Undergraduate Course Descriptions

Fall 2015

ENGL 230 - Exploring Literature

Instruction in the perceptive reading of literature in its major traditional periods or genres (especially drama, fiction and poetry). May not be counted for credit in the English major or minor. Pre- or corequisite: ENGL 102.

ENGL 232M – Ecology and the Wild
Full Title: Into the Anthropocene: Ecology and the Wild in American Literature
Instructor: Sam Taylor

Recently, many scientists have proposed that we are now in a new geologic age—the anthropocene—an age defined by the dramatic extent to which humans shape the earth and its ecosystems. From global warming to desert oceans and mass extinction, from changing the character of food to transforming the composition of the human body, people have become a geologic force shaping life on earth. In this course, we will take these developments as a framework in which to explore themes of ecology and the wild in American literature. We will examine how different texts portray the relationship between human beings and the natural world, as well as how they imaginatively respond to the ecological crises of the current era. We will use literary texts as a way of deepening an ecological perspective, and we will use an eco-critical perspective to discover new insights into literary texts. We will also expand the concept of ecology to apply it to relationships within the human world. Primary texts will include readings from Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, Robinson Jeffers, John Steinbeck, Gary Snyder, Mary Oliver, Aldo Leopold, Adrienne Rich, W.S. Merwin, Robert Hass, Susan Griffin, Tony Hoagland, Joy Harjo, Chase Twichell, Sherman Alexie, Robert Frost, Sharon Olds, Leslie Marmon Silko, Anne Waldman, C.K. Williams, and Rick Bass, as well as viewings of films including I Heart Huckabees, Food, Inc.,  and Apocalypse Now.

ENGL 277 – The Detective Story
Instructor: T. J. Boynton

The detective story is not only one of the most popular genres in modern literature; it is one of the most important.  Over the last century and a half, the detective story—traditionally, a mystery tale in which an elite member of the profession studies evidence of a crime and then apprehends its author—has become one of the primary means through which human beings develop an understanding of the nations in which they live and their own legal and moral identities as citizens.  From the mid-nineteenth century fiction of Edgar Allen Poe to the current heyday of the television police procedural, the genre has flourished as a source of entertainment because of its unique ability to satisfy these underlying human concerns and urges.  This course will explore these characteristics by tracing the history of the detective story from its origins to the present.  It will spotlight: early incarnations of the genre such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories and the murder mysteries of Agatha Christie (the best-selling fiction author of all time); specimens of the dramatic twin of detective fiction, the “whodunit” play; “postmodern” fictional and dramatic texts that dismantle the genre and reconstruct it in strange, fascinating ways; poetic responses to the genre, including a detective novel in verse; film adaptations of famous works and original films featuring famous characters; and a graphic novel account of history’s most famous serial killer, Jack the Ripper.  Along the way we will delve deeply into both the traditional features of the genre and the larger social and historical concerns it focalizes.  

ENGL 303/403 – Poetry Writing
Instructor: Sam Taylor

In this poetry writing workshop, we will focus on writing as a way of intimately exploring the world and the self.  This course will involve a lot of fun, but it also requires an intense engagement with your whole being and should be entered with purpose and intention.  Beyond any concern for product, we will prioritize each student's deepening relationship to the creative process itself-—beginning with freeing him/her from inhibitions, self-censorship, fears of vulnerability, and rational control, and guiding each writer to touch the world up close with the imaginative power of language.  The poem will be presented as a field in which a vision of the world is enacted, a space in which indeed anything can happen.  Throughout the semester, we will read diverse models of successful poems and gradually introduce formal considerations of the craft as we respond constructively to each other's work.

ENGL 315 – Introduction to Linguistics
Instructor: Mythili Menon

Linguistics is the scientific study of language as it is represented in the human mind. In this course you will learn to examine language data in a systematic way in order to uncover abstract patterns and generalizations. We will explore some of the key representational tools that linguists use to analyze these patterns, generate predictions, and test hypotheses. The data that we consider will come from English and many other languages. The major subfields of theoretical linguistics that this course will introduce you to are:

  •  Phonetics – the articulation of speech sounds?
  • Phonology – the systematic organization of speech sounds?
  • Morphology – the structure of words
  • Syntax – the structure of phrases and sentences
  • Semantics – the meaning of words and phrases

We will also spend some time discussing how the abstract representation of language relates to child language acquisition, language change and language universals. All of these areas are connected, so we will revisit ideas from earlier in the course throughout the semester.

