Fall 2011 Course Descriptions

Page last updated Mar 23, 2011, 11:06 a.m.
These course descriptions have been written by the individual faculty members teaching the courses. They're intended to help you make the best possible selections for your fall semester. In general, the descriptions here include more detail than the Bulletin descriptions of the same courses. For example, a description here may include a list of probable texts, references to particular assignments, or information about the professor's teaching methods or intellectual approach to the subject. If you have questions about any of these courses, consult your adviser, the individual instructor, or the English department secretary, Ms. Feeley.

For general information on advisement, have a look at the Advisement Guide.

Overview: What Counts Where

  • Pre-1700 British: 212, 310
  • Post-1700 British: 213, 233, 316, 321, 324, 343
  • American Lit: 235, 237, 239, 250, 333, 338
  • Cultural Intersections: 142 (Lima), 237, 239 (Gentry), 242, 267, 343
  • Shakespeare: 354
  • Major Authors: 358
  • Writing/Language: 201, 301/303, 302/304, 305/307
  • Film: 239 (Gillin), 267 (Okada), 285
  • Writing Track
    • Genre: 142, 215, 321, 324
    • Contemporary: 239 (Gentry), 338
    • Cultural Intersections: 142 (Lima), 237, 239 (Gentry), 242, 267, 343

Courses You Can Take Twice (under different subtitles)

  • 142, 233, 237, 239, 250, 321, 324, 343, 358

Information on degree requirements

Information for concentrators


  • Engl 254, incorrectly listed as pre-1700 British, removed March 22, 2011, 6:44 a.m.

No changes will be made to the above information once registration begins.

If you would like to enroll in Engl 301/303, 302/304, or 305/307, you must submit a sample of your work together with this cover sheet to the English department office by 4 p.m. on March 24. If you have been previously admitted to the creative writing track, you will not be denied admission to any 300-level workshop in which there is space available, provided that you submit the completed cover sheet by the deadline and attach the required writing sample. It is also possible to apply for admission to a workshop without applying for admission to the track. Learn more about creative writing workshops and the creative writing track.

Engl 142: Literary Forms

The Short Story in the Caribbean (M. Lima)

All Caribbean nations share a history of foreign domination, slavery, colonialism, and imperialism, as well as a heritage of revolt, resistance, and struggle to assert cultural and intellectual freedom. The Caribbean also shares a legacy of ethnic, racial, and linguistic diversity that distinguishes the region from anywhere else in the world: African, East Indian, Amerindian, European, Asian, and Middle Eastern cultures have all contributed to the composition of the present populations, to their philosophy, way of life, folklore and religion, music, dance, and literatures.

Our course explores both commonalities and differences identified in short narratives by anglophone, francophone, and Spanish-speaking Caribbean writers, features which underscore the Pan-Caribbean scope of the writers' defining experiences. Our reading of these stories will attempt to differentiate the degrees of separation from the norms of the "mothercountry" that these authors have actually achieved. In order to avoid encapsulating all stories within the master narratives of imperialism and nationalism, we will remain attentive to the historical specificity of each Caribbean nation represented on our syllabus. REQUIRED TEXT: The Oxford Book of Caribbean Short Stories #0192832417

LEARNING OUTCOMES: Successful students will

  • understand basic generic conventions;
  • interpret and analyze short stories using the basic terminology of literary criticism, understanding how genre itself may shape our reading;
  • present individual ideas to the class and persuasively discuss the complexity of the texts and the contexts under discussion and, consequently, their different interpretations;
  • write short essays of literary criticism that demonstrate knowledge of basic generic conventions, incorporating contemporary critical discourse while demonstrating mastery of the conventions of Standard English.

ASSIGNMENTS AND GRADING: This course is non-graded until the very end of the semester. Your final grade will depend upon active and engaged class participation, including occasional quizzes and the day you lead the discussion on a story of your choice (25%), and progress in writing critically about the genre: a midterm essay (20%), a final paper (30%), and a final exam (25%) will be assessed.

An "A" student will do all the work and excel in most of it. Active, thoughtful class participation and progress in writing critically are musts. The student who earns a "B" may lapse in one area, but she is generally committed to the work and to the class. A "C" student will do the assignments and participate in class, but will show no particular effort in doing the work thoughtfully or in engaging in class discussion reflectively and/or regularly. Since students who are unable to keep up with the work or to attend class regularly will be advised to drop the course, I do not anticipate "D" or "E" students in this class. (I would really begin to worry after three absences!)

Crime Fiction (T. Metzger)

This course will use crime fiction to explore a wide spectrum of topics: American gun culture, race and crime, the sexualization of violence, generational fears and the juvenile delinquent, vengeance versus justice, the criminal as superhuman and subhuman, male and female forms of aggression and psychiatric explanations of crime.

Literature, Art, Social Justice (J. Walker)

What will you learn?

  • how to read museums
  • how to make a really great PowerPoint
  • how to take videos off of YouTube
  • how to rip videos off of dvds
  • how to set up your own website

In this course we will look at the intersection of cultural values and money — museums.

A museum is a collection of things organized to teach a lesson to the person who comes inside. The National Gallery in London teaches the lessons we teach in HUM I and HUM II. The British Museum teaches (sometimes by accident) how breath-takingly acquisitive an Empire can be. And, as that last sentence implies, museums should be read critically, and — as with traditional texts — the stated intention of the authors must be set carefully aside.

There are museums of art and science and history and books and beer cans and tired iron tractors and bugs, gloves, executions, paper, umbrellas, eye glasses, fire. And mucus. Las Vegas has a museum of mucus.

I would imagine that our class motto will be: “who knew?”

Two things that all museums share are things and words explaining those things.

Oh, and budgets. Yes, that’s where social justice comes in. Margaret Thatcher’s government gutted the UK’s education system, but set up tax shelters for private funding of museums. New Orleans is presently opening a new museum of bugs. Is this the best use of funding in post-Katrina New Orleans? On the other hand, maybe a new museum is exactly what everybody needs.

