Department of English

Undergraduate Course Descriptions
FALL 2021

 

ENG 202-001: Introduction to Journalism | Shirley Mathews   

Go beyond the mundane "who, what, where, when and why" of journalism and, over the semester, discover the fact that remains as true today as when the Founding Fathers raised Freedom of Speech as a fundamental right: One person telling the truth can indeed change the world. Extensive practice in the basics of writing news stories, instruction in how a newsroom works, training in how to look for stories and the importance of accuracy, accuracy, accuracy. Roll up your sleeves, put on your good shoes and prepare to walk in the footsteps of giants. Texts include Melvin Mencher’s News Reporting and Writing and The Associated Press Stylebook 2018 or newer.  

  

ENG 204-003: Introduction to Professional Writing | Lance Cummings  

In this class, you will reflect on how rhetoric and visual design can inform effective communication in collaborative and technologically diverse contexts. Using print and online tools, you will explore the composing process through invention, collaboration, audience analysis, and revision. Besides composing traditional professional genres, like memos, proposals, instructions, and public relations materials, you will also reflect on how these can be redesigned and delivered in digital and networked contexts. Consequently, you will be required to experiment with various emerging Web 2.0 technologies, culminating in a major design project purposed for a specific professional audience. This course will enhance your ability to compose well-designed, persuasive, and purposeful texts in a variety of professional and academic contexts.  

  

ENG 205-001: Introduction to Literary and Cultural Studies | Blevin Shelnutt   

This course introduces you to literary and cultural studies, focusing on joining the careful analysis of textual detail with attention to the cultural, historical, and critical contexts that shape our ideas about what literature is and does. Our work will center around one of the most enduring texts in American popular culture: Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (1868). We’ll explore related primary readings and examples of literary criticism as a way of gaining exposure to the diverse methods that can be used in interpreting literary texts. Over the course of the semester, you’ll be expected to actively participate in discussion, to work collaboratively with peers, and to practice researching and writing through a series of response posts and essay assignments. Topics to be discussed include Alcott’s famous reluctance to write a “girls” book; the challenges that women writers met in navigating the nineteenth-century literary marketplace; the text’s changing material forms; and the relationship between popular culture and literary art. At the end of the semester, we’ll examine contemporary literary and film adaptations of Little Women, which raise questions about the novel’s continuing legacy in the twenty-first century.  

 

ENG 205-002: Introduction to Literary Studies | Mark Boren  

In this course we’ll refine our critical reading skills, sharpen our research, writing, and speaking skills, and be introduced to a range of theoretical approaches to written texts, such as psychoanalysis, feminism, and deconstruction. We will look deeply at specific texts and approach them from different angles. Significant energy also will be devoted to learning how to conduct research, come up with original ideas, and write essays of literary criticism. Through the analysis of poetry, of fiction, and of non-fiction, and through the methodical study of critical essays on primary texts, we’ll learn the intricacies involved in negotiating the world through language.  

  

ENG 210-001: Mythology | Victor Malo-Juvera  

Obi-Wan Kenobi, Dumbledore, and Gandalf the Grey all die in almost identical scenes. In Harry Potter, Fluffy is lulled to sleep by music. In Game of Thrones, Lyanna Stark is abducted by a Targaryen prince, and Stannis Baratheon sacrifices his daughter on advice from the Red Woman. All of the aforementioned scenescan be traced back to ancient myths and this course will examine the underlying mythic structure of modern works of literature and popular culture. Specifically, we will study of the mythic structure of the hero’s journey and through readings of Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology, critically interrogate multiple myths.  

 

ENG 224-001: American Literature Since 1870 | Keith Newlin  

In this course, we will read representative fiction, plays, and poems in American literature from the late 1900s to the present. We will discover how and why each story “works”—how it captures the reader’s interest, the aesthetic methods the authors use to tell their story. We will also look at the political, social, and cultural context; and we will discuss such issues as emerging feminism, critical responses to racism, the literature of propaganda, alienation and literary experiment, and why some writers get represented in anthologies and others do not. This section will also emphasize critical discussion and writing. Text: Cain, American Literature, Vol. 2, 2nd ed. (Penguin Academics).  

 

ENG 286-001: Critical Theory and Practice | Meghan Sweeney
Theory involves, Jonathan Culler writes, “a questioning of the most basic premises or assumptions of literary study, the unsettling of anything that might have been taken for granted: What is meaning? What is an author? What [does it mean] it to read? What is the ‘I’ or subject who writes, reads, or acts? How do texts relate to the circumstances in which they are produced?” (4-5). In this class, we'll delve into these challenging questions, reading, discussing, and writing about theorists from Michel Foucault to Adriene Rich, from Jacques Lacan to Gloria Anzaldua. It's a challenging course, but the conversations we'll have together should make it worthwhile. 