ENGL 317 – History (and Structure) of the English Language
Instructor: Mythili Menon

The English language has a long and remarkable history. Yet, what bearings has the evolution of English, from Old English to Modern English, had on linguistics, as we know it today? This course traces this intimate connection between the history of the English language and how it has informed Modern day Linguistics, by looking at language use, notions of linguistics correctness, differences between ‘standard’ and ‘non-standard’ English, spelling reforms, pidgins and creoles, the rise of English as a lingua franca, and world Englishes.

We will begin with some of the basic concepts of language and language change, including semantics (how words mean), phonology (where sounds come from and how they are made), morphology (how words are formed), orthography (spelling), and syntax (how words are put together). From there we will move to the prehistory of English, including the Indo- European language family and where English fits into it. Then we will work chronologically, moving through Old English (before 1100), Middle English (12th-15th centuries), Early Modern English (16th-18th centuries), and Modern English (18th century-present). These will be connected across centuries, and we will see how language changed in the different sub-fields of Linguistics. Along the way, we will also read about historical events such as invasions, revolutions both political and intellectual, immigration, emigration and cultural assimilation as shaping forces in the living entity that is language. Throughout the course, we will work closely with texts of different centuries, analyzing the contents with the help of etymological dictionaries, and corpus methods. By the end of the semester, you will have gained hands-on experience working with corpus data online, using corpus methodology, and working with dictionaries to analyze data.

ENGL 323  World Literature
Instructor: T.J. Boynton

The history of literature is filled with examples of authors alluding to, quoting, adapting, and stealing outright from previously published works.  A special category of such forms of literary borrowing is the wholesale rewriting of classic texts.  This course will emphasize this unique type of aesthetic repackaging by highlighting four contemporary rewritings of canonical or classic works.  We will read both classic source texts and their more recent, modified versions and will attempt thereby to probe the ongoing utility and relevance of classic literature to the contemporary world. Why do old stories, plays, and poems continue to speak to us, and what advantages might rewriting them hold over the creation of original works?  We will pursue this question through “classic” texts from ancient Greece, the ancient Middle East, and early modern England, through contemporary rewritings from Africa, South Asia, and the Caribbean, and amid literary forms such as epic poetry, drama, and the novel.  Along the way we will also develop our skills as close readers, writers, and thinkers about literature and will gain increased awareness of and insight into the diverse cultures from which our chosen texts originate.

ENGL 340  Shakespeare and Politics
Instructor: Fran Connor

With another U.S. election upon us, we'll use Shakespeare's play to think about issues such as the role of government, the traits of an ideal ruler, war and its effects on soldiers, and economic justice¬–all issues as relevant in Shakespeare's time as they are in ours. Works will likely include 1 Henry IV, Henry V, Coriolanus, Timon of Athens, As You Like It, Lucrece, and Hamlet, and one or two more. May fulfill General Education Advances Further Studies Humanities requirement.

ENGL 346  American Multicultural Literature
Instructor: Mary Sherman

In this course, we will study a broad range of American ethnic literature, including American Indian, African American, Asian American, and Hispanic American writing as well as literature from other ethnic groups. As we go, we will try to enhance our understanding of how ethnic and national identity have been formed through literature, analyze the social and cultural contexts that have shaped ethnic writers’ perspectives, and examine how ever-changing definitions of race and ethnicity have contributed, at various times, to the inclusion and exclusion of these writers from the American social and cultural landscape.

ENGL 361  British Literature II
Instructor: T.J. Boynton

The period of British literature to which this course will introduce you begins around the turn of the nineteenth century and ends around 1960.  We will move in rough chronological order through a broad-ranging series of essays, short stories, novels, plays, and poems that demarcate the key socio-historical concerns—economics, technology, politics, race, class, gender, crime, religion/morality, violence, imperialism/colonialism, nationalism, science (to name a few)—preoccupying “British” authors during this fraught era.  The overarching goal of the course is to give you a general overview of the major historical concerns on which the literature of the period rests and to probe intensively the diverse and evolving ways in which its major authors responded to these concerns.  All literature constitutes a veiled commentary on historical circumstances: this core premise will guide our investigation of the strange and fascinating world of British literature from the early nineteenth through the late twentieth centuries, and it will also guide us toward another of the central goals of the course, namely to help you become better informed, more astute interpreters not only of British literature but of literature in general.