We will look at existing museums — in readings, on line, and through at least one field trip. Teams of two students will be assigned an existing museum to study. At the end of the semester you will make a case for and a case against your museum as a just use of public funds and space. There will be a vote by the class as a whole and a panel of outside judges. The team that wins can skip the final exam. (If the class is small, you can do individual projects.)

Instead of a paper, you will each set up an online museum — with any content you care to privilege — making just the sorts of choices that we will be discussing. We will work on the techie skills needed for this, so don’t feel that you need to be fluent up front.

Take a quick look at my museum, which is presently a work in progress.

  • 15% - midterm
  • 20% - virtual museum
  • 35% - museum presentation
  • 20% - final exam
  • 10% - class participation

Engl 170: The Practice of Criticism

The Practice of Criticism (E. Stelzig)

In this gateway course for English majors on the analysis and interpretation of literature students will engage in "close" or careful critical reading and discussion of texts from a range of genres (drama, short story, novel, autobiography, poetry). There will be three short (4-5 page) critical papers, an hour test, and a final exam. Our textbook will be any recent edition of the Shorter Edition of The Norton Introduction to Literature, supplemented by a novel and an autobiography.

The Practice of Criticism (C. Woidat)

A foundational course for English majors, English 170 foregrounds questions about the practice of criticism, asking students to think about why we read, what we read, and how we read. In classroom discussions and short essay assignments, students will work on developing the skills of close reading, undertaking critical analysis of texts from various genres with attention to their forms and techniques. We will examine a film, a number of poems and short stories, a novel, a play, and essays by literary critics and theorists. The course provides an introduction to critical issues and controversy in the discipline arising from the different theoretical approaches and perspectives of readers, enabling students to become more conscious of their own practices and engagement in a larger interpretive community.

The Practice of Criticism (P. Schacht)

An introduction to the interpretation and analysis of literature, this course is also an inquiry into the abstract principles and assumptions that underlie all efforts to represent the meaning, structure, and value of texts. Students interpret and analyze texts from a variety of genres, but they also use these works to gain an appreciation of the way different theoretical starting-points give rise to different, often conflicting, interpretations, analyses, and judgments of value. Examples of such starting-points are the nature of textuality, the nature of authorship, the relationship between literature and life, and the location of textual meaning. The course helps students begin to acquire a working vocabulary for relating meaning and structure in literature, and a corresponding vocabulary for discussing literary theory, that will serve them in every other English course they take.

The Practice of Criticism (R. Doggett)

Introduction to the interpretation and analysis of literature, as well as to the abstract principles and assumptions that underlie all efforts to represent the meaning, structure, and value of texts. In classroom discussions and short essay assignments, students under- take critical readings of texts from a variety of genres (poetry, novel, drama, etc.), while examining how critical controversy emerges from the different theoretical commitments and preconceptions of readers.

Engl 200: College Writing II

College Writing II (C. Perri)

This course is a writing workshop designed to give students many opportunities to practice their critical thinking and writing skills. Frequent writing required.

Engl 201: Creative Writing

Creative Writing (C. Beltz-Hosek)

This workshop is designed to further the study and practice of creative writing. My assumption is that you are here as burgeoning writers, and that you are hungry to extend your knowledge and experience of poetry, creative essay, and fiction writing; moreover, that you are serious about the commitment that any self-respecting art form demands. Most of our time will be spent discussing the creative pieces you bring in each week, but you are also expected to read extensively in each genre with an ambitious critical lens. Required Texts: Janet Burroway's Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft (Second Edition); Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird.

Engl 201: Creative Writing (C. Perri)

An intermediate-level writing workshop involving assignments in various literary forms. Class discussions will focus on stu- dent work as well as work by published authors.

Engl 212: British Literature I

British Literature I (G. Paku)

A study of selected works in British literature from its beginnings to 1700, with analyses of their artistic significance and descriptions of their place in the intellectual, social, and literary contexts of their ages. The course pays some attention to the changing heads of state and related issues of religion, but focuses primarily on close readings of the works. Most of the readings are poetry, with examples also of early English and Renaissance drama, and pre-novels. Authors include Chaucer, Jonson, Donne, Milton, Julian of Norwich, and Aphra Behn.

British Literature I (G. Drake)

This course will survey the major currents of British literature through the year 1660 — yes, Old English poetry, Chaucer, Julian of Norwich, Sidney, and Milton, among others. But the course will also consider and critique the English domination of English literature by looking at the contributions of Ireland and Scottish culture. Each student will also memorize and perform (in class) an assigned passage of poetry or drama. A final presentation on a paper on this passage will substitute for the final exam. Our two texts will include the Norton Anthology of English Literature, Eighth Edition, Vol. 1, and Tales of the Elders of Ireland.

Engl 213: British Literature II

British Literature II (W. Harrison)

The three centuries of literature we will read are often the most familiar to 20th-century readers, and these writers and works have had immense influence on our understanding of what literature is and how it is produced. The chronologically ordered course will read works from the following major periods: Neo-Classical, Romantic, Victorian, Modernist, and the so-called Contemporary. We'll consider how each of these periods have helped to construct our own idea of cultural modernity. Our four literary texts will be: The Broadview Anthology of British Literature: Concise Volume B; Disraeli's Sybil; Lawrence's St. Mawr, and Greene's Brighton Rock.

British Literature II (K. Asher)

A study of selected works in British literature from 1700 to the present, with analyses of their artistic significance and descriptions of their place in the intellectual contexts of their ages.

