Below you will find the course descriptions for Optional Content courses in the English Department for Spring; additions and updates will be posted as soon as they are made available.
To read all of the course descriptions for the department, go to the current issue of the Undergraduate Bulletin or toTitanWeb. For more information about these courses--or about *any* English courses you are interested in taking--do not hesitate to contact the instructor named in the course listing in TitanWeb, or contact the English office.
The Culture of Alice in Wonderland
Instructor: Roth, Christine
Course Description: The primary goal of this course is to attempt to define the world-views, beliefs, doubts, anxieties, and paradoxes that animated the literature of the Victorian period generally, and the culture of Carroll's Alice in Wonderland specifically, through a survey of the poetry, prose, fiction, and art of a few representative figures. The course is mostly designed to introduce you to many of the literary forms and genres--and broad intellectual history--of Carroll's age. We will try to probe the assumptions that underlie the works of art we will be studying--the "why's" implicit in Carroll's and other artists' approaches to their themes and their unrelenting quest for the meaning of things--including an investigation of related aesthetic and cultural issues.
Instructor: Rindo, Ron
Course Description: We will Study the development of the American short story from its origins in the early nineteenth century to the present day. Along with our intensive study of the stories themselves, we will also focus some attention on theories of the short story, beginning with Edgar Allan Poe's "Review of Twice-Told Tales," initially published in May, 1842, in Graham's Magazine, and long considered the foundational theoretical statement on the short story form. Among the theoretical questions we will consider are the following: What is a short story? What are its aesthetic requirements? Does it offer anything to readers that other genres do not or cannot? What does it mean for a story to be 'American'? How has the form changed over time? Is the genre really closer to a poem than a novel, as everyone says? Can any single definition of the form hold all of its finest examples? Throughout the semester, we will read some forty stories, nearly all of them considered by readers over time to be among the finest stories ever written. Our intensive, critical readings of these stories, along with our examination of short story theories, will help us to understand the many facets of these stories, along with our examination of short story theories, will help us to understand the many facets of this still-evolving genre and the range of its contributions to American literature.
Instructor: Cole, Stewart
Course Description: This course looks at dystopian novels and films spanning the 20th century (and into the 21st) with an aim to investigating precisely how the societies they depict fit into the category of dystopia. Recognizing that dystopian societies like those depicted in Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four were not in fact designed as such, but were rather intended by their rulers to be utopias, we will pay close attention to the points of difference and convergence between the two categories. In pursuing this emphasis, we will work to understand the fundamentally critical nature of the dystopian genre, and more specifically how dystopian texts exaggerate or solidify certain traits or tendencies latent in our present-day societies in order to highlight how fearfully proximate to dystopia we may now be. Have the familiar elements of dystopian societies--immense class or caste disparities, authoritarian government, virtual enslavement by technology, institutionalized propaganda--proven so consistently compelling because we can recognize them as dwelling, however distantly, within realm of possibility? Why else are we so fascinated by stories of worlds gone wrong? Texts to be studied include (in addition to Huxley's and Orwell's classic texts) Ursula K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed, Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake, and Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games. We will also look at several films, including Terry Gilliam's classic Brazil.
Instructor: Shaffer, Julie
Course Description: The French Revolutionary Era in England: We will look at the British reaction to the French Revolution in different genres, including fiction and poetry, by both men and women, conservative and sympathetic to the revolution, as well as at "non-fictional" representations - "non-fictional" in quotation marks, because no historical discussion is purely objective. We may also look at other areas of social history in the period (roughly 1785-1815).
Instructor: Haynes, Douglas
Course Description: This course involves intensive study and practice of one of contemporary American literature's dominant genres: literary nonfiction. This term is a general descriptor for the incredible diversity of forms and voices writers use to tell true stories in character- and narrative-driven prose. In this course, we will join in the ongoing discussion about what constitutes literary nonfiction by exploring many of