English 516—Studies in a Major Author: Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson
Instructor: Rebeccah Bechtold

“Are you too deeply occupied to say if my Verse is alive?” asked Emily Dickinson in 1862. This course answers no, choosing to spend the semester working with Dickinson’s poetry and that of her contemporary, the very “disgraceful” (Dickinson’s words—not mine!) Walt Whitman. Our semester will begin by building a brief understanding of early American poetic theory before turning to the poetry, manuscripts, and prose writings of Dickinson and Whitman. Throughout the semester we will work with their writing—treating it as an object with textual, oral/aural, and tactile elements—while considering its placement within the everyday landscape of nineteenth-century America. In addition to the required books listed below, we will be working extensively with electronic resources, including the digitized archives of Whitman and Dickinson.

English 536  Writing by Women
Instructor: Jean Griffith

Readers have long made easy assumptions about literature by women, foremost among them being the notion that it is primarily, if not exclusively, written for and read by women. Women’s literature therefore creates a female-dominated conceptual community, the thinking goes, even as fresh-and-blood women live, for the most part, in male-dominated communities.  In American terms, this means women’s literature stands in opposition to men’s writing. While men write about individuals standing in opposition to (an oftentimes feminized or effeminate) society, women writers celebrate family, friendship, and community. How accurate are these assumptions? What kinds of communities, if any, do texts by women create, and on what basis is membership decided? How does a focus on community inform the formal aspects of a text? Under what circumstances do communal bonds start to chafe? If women really do write against the highly-prized individualism supposedly synonymous with being American, do they offer an alternative way to define national identity? Is there such a thing as an American women’s literary tradition (or traditions), and, if so, how has it changed over time? Our class will explore these and other questions as we read literature by American women from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries.

ENGL 590  Senior Seminar: British Romantic Literature: Politics and Aesthetics
Instructor: Mary Waters

This class will explore poetry, fiction, and non-fiction prose from the Romantic period to develop an understanding of the ways in which aesthetics and literary form both influence and respond to wider cultural events that may seem far removed from literature.  We will balance the reading of traditional major figures of British Romanticism (Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, Keats) with lesser-known literary figures and with writers on such controversies as human rights, the abolition of slavery, and the controversy over the revolution in France to reveal a vibrant and dynamic body of literature where investment in issues of immediate social concern can be considered in tandem with enduring aesthetic power.

The course aims to familiarize you with one of the more recent perspectives in the study of Romantic literature.  In addition, because it is a senior writing capstone seminar, it will improve your analytical and writing skills by asking you to engage at an introductory level in various kinds of assignments frequently demanded in graduate seminars while providing the intellectual support and writing coaching appropriate to a rigorous undergraduate writing class.  Because these assignments will require significant research, you will develop your research skills and increase your familiarity with library resources.  Supplemental readings in criticism will familiarize you with some of the debates about Romantic literature and culture and will improve your ability to evaluate and draw upon secondary sources. 

English 680 – Theory and Practice in Composition
Instructor: Danielle Koupf

This course introduces students to theories of rhetoric and writing, major research questions in composition studies, and best practices for teaching writing in schools and colleges. We will investigate writing processes, analyze varieties and examples of student writing, and hone our 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, performing research, drafting course materials for current or future writing classes, reading instructional texts critically, and responding effectively to student writing.

English 686 – Scientific, Technical, and Professional Writing and Editing
Instructor: Danielle Koupf

This course introduces students in the humanities to writing and editing in scientific, technical, and professional contexts. We will analyze and create technical, scientific, and professional documents designed for a variety of audiences, both in print and online. These may include research summaries, press releases, procedures and specifications, infographics, public service announcements, fact sheets, and popular science and nature writing. Assignments will help strengthen students’ rhetorical awareness, as well as the precision, clarity, and design of their writing.