Engl 215: Understanding Poetry

Understanding Poetry (R. Doggett)

This course will enrich students’ understanding of the craft of poetry — its design, its specialized techniques for creating and communicating meaning, and the special- ized methodology necessary to constructing interpretations of it. This is not a course in writing poetry, but in the analysis of it. We will read a wide variety of poems written in English from British, American, and other English-speaking traditions. Although this course will give some attention to the history of individual poetic forms, its primary goal will be to increase understanding of poetry’s design and poets’ methods.  This course counts a c genre course for Writing Track majors.

Engl 233: Topics in Post-1700 British Literature

Fiction and the British Empire (R. Doggett)

This course examines works of fiction that respond to or are conditioned by the second phase of the British Empire: a period that roughly spans the late 1700s to WWII. The main focal point of our analysis will be to explore the degree to which these works are complicit with or seek to challenge the political , economic, and cultural foundations of British imperialism. Other issues will include: British attitudes toward race, the impact of Darwinism on British thought about other cultures, the relationship between patriarchy at home and British rule abroad, concerns about the failings of empire, and the relationship between empire and British history.

Engl 237: Voices and Perspectives

African American Migration Narratives (B. McCoy)

This class will explore what it means for individuals and groups to leave one place and move to another. We will read stories and poems by Toni Morrison, Jean Toomer, Ta-nehisi coates, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Frederick Douglass. We will look at paintings by Jacob Lawrence, and we will listen to music by Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and Arrested Development. We will talk about maps, race, gender, family, and culture. We will ask tough questions: What is one's relationship to ancestors and the past? What if stories about one's past aren't "true?" What kinds of stories are worth passing on, and why?

This course is designed for students from all majors. It will rely on all students using their voices. Students will create a final project that will explore their family's relationship to African American migration narratives. (As there are many definitions of the term "family," students may interpret the term "family" in any way they wish.)

Native American Literature (C. Woidat)

The proliferation of American Indian autobiographies, fiction, poetry, and essays written since the late 1960s has been described as a Native American literary "renaissance." Drawing upon both oral tradition and written literary forms, Native American writers have created a distinctive body of work that challenges the ways we think about language, literature, and identity. This course will examine the roots and development of Native American literature written in English with careful attention to cultural, historical, and political contexts. Among the assigned readings, probable texts include: N. Scott Momaday, The Way to Rainy Mountain; James Welch, Fools Crow; Linda Hogan, Mean Spirit; Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony; Sherman Alexie, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven; Joy Harjo, How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems: 1975-2001.

Visibility and Invisibility in American Literature (A. Rutkowski)

This course will examine images, metaphors, and strategies of visibility and invisibility in literature written by African-American, Asian-American, and Anglo-American writers. Our culture deeply influences how — and whom — we see, as well as how we feel about being seen by anyone defined as "other" by virtue of, say, their race, gender, sexuality, or unconventional beliefs/practices (such as drug use). All of these texts are obsessed with seeing and being seen, and the characters within the novels (and perhaps the authors themselves) sometimes demand attention and other times wish to pass unnoticed. Morrison, Larsen, Ellison, Burroughs, Pynchon, Kingston, Lee.

Engl 239: American Visions

The Film Hero (E. Gillin)

Students in Engl 239 will study a series of classic and mainstream American films and elements of their social, political and historical backgrounds. Students will read texts such as Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces to gain familiarity with essential elements in the long universal tradition of the hero figure as cultural icon. Class discussion and writing assignments will enable students to determine how the American motion picture has reflected the timeless prototypes of world mythology or more immediate social influences---and whether Hollywood "myth-making" is a phrase that accurately captures the role of the American film industry in contemporary culture.

The course will typically meet on early Monday evenings to discuss weekly readings and also the film viewed the prior week. In the latter portion of the semester students will be making presentations based on group projects. Following a 10-15 minute "intermission" there will be a film screening.

Texts: Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces; Maria Tatar, ed., The Classic Fairy Tales (Norton Critical Edition)

Evaluation in Engl 239 will be based upon performance on papers, quizzes and a group presentation project, as well as regular class participation.

Hip-Hop Culture and Contemporary Literature (K. Gentry)

We will explore hip hop's history and coming of age through fictional works by hip hop generation writers. Our focus is identity. How do hip hop and its members define themselves? What labels, ideals, codes, and morals do they uphold and why? What labels do others assign to them and why? Where and how do these labels originate? We will consider the ways that commercialization (among other factors) has transformed hip hop over the years; however, it will be important not to lose ourselves in debates about the authenticity and aesthetic value of "underground" vs. "popular" rap and maintain an understanding of the scope of the culture as well as insight into the racial, political, and social factors that make the claims on both sides of the rap argument so urgent. We will discuss those factors as we study hip hop’s history. We will also talk about issues that were pressing for America's black diaspora long before the 1970's (slavery, legal rights, colonization, etc.) and why those issues still have a prevalent place in hip hop dialogue. Over the course of the semester, we will investigate hip hop’s complexity and how it is manifested in contemporary literature's form, content, and characters.

Engl 242: Literatures of the African Diaspora

Literatures of the African Diaspora (M. Lima)

The term "African diaspora" has been used to refer to the grouping of diverse peoples and cultures that have, although dispersed throughout the world, retained a consciousness of shared origins and struggles, including those that remain on the African continent. This course will take up a diverse group of works from the African diaspora, inviting students to make connections and distinctions about themes, formal devices, political outlooks, etc., while exploring the complexities of multiple audiences---having in common English as the lingua franca of a globalized economy.

The concept of an African diaspora is powerful in that it allows us to speak of continuities and connections within the African world experience, without compromising the uniqueness and historical specificity of each culture under its rubric. We will also engage questions about linguistic and cultural dominance, the translation of oral cultures into writing, the representation of "otherness," access to history, the legacy of colonialism, the painful consequences of neocolonialism and current attempts at "colonizing in reverse."