 

ENG 304-001: Writing for Teachers Victor Malo-Juvera  

This course will introduce theoretical foundations and instructional strategies for teaching writing in secondary schools. We will begin by examining skills such as vocabulary, grammar, brainstorming, prewriting, and basic paragraph structures. We will then address the most frequently encountered/tested writing in secondary schools: narrative, expository/informational, argumentative, and research papers. Techniques such as scaffolding instruction, peer editing/review, alternative forms of assessment, and culturally relevant instruction will play a critical role in this course. We will also examine requirements for on demand standardized writing assessment and discuss how the Common Core State Standards and the new trend in using End of Course tests may impact writing instruction in the future.  

 

ENG 305-001: Professional Review Writing: Everybody’s a Critic! | Shirley Mathews   

And in this course, everyone is a critic. Students will have an intensive hands-on experience in the fundamentals of how to think and write critically – and fairly – about plays, restaurants, concerts, music, photography, movies and other creative endeavors, all with an eye to producing professional-quality – and publishable – work. Emphasis is on background research that will strengthen the perspective and credibility of the student’s finished review.  Students do not need experience in any of the areas they will review, but all students will need a willingness to learn about unfamiliar topics and to think about them analytically. Only formal text required is the Associated Press Stylebook, 2018 edition or newer. Students will need to budget about $60 (or more) for expenses involved in reviewing assignments.  

 

ENG 313-001: Writing About Science, Medicine, and the Environment (cross-listed with ENG 390-001: Studies in Literature) | Jeremy Tirrell  

While today we have disciplines such as the medical humanities and disability studies, and better understandings of both trauma and mental health, Victorian England had different ways of articulating how disease worked and what it meant. Not only were interpretations of disease different in the 19th century—germ theory was not widely accepted until near its end—but Victorian ideology frequently aligned illness with factors of class and morality, casting criminality and vice in the language of disease.  

  
In the name of public hygiene, illness became the site of imposed religious, social, national, and medical discourses, as well as an aesthetic and literary device. Dr. John Snow and Reverend Henry Whitehead fostered modern epidemiology through their quantitative approach to London’s mid-century cholera epidemic and the creation of the “Ghost Map,” which demonstrated that the disease stemmed from contaminated water rather than moral failings and miasmas. In contemporary literature including industrial novels, symbols such as coughing emerged to mark characters with consumption or byssinosis (fiber in the lungs from working in textile mills), and (spoiler alert), not long for this world. And although Tiny Tim’s wasting disease is unnamed, his health serves as an indicator of Scrooge’s moral redemption.  

This is a team-taught, cross-listed course that blends ENG 313: Writing About Science, Medicine, and the Environment and ENG 390: Studies in Literature. Using the 19th-century cholera epidemic as our touchstone, we will spend a semester investigating disease’s literary, rhetorical, and visual dimensions. We will explore the role of narrative in disease—in case studies, rhetoric, ideology and literature—and vice versa. How do we use narrative to understand and speak of disease? How does medical discourse shape our understandings? What does this tell us about the given culture, and how might this help us read texts historically and in the light of our current pandemic era?  

Required Texts:  

Johnson, Steven. The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic—and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World. Riverhead, 2006.   

Vinten-Johansen, Peter. Investigating Cholera in Broad Street: A History in Documents. Broadview Press, 2020.  

 

ENG 314-001: Digital Composing | Jeremy Tirrell  

Students in this course will explore how digital technology shapes composition practices through critical engagement with new media formats. Students will have the opportunity to use a variety of design applications and network services to analyze and produce multimedia works including interactive maps and podcasts. This course has no required text to purchase; readings that explore new media theory and practice will be provided electronically.  

  

ENG 319-001: Document Design | Lance Cummings  

In this class, you will explore the connections between visual rhetoric, design principles, and problem-solving. In other words, how do we solve problems, persuade people, or simply do things with well-designed documents in the 21st century? We will also explore the intersections between print and digital media using Adobe Creative Cloud (design software used in most professional contexts). This class will include an applied learning project and visits from design professionals in various industries. Past collaborations have included nCino, Wave Transit, and Meredith Publishing. This class will give you both practical and theoretical experience in document design, along with a portfolio of work that can be used on the job market.  

 

ENG 320-001: Introduction to Linguistics | Addie Sayers China  

This course will introduce students to the basics of linguistics, the study of human language, with an emphasis on applying linguistics in the everyday world. We will explore such topics as language structure, language variation, language and society, and language change, with an emphasis on practical application of language study. Students will interact with several types of language data and will have the opportunity to connect linguistics to their own personal interests and areas of study.  
  

