century novelist, we will pay particular attention to the elements that place her within the context of Romanticism, the period when she wrote and published.  We will read all six of Austen’s major novels, some of her letters and minor works, some Austen criticism, and some supporting cultural and theoretical texts.