INTENDED LEARNING OUTCOMES: Hopefully students in this course will

  • demonstrate an understanding of knowledge held outside the Western tradition--the history, ideas, and critical issues pertaining to the peoples of the African diaspora;
  • understand the complex relationship of cultures in the African diaspora;
  • understand the various negotiations writers in the diaspora make when they choose to write within/ against traditionally western generic conventions;
  • demonstrate the ability to write sustained, coherent, analytical, and persuasive arguments, following the conventions of Standard English;
  • demonstrate the oral ability to present their individual ideas to the class and persuasively discuss the complexity of the texts and cultures under discussion and, consequently, their different interpretations.

Required Texts: Andrea Levy, The Long Song (2010) ISBN 978-0374192174; Green Cane and Juicy Flotsam: Short Stories by Caribbean Women ISBN 0813517389; Joan Anim-Addo, Haunted by History (2004); Readings in mycourses; Required Films: Sankofa, Slam.

ASSIGNMENTS AND EVALUATION: This course is non-graded until the very end of the semester. Your final grade will depend upon active and engaged class participation which includes daily discussion questions (30%) and progress in writing critically [a midterm essay (20%), a research paper (30%), and a final exam essay (20%) will be assessed. I tell all my students on the first day, the highest grade they can anticipate (if they do not talk in class) is a B- even if they can write like God herself. Note that I will send you home the second time you come to class without the readings---no buts about it. We need to look at specific passages together, and your memory of the text will not be enough. Readings from MyCourses must be printed and read before they are due. I will also reserve the right to quiz the class on all the readings due each day.

Engl 250: Literature and ...

Literature and the Environment (K. Cooper)

Ecocriticism takes as its starting point the connections between human culture and the physical world — although many such relationships are invisible to us, if not willfully effaced. Hopefully, our time together will enable you to become a more perceptive critic and writer along this convoluted interface. In addition to surveying literary depictions of the American environment since the colonial period, this course aims to address how such representations continue to shape our subjective impressions and experiences. Following the example of Henry David Thoreau, students will utilize informal, autobiographical writing as a resource for the development of more scholarly endeavors.

Engl 254: Introduction to Shakespeare

Introduction to Shakespeare (J. Walker)

We will use a lot of films and film clips, often several productions of the same play. It really makes a strong point about how Romeo's line "O, I am fortune's fool" depends on the actor's delivery if I can show you 5 different actors saying it 5 different ways.

You will all write a paper on the differences between Much Ado about Nothing the play and Much Ado about Nothing the film by Kenneth Branagh. Then I put people in teams and each team works on a play that's been staged very differently over the centuries and in film. In general, the teams do excellent presentations on their films, concentrating on the historical context of the play itself and subsequent productions, the actors' and directors' agendas, and lots of interesting production/performance history history. Some of the presentations have been hysterical in a variety of ways. The theatricality of the project works well in a class on drama. You'll learn to download clips, rip clips, edit film, and lots of other skills that you'll use in future classes and out in the great, wide world.

The plays that will be up for team assignments are Othello, Merchant of Venice, The Taming of the Shrew, and Henry V. There's lots of nifty techie stuff you can use to make amazing presentations.

I've not quite decided on the rest of the syllabus, but I'm leaning toward this selection of plays:

  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Richard II
  • Much Ado
  • Henry V
  • Merchant
  • Antony and Cleopatra
  • Lear

There will be that Much Ado paper (short-ish), a big class participation grade, the team project, and a final exam.

We will be using the David Bevington edition: ISBN: 9780205606283

You'll need your books on the first day of class, so plan head. (Sundance has the best deal on used editions. If you order online, watch the hidden shipping costs.) And you'll need to buy or rent a copy of Branagh's Much Ado. For those of you who are considering electronic texts, let me urge you in the other direction. Don't get me wrong: I love digital stuff. But you can't underline a passage, make notes in a margin, x-out a speech you hate if the text is on line. (and, not to be reductive, these markings help you study for the final.) If you get a play for Kindle or iPad, some interaction is possible, but still not as thorough as with a paper text. These play were meant to be seen, not read. I hate to lose any little bit of active engagement that's possible for us, and most electronic texts deprive you significantly.

I've added something new this semester: trials. I got the idea from this new piece.

We finished these just before break and they were terrific. I can't wait to try them again. We won't Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but we can invite some local celebs. It should be fun. We will also try Shakespeare for hate speech in the matter of The Merchant of Venice.

There will be a Great Day session on this, so drop in for a preview.

Engl 267: M/Non-western Literature

Hong Kong Action Film (J. Okada)

This course is a historical, cultural, and critical survey of the Hong Kong action film, in which we will explore its global popularity and influence. We will first come to terms with Hong Kong itself, looking at its history through the lens of theories of national and non-western cinema. Then, we will scrutinize the origins of the action film, analyzing recent theories about this most popular contemporary film genre. We will also consider textual case studies of some of the more enduring examples of Hong Kong Action Cinema, including those starring and directed by Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Wong Kar Wai, Tsui Hark, King Hu, and John Wu. Last but not least, we will also look at the role of gender and race in the shaping of the action genre.

Engl 285: Introduction to Film Studies

Introduction to Film Studies (J. Okada)

Introduction to Film Studies is an overview of film as an art form as exemplified by a selection of films, filmmakers, film movements, and theories throughout film’s 100-plus year history. Primarily, this course approaches film through its form. That is, we recognize that a film’s form — both narrative and stylistic — is most crucial in deciphering its meaning. In covering the diverse components that enable cinematic form, including narrative, editing, cinematography, mise-en-scène and sound, we will explore how to "read" films and also, about their cultural and historical contexts. On Tuesdays I will introduce a new topic and show a feature length film. On Thursday, we will split into two discussion groups where we will discuss the film and the readings.