ENG 324-001: Topics in Linguistics: Instalinguistics - Language, Memes, and Media | Addie Sayers China  

In this class we will examine the language of digital communication. We will explore language and multimodal communication in social networking and social media (such as Tumblr, Twitter, Reddit, YouTube, Snap Chat, & Instagram), memes, gaming, texting, and in other types of mobile and digital discourse practices. We will question if digital communication is destroying language, whether we will all end up speaking in emojis, how memes function as modern folklore, and how we interpret visual communication, such as Instagram and Snapchat posts. We will also connect user practices to concepts of identity, society, and community. Students will have the opportunity to analyze and research their own areas of interest in the digital domain.  

  

ENG 333-001: Shakespeare’s Later Plays Professor Lee Schweninger   

“All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts.” (As You Like It). This course will offer you an in depth look at several of Shakespeare’s “later” individual plays. We will read each play in its literary, historical, political, social and even philosophical contexts. And we will also look at how this early modern drama still speaks to us today. We will read from the Bard’s comedies, tragedies, a romance, and (and maybe throw in a history) in order that you come away from the course with a well-rounded and good familiarity with Shakespeare’s body of works.   

You will be asked to keep an informal reading response journal, to write formal and informal short response essays, to be responsible for the readings and class discussions, to take occasional reading quizzes and mid-semester and final essay exams. As this will be a discussion-based class, attendance and attention to the readings will of course be required.  

  

ENG 336-001: British Romanticism | Mark Boren  

Traditionally, Romantic subjectivity privileges the individual walking alone in Nature considering a transcendent or sublime experience.  This cultivation of a solitary, particularly masculine Romantic ego dominates the genre, and we’ll explore that, but we’ll also see how women, slaves, and soldiers exist in the English landscape and the imagination of its inhabitants as well.  In this course, we’ll look at how Romantic writers living in England between 1780-1830 conceptualize what it means to be human in a beautiful if terrifying world. We’ll read a number of canonical and non-canonical texts, including work by Wollstonecraft, Wordsworth, Byron, the Shelleys, Hemans, and Landon.       

  

ENG 351-001: American Realism | Keith Newlin  

William Dean Howells called it “the truthful treatment of material” and the highest form of art.  Frank Norris belittled it as being about “tragedies of an afternoon call, crises involving cups of tea.”  American realism lies somewhere between those two assessments, and this course will give you a generous sampling of the best writing of American realism.  Realists explored such issues as unbridled capitalism, urban poverty, rural opportunism, gender conflicts, and social conformity.  We’ll encounter corrupt businessmen, wayward strumpets, social-climbing nouveau-riche, naïve observers, and even an immense but stupid dentist.  The realists’ legacy is significant, for the narrative techniques realists developed influenced all subsequent writers who aim to delineate life accurately.  Texts include Nagel & Quirk, The Portable American Realism Reader (Penguin); Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Broadview); Howells, The Rise of Silas Lapham (Penguin); Norris, McTeague (Norton); Dreiser, Sister Carrie(Norton); Wharton, The House of Mirth (Penguin)  

  

ENG 377-001: Queer Literature | Katie Peel  

As Kath Weston notes in her article “Get Thee to a City,” an element often cited in coming-out narratives is the discovery and understanding of queer identity via reading. We see this in the literature itself, from Stephen Gordon in Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness to Alison in Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. We will spend the semester reading both historical and contemporary queer literature and discussing the relationships between narrative and identity. Our focus will be on the narrative production of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer identities and communities, and the production of queer narrative. If “queer” can mean that which challenges the normative, then what does this mean for narrative?  

  

ENG 384-001: American Bestsellers Blevin Shelnutt  

There have been bestselling books since long before the term “bestseller” was created in the late nineteenth century. And although in the twentieth century bestsellers became associated with the novel, in the American colonies and early United States the books with the biggest sales included not just works of fiction but also almanacs, textbooks, and the Bible. This course examines books that have captured the American popular imagination over the past four centuries. In approaching the study of literature through the history of its reception—thinking about which texts were popular and why—we’ll go beyond considerations of literary value to explore the cultural contexts that have made bestsellers possible. Through readings of canonical and lesser-known works, we’ll investigate changing ideas about audience, taste, reading, and “literature” in American culture. On the way, we’ll encounter a range of genres, such as the reform tract, seduction tale, and slave narrative. Topics to be discussed include the construction of high and low cultural forms, the adaptation of bestsellers to and from various media, and the significance of the material text. By the end of the course, students will be able to research and analyze the relationship between a text and its audience, the cultural dimensions that shape a work’s success, and some of the ways that reading and literature fit into American cultural history.   