Engl 288: Reading as a Writer

Reading as a Writer (R. Hall)

This is a creative writing class in which students will write and read short fiction and creative nonfiction. We will undertake close reading of work by published authors, discussing how these pieces are constructed. We will learn about the techniques writers use in their stories and essays, and will discuss similarities and differences between the two genres. Students will write a number of short assignments in fiction and nonfiction and a longer, fully developed story or essay. All creative work will be discussed in a workshop format. In addition to this creative work, there will be a number of short critical papers due in response to the reading. In addition to the individual written work, students are required to provide suggestions for peers’ writing by speaking up in class and by commenting thoroughly on their manuscripts.

Recommended for students interested in creative writing looking to improve their prose writing and critiquing skills. This is not a pre-requisite for the upper level workshops.

Engl 301/303: Poetry Writing I and II

Poetry Writing I and II (C. Beltz-Hosek)

This is an advanced workshop for students who are eager to extend their knowledge and experience of poetry. Our primary focus will be composing and critiquing original work, but weekly discussions of craft, style, technique, and voice are necessary as students read extensively within the genre. Numerous in-class writing assignments, book reviews, recitations, presentations, and mandatory attendance at live poetry readings are required, which will inform, challenge, and equip students as they aspire to be braver — not simply better — poets. At the end of the semester, students will submit a final portfolio and participate in a colloquium during finals week.

Engl 302/304: Fiction Writing I and II

Fiction Writing I and II (R. Hall)

This is an advanced Fiction Writing Workshop to which interested student must apply by the deadline indicated on the department website. Students will write two complete short stories (approx. 12-15 pages each) and revise one of them for a final portfolio. In addition students will write critical response papers about their peers' work and the published stories we read. These are due each class period. Considerable emphasis is placed on class participation — both these written critiques and class discussions.

Engl 305/307: Creative Non-fiction

Creative Non-fiction (K. Gentry)

A practical course in the writing of creative nonfiction. Student assignments in the genre are the focus of discussions, both in class sessions and individual conferences with the instructor.

Engl 310: Medieval British Literature

Medieval British Literature (G. Drake)

A study of the fascinating variety of English literature from 597-1500 including Beowulf, The Owl and the Nightingale, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Students will read Old English texts in translation and some Middle English works in their original form.

Engl 316: Modern British Literature

Modern British Literature (K. Asher)

A study of significant literary figures and trends in British intellectual history from the late-19th to the mid-20th century. Representative authors include Conrad, Yeats, Lawrence, Joyce, and Woolf.

Engl 321: British Drama

Shaw, Wilde, and Coward (T. Greenfield)

The course will focus on three British playwrights who wrote in the late 19th to mid- twentieth century: George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, and Noel Coward. Although all three are are closely associated with the centuries-old British Comedy of Manners tradition of wit and social satire, each was an important innovator as artist, gadfly, and "presence" on the English literary scene of his day. The course will examine major (and some minor) works of each author in the context of British theatrical traditions and the authors' own times.

Engl 324: The British Novel

The British Novel: Dandyism and Aestheticism (W. Harrison)

In Enemies of Promise (1938), Cyril Connolly posits "the Dandy" as one of the four roles the modern novelist may choose to follow: it demands, he writes, a commitment to "wit and lyricism" resulting in "the most delicate achievements of conscious art." Connolly, however, is not the first critic to conceive of the author (and most frequently a male author) as literary "Dandy"; this course will survey the development of the "Dandy" novel from its roots in the late 19th-century Aesthetic movement, ending in the mid-twentieth century. Among the novels likely to be assigned are works by Wilde, Swinburne, Moore, Firbank, Waugh, Huxley and others. Works only available in electronic editions may be required.

Engl 333: Modern American Literature

Modern American Literature (E.Gillin)

This course addresses American literature between the First and the Second World Wars, a turbulent era that witnessed the development of many interesting writers. This course will emphasize how the concept of "modernism" in literature — pioneered by writers such as Gertrude Stein shortly after the turn of the century — became a vital part of American cultural expression during the 1920s, 30s and 40s.

Probable Reading List: Gertude Stein, selections; Ernest Hemingway, The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway; William Faulkner, The Bear; Scott Fitzgerald, Tender Is the Night; Marianne Moore, Complete Poems; Ezra Pound, Selected Poetry; Langston Hughes, Selected Poetry; Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again; Djuna Barnes, Nightwood.

Performance in this course will be evaluated based on a research paper, quizzes, and significant class participation.

Engl 338: Contemporary American Literature

Contemporary American Literature (K. Cooper)

Given the range and sheer volume of post-1945 American literature, any survey of the period has to make choices. This course is informed by a pervasive issue in postmodern historiography, namely the construction of cultural locations and practices seemingly removed from history itself: pastoral suburbs and golf communities, self-contained shopping malls, airports, theme parks, cable televisionland, cyberspatial networks---a geography of timeless time and spaceless space. All "events" potentially are traumatic, therefore, hovering at the edge of cognition; an everyday experience like boarding jet airliners is at once deeply banal and latently terrifying. Our syllabus will be organized around several historical arcs of recent decades (Cold War, Civil Rights, Environmentalism, Information Age) and how writers have responded to the challenges of engaging them. The syllabus likely will include such authors as Paul Auster, William S. Burroughs, Joan Didion, Jeffrey Eugenides, Cathy Park Hong, and William Gibson.

Engl 341: The Romantic Hero

The Romantic Hero (E. Stelzig)

A study of the literary and cultural significance of the figure of the Romantic Hero (and alienated outsider) as exemplified in the works of major authors from the last two centuries selected from several national literatures. The list of authors/works will most likely will include Goethe (Faust, Part I), Mary Shelley (Frankenstein), Dostoevski (Crime and Punishment), Conrad (Heart of Darkness), D.H. Lawrence (Women in Love), Hesse (Steppenwolf), and Camus (The Stranger) or J.D. Salinger (The Catcher in the Rye).

Assignments will include an hour test, a final exam, two critical papers (one shorter reflection piece, one longer critical essay), and participation on a student panel presentation.

Engl 343 Women and Literature

Black British Women Writers (M. Lima)

"Black British feminism as a body of scholarship is located in that space of British whiteness, that unchallenged hegemonic patriarchal discourse of colonial and now postcolonial times which quietly embraces our common sense and academic ways of thinking. Whiteness: that powerful place that makes invisible, or re-appropriates things, people and places it does not want to see or hear, and then through misnaming, renaming or not naming at all, invents the truth — what we are told is 'normal,' neutral, universal." (Heidi Safia Mirza, "Mapping a Genealogy of Black British Feminism")

Whereas Black in the US refers mostly to peoples of African descent — whatever their country of origin — in Britain it is a political category grounded on shared ex-colonial origins and/or social marginalization. Most writers on our syllabus have embraced "Blackness" as a process of becoming, when their "otherness" creates a conscious coalition, a self-consciously constructed space, where identity is inscribed by political kinship and not by any "natural" identification. It is a strategic positioning that acknowledges the role of the state and international capital in creating and perpetuating inequalities between "black" and "white" peoples.

In this class, then, we will read contemporary texts by Black British women writers in order to understand the ways in which gender is produced within specific social contexts and to explore points of intersection and divergence in women's articulation of their identities and experiences in different literary genres. We will consider as well the positions of women writers and readers in several societies in England and the place of writing in movements for social change.


  1. Students will understand the complex interactions of gender, sexuality, religion, race, and class permeating the cultures within Britain today.
  2. Students will understand the various negotiations Black British women writers make when they choose to write within/against traditionally western generic conventions.
  3. Students will demonstrate the ability to write sustained, coherent, analytical, and persuasive arguments, following the conventions of Standard English and incorporating library research.
  4. Students will demonstrate the oral ability to present their individual ideas to the class and persuasively discuss the complexity of the texts and cultures under discussion and, consequently, their different interpretations.

REQUIRED TEXTS (this list may change): Joan Anim-Addo. Haunted by History (2004); Zadie Smith, White Teeth (2000); Meera Syal, Anita and Me(1996); Dorothea Smartt, Connecting Medium (2001); Andrea Levy, Small Island (2004); Jackie Kay, Trumpet (1998); Thelma Perkins, Roundabouts (2002); Bhaji on the Beach (film). MyCourses will house some feminist theory, critical essays, and more poetry

ASSIGNMENTS AND GRADING: Our course is non-graded until the very end of the semester — engaged class participation makes all the difference between a B and an A student in my opinion. Note that you should not miss more than three classes — none is even better — as I will lower your grade. You cannot participate if you stay in your room.

You must obviously complete all written work to pass the course including the posts on the Discussion Forum that are due by 11 on Monday night. You are responsible for all readings, whether or not we have time to discuss them fully in class. Your final grade will depend upon active and engaged class participation (25%) and progress in writing critically: a midterm essay (25%) and a research paper (50%) will be assessed. You will make an oral presentation of your research argument on the day of the final exam (1/3 of your 50% comes from that). Notice that you will not have time to revise the research paper unless you have a draft at least a week before the due date.

Engl 354: Shakespeare I

Shakespeare I (R. Herzman)

A critical study of selected plays by Shakespeare, including close analyses of representative histories, comedies, tragedies, and romances, such as Richard II, A Mid- summer Night’s Dream, Othello, and The Tempest.

Engl 358: Major Authors

Willa Cather (C. Woidat)

This course examines Willa Cather's novels, short stories, and other writings, tracing her development and significance as an author. We will explore the relationship between Cather's writings and various cultures, as her work spans diverse historical periods, geographic regions, artistic and social movements. Students will also investigate the ways in which Cather's life and writings have been interpreted by biographers, feminist scholars, literary critics and historians. In addition to Cather's Collected Stories and selected essays, the reading list will include such novels as O Pioneers!, My Ántonia, Song of the Lark, A Lost Lady, The Professor's House, Death Comes for the Archbishop, Shadows on the Rock, Lucy Gayheart, and Sapphira and the Slave Girl.

Melville (A. Rutkowski)

Although initially popular as a writer of escapist adventure novels, Herman Melville produced increasingly complex – and often experimental – fiction as his career went on. Melville's own adventurous sailor's life ultimately produced what many consider one of the greatest novels in
English, Moby Dick. In this course, we'll trace Melville's development from early to mature, including both short stories and novels as well as Melville's poetry about the Civil War. Typee, Moby-Dick, Pierre, Confidence Man, Battle-Pieces, short stories, Billy Budd.

Laurence Sterne (G. Paku)

Laurence Sterne had a meteoric rise to fame after the 1760 publication of his famous comic novel, Tristram Shandy, capitalizing (in every sense of the word) on his celebrity. A larger-than-life personality, Sterne scandalized and/or delighted Europe, appearing socially in the character of his protagonists - the wildly digressive and hapless Tristram or the genial, sentimental, but bawdy Yorick. Less than a decade later, Sterne was dead, having revolutionized the English novel. Sterne's novels poke fun at every readerly assumption he can target, demanding that readers take responsibility for making meaning in a text, especially when those readers resist the logic of their own assumptions. Because Sterne's texts are so non-linear, they translate excellently to film and hypertext (and Sesame Street), and we will look at those textual possibilities alongside his major novels and other prose genres. Be warned that this is a course for students who don't mind being the constant butt of Sterne's jokes!


Honors 207: Seminar in Diversity, Pluralism, Difference/The Housing Crisis (B. McCoy)

In this course, we will examine through multiple perspectives the housing crisis/bubble/mortgage crisis — in other words, that long-percolating economic disaster of which most became aware in Fall 2008. But the course will examine the crisis not to simply be able to "understand" or narrate it; indeed, the housing crisis is too complicated an event and process to be shaped into what novelist Chimamanda Adichie has called the dangerous "single story." Rather, the course will examine the housing crisis in order to help you figure out what and — even more important — how you think about houses, housing, and home.