  

ENG 390-001 (team-taught with English 313) Ghost Maps: Visualizing Disease Narratives | Katie Peel  

While today we have disciplines such as the medical humanities and disability studies, and better understandings of both trauma and mental health, Victorian England had different ways of articulating how disease worked and what it meant. Not only were interpretations of disease different in the 19th century—germ theory was not widely accepted until near its end—but Victorian ideology frequently aligned illness with factors of class and morality, casting criminality and vice in the language of disease.  

In the name of public hygiene, illness became the site of imposed religious, social, national, and medical discourses, as well as an aesthetic and literary device. Dr. John Snow and Reverend Henry Whitehead fostered modern epidemiology through their quantitative approach to London’s mid-century cholera epidemic and the creation of the “Ghost Map,” which demonstrated that the disease stemmed from contaminated water rather than moral failings and miasmas. In contemporary literature including industrial novels, symbols such as coughing emerged to mark characters with consumption or byssinosis (fiber in the lungs from working in textile mills), and (spoiler alert), not long for this world. And although Tiny Tim’s wasting disease is unnamed, his health serves as an indicator of Scrooge’s moral redemption.  

This is a team-taught, cross-listed course that blends ENG 313: Writing About Science, Medicine, and the Environment and ENG 390: Studies in Literature. Using the 19th-century cholera epidemic as our touchstone, we will spend a semester investigating disease’s literary, rhetorical, and visual dimensions. We will explore the role of narrative in disease—in case studies, rhetoric, ideology and literature—and vice versa. How do we use narrative to understand and speak of disease? How does medical discourse shape our understandings? What does this tell us about the given culture, and how might this help us read texts historically and in the light of our current pandemic era?  

Required Texts:  

Johnson, Steven. The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic—and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World. Riverhead, 2006.   

Vinten-Johansen, Peter. Investigating Cholera in Broad Street: A History in Documents. Broadview Press, 2020.  

  

ENG 414-001: Writing for the Web | Jeremy Tirrell  

The Web is perhaps our most relevant contemporary writing space. We work, play, buy, learn, worship, socialize, and create in multidimensional online networks constructed of words, sounds, videos, and images. This course builds upon visual rhetoric methods and technological design skills to focus on the analysis and production of texts in Web formats. The course will address topics including generating content for existing Web outlets, understanding the various conventions of markup systems, optimizing online works for targeted search, and modifying Content Management System (CMS) and html/css templates. Much course interaction will take place through a companion website that supplements class meetings with practical interaction. This course includes both individual and group projects, and some student work will take place in public online formats. There is no required text to purchase; readings that explore web writing theory and practice will be provided electronically.  

 

ENG 502-001: Introduction to Literary Theory | Meghan Sweeney

All literary activity is underpinned by some form of theory; part of what this class will do is enable us to examine more deeply the variety of assumptions that we make when we encounter texts. In Literary Theory: a Very Short Introduction, Jonathan Culler says that theory is not “a set of methods for literary study but an unbounded group of writings about everything under the sun, from the most technical problems of academic philosophy to the changing ways in which people have talked about and thought about the body” (3-4). Theory involves “a questioning of the most basic premises or assumptions of literary study, the unsettling of anything that might have been taken for granted: What is meaning? What is an author? What [does it mean] it to read? What is the ‘I’ or subject who writes, reads, or acts? How do texts relate to the circumstances in which they are produced?” (4-5). The theorists you read and the work you do in the class will help you formulate a variety of answers to those questions. 

 

ENG 525-001: Studies in Sociolinguistics: Language, Meaning, and Culture | Addie China  

In this class we will examine the basics tenets of sociolinguistics and the interaction between language and society, with a special emphasis on language, meaning, and culture.  We will specifically explore issues of languages, dialects, and power; language, gender, and sexuality; language, race, and ethnicity; language and discrimination; and the language and thought.  Students will read from a variety of foundational scholars in linguistics, social sciences, and critical theory in order to critically interrogate language and ideology. Students will complete their own sociolinguistic projects in an area of their choice.  

  

ENG 572-001: Introduction to the History of the Book Blevin Shelnutt  

This course introduces students to the theories and methods of material textual studies, an interdisciplinary field that combines literary aesthetics, rhetorical analysis, media and cultural history, and the history of technology to examine the history of the book as a physical object and reading and writing as cultural practices that are continually in flux. We’ll explore the production, circulation, and consumption of texts in a variety of formats and periods, from ancient cuneiform tablets to e-books. In doing so, we’ll interrogate basic assumptions about what books are, how they get used, who gets credit for creating them, and why people read. The “content” for this course will consist of critical readings in the field, primary readings that allow us to explore the issues our critical readings raise, and engagement with original materials at Randall Library, where we will hold a few special classes. Topics to be discussed include manuscript culture, the development of printing technology, ideas and practices of authorship and reading, the spread of literacy, and the future of the book.