As a topic that is likely to have affected any number of students directly (and certainly all students at least indirectly), students who elect to take this course will be able to find a stake in the course material, whether that material is journalistic, cinematic, literary, theoretical, or philosophical. Further, in keeping with the College's shift towards transformational learning, students will be able to narrate that stake. And as a course using material from multiple disciplinary perspectives, it hopes to draw students from multiple disciplinary perspectives.

In the first stage of the class, we will learn about the housing crisis through such sources as the This American Life radio program series titled "The Giant Pool of Money," journalist Michael Lewis's book on the sub-prime mortgage industry, The Big Short, and various stories about the group ACORN, whose work with low- and moderate-income Americans contributed to its rendered by some storytellers as the "beginning" of the housing crisis story.

In the second stage of the course, we will engage a number of philosophical and theoretical pieces that help to set the complexities of the housing crisis in a larger set of narrative contexts: stories about reason, gambling, conjure, methodology, magic, memory, race, law, the living, and the dead ("zombie banks," anyone?) As part of this second stage, we will read excerpts from the U.S. Constitution, John Locke's writing on property right, Joseph Roach's Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance, and scholarly analysis of vodou.

In the third stage of the class, students will consider what "a house" means not only structurally, but also affectively, especially in U.S. culture. And they will engage such consideration through literature and film, including Toni Morrison's 21st-Century novel A Mercy, the 1948 film Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, Jean Toomer's 20th-Century prose vignette "Rhobert," William Dean Howells' 19th-Century novel The Rise of Silas Lapham, Alison Bechdel's 21st-century graphic novel, The Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, and the 20th-century Japanese film Hausu, Patricia Smith's poem "Only Everything I Own," Geneseo alumna Meg Vasey's poem "Houses," and Tim Wise's essays, "Overclass Blues" and "Of Collateral Damage and Roosting Chickens."

As each course ‘stage' feeds into the next, the guiding critical and creative question for the class will be, "What happens?" In other words, what happens to our inquiry about the housing crisis as we add more tools and perspectives to the conversation?

Towards this end, students will complete multiple small writing assignments (response papers and online discussion forum posts) as well as a reasonable (i.e., appropriate for a 200-level course) final project (visual, verbal, audio, etc.) exploring their own personal stake in the issues raised by the course.

Note: Students should not be surprised that this course will ask them to deal with issues of "race," and "whiteness" not the least. Please be aware of this if you are considering registering for the course.

Humanities 220

Western Humanities I (E. Gillin)

Western Humanities I examines developments in the intellectual history of the western world from the ancient Hebrew and Greek civilizations to the seventeenth century. Lectures and class discussions will place significant written works in their historical and cultural contexts, outlining the position of these works in the evolution of a western tradition.

Texts: The Bible (Revised Standard Version); Sophocles, Antigone; Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War; Plato, Republic; Cicero, "Laelius" (in On the Good Life); Augustine, Confessions; Thomas Aquinas, St. Thomas Aquinas on Politics and Ethics; Martin Luther, On Christian Liberty; William Shakespeare, Hamlet; Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, The Answer (La Respuesta).

Performance in Humanities I will be based upon a series of exams, written assignments, and active participation in the class.

Western Humanities I (K. Asher)

A search for moral, social, and political alter- natives and meaning embodied in the institutions, culture, and literature of Western Civilization from the beginnings to 1600. The course is factual as well as conceptual, including a narrative history of the period covered.

Western Humanities I (G. Drake)

A search for moral, social, and political alter- natives and meaning embodied in the institutions, culture, and literature of Western Civilization from the beginnings to 1600. The course is factual as well as conceptual, including a narrative history of the period covered.

Western Humanities I (C. Faurot)

A search for moral, social, and political alter- natives and meaning embodied in the institutions, culture, and literature of Western Civilization from the beginnings to 1600. The course is factual as well as conceptual, including a narrative history of the period covered.

Western Humanities I (M. Gillin)

A search for moral, social, and political alter- natives and meaning embodied in the institutions, culture, and literature of Western Civilization from the beginnings to 1600. The course is factual as well as conceptual, including a narrative history of the period covered.

Western Humanities I (M. Gillin)

A search for moral, social, and political alter- natives and meaning embodied in the institutions, culture, and literature of Western Civilization from the beginnings to 1600. The course is factual as well as conceptual, including a narrative history of the period covered.

Western Humanities I (C. Hertrick)

A search for moral, social, and political alter- natives and meaning embodied in the institutions, culture, and literature of Western Civilization from the beginnings to 1600. The course is factual as well as conceptual, including a narrative history of the period covered.

Western Humanities I (R. Herzman)

A search for moral, social, and political alter- natives and meaning embodied in the institutions, culture, and literature of Western Civilization from the beginnings to 1600. The course is factual as well as conceptual, including a narrative history of the period covered.

Western Humanities I (W. Kennison)

A search for moral, social, and political alter- natives and meaning embodied in the institutions, culture, and literature of Western Civilization from the beginnings to 1600. The course is factual as well as conceptual, including a narrative history of the period covered.

Western Humanities I (M. Millard)

A search for moral, social, and political alter- natives and meaning embodied in the institutions, culture, and literature of Western Civilization from the beginnings to 1600. The course is factual as well as conceptual, including a narrative history of the period covered.

Western Humanities I (J. Walker)

Watch a preview here.

Humanities 221

Western Humanities II (W. Harrison)

The course description is identical with that of the college's course description for this core course. Readings may include readings from the Bible and by Plato, Sophocles, Thucydides, Livy, De Pizan, Shakespeare, and others.

Western Humanities II (E. Stelzig)

A search for moral, social, and political alternatives and meaning embodied in the institutions, culture, and literature of Western Civilization from 1600 to the present. The authors selected from the Humanities II menu include John Locke, Jonathan Swift, Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud. We will also be considering the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and essays by Frederick Douglass and Harriet Martineau. These Hum II menu selections will be supplemented by readings from Charles Darwin (autobiography) and Arundathi Roy (novel). There will be three hour tests as well as two short critical papers, and each student will also be required to participate in a panel presentation.

Western Humanities II (J. Eddy)

A search for moral, social, and political alternatives and meaning embodied in the institutions, culture, and literature of Western Civilization from 1600 to the present. The course is factual as well as conceptual, including a narrative history of the period covered.

Western Humanities II (J. Eddy)

A search for moral, social, and political alternatives and meaning embodied in the institutions, culture, and literature of Western Civilization from 1600 to the present. The course is factual as well as conceptual, including a narrative history of the period covered.

Western Humanities II (T. Greenfield)

A search for moral, social, and political alternatives and meaning embodied in the institutions, culture, and literature of Western Civilization from 1600 to the present. The course is factual as well as conceptual, including a narrative history of the period covered.

Western Humanities II (T. Greenfield, G. McClure)

A search for moral, social, and political alternatives and meaning embodied in the institutions, culture, and literature of Western Civilization from 1600 to the present. The course is factual as well as conceptual, including a narrative history of the period covered.

Intd 105: Critical Writing and Reading

Octavia Butler's Parables (B. McCoy)

This class will explore Octavia Butler's novels The Parable of the Sower and The Parable of the Talents. Taking place in a future America that has slowly lapsed into political, environmental, and religious chaos, these novels follow the rise to power of Lauren Oya Olamina, a young black woman from California. In response to the destruction around her, Olamina develops a new religion, Earthseed, a religion based on the principle that "God is Change." As Olamina's followers grow in number, the novels raise important questions about power, celebrity, resources, religion, race, class, gender, and mobility. Students should be aware that a major strand of the course involves rewriting, not simply "revising," an essay.

We'll Always Have Paris (A. Lutkus)

This introductory writing seminar has Paris as its subject and object. Most of the readings will be American writers' reactions to and reflections on the city of Paris. Adam Gopnik's anthology Americans in Paris contains most of the texts we will read, among them Fitzgerald, Stein and H.B. Stowe. Students will also consider paintings and photographs of Paris by French artists and study the recent French film "Paris." The course looks at legends about and impressions of Paris and aims to gain some sense of what Parisians themselves think about and hope for their city.

Disability in Literature (G. Paku)

The Writing Seminar is a course focusing on a specific topic while emphasizing writing practice and instruction. This particular section will ask you to focus on the issue of disability in literature, and particularly on depictions of autism both before and after "autism" became medical terminology. We will consider how autism is or is not pathologized, evaluate "theory of mind" and trace its depiction in literature, and participate in Geneseo's Food Awareness project. Our main texts will be literary, and we will also read opinion pieces and academic articles, and study a film.

Virtual Thoreau (K. Cooper)

What could the 1854 classic Walden; or, Life in the Woods possibly have to say about life in the Information Age? A lot, as it turns out, for among other things Henry David Thoreau was one of his era's more astute thinkers about emergent information technologies — the telegraph, in this case — that already were transforming America. Thoreau's efforts to think across virtual and embodied existence will be our touchstone for developing an ecology of everyday life, circa 2011. Even the most degenerate gamers have to eat, right? Assignments will include, in addition to Walden, a number of short contemporary essays, collaborative projects, and class field trips — real and virtual. Because this is a writing-intensive course, informal (online) journals and a variety of essays will be integral to our endeavors.

Women and Work — Fiction and Non-fiction (E. Herzman)

The focus of the course is working women and their stories. Looking at works of non-fiction, fiction, and film, we will try to figure out what women have found important and valuable in their jobs, careers, and professions in the last 100 or so years in the U.S. Why do women choose the work they do and how do they find meaning in what they do? These are the questions we should keep in mind as we read and write this semester. As this is primarily a writing course, a considerable portion of the work will focus on the construction of effective argumentative essays.

Looking on Darkness (S. Symington)

In this course, we will explore the views of darkness in Western literature. Major texts are Othello, Heart of Darkness, and Toni Morrison's Playing in the Dark. Other readings include biblical texts, travel writing by V.S. Naipul, and stories by Hawthorne, Stephen Crane and Barbara Kingsolver. Students will be asked to reflect on the authors' application of darkness as a cultural symbol and literary device, and to express in writing of their own the roots and ramifications of our hate-love relationship to The Dark.

States of Ecstasy (T. Metzger)

We will use four texts to explore the nature of ecstatic experience from four points of view: those caused by poetic obsession, religious practice, mental illness and mind-altering drugs. Students will write four papers and two revisions in which they use research, cultural comparison and their own observations and analysis to create greater understanding of the phenomenon.

Intd 354: Medieval Studies

Poetry and Cosmology (R. Herzman, G. Towsley)

No description available.

WmSt 201: Topics in Women's Studies

Introduction to Transgender Studies (A. Rutkowski)

In the past decade, the term "transgender" has rapidly come to be used to describe a range of social identities, a political movement, and a community that had no name until the early 1990s. This course will be an introduction to this new and growing field of study. We'll begin by examining some basic assumptions and definitions about gender identities, study some instances of transgendered behavior/identities throughout history and literature and closely examine the medicalization of so-called "abnormal" gender and sexual identities at the turn of the twentieth century with the rise of modern psychology. But the bulk of the course will examine texts from more recent history, however, looking at literature, film, anthropology, sociology, and science writing about cross-dressing, drag and camp, overlaps and disjunctions between feminism and trans as well as gay and lesbian and trans issues. Because this course is a women's studies course, we'll pay special attention to what trans issues, theories and identities might mean for the future of feminism and women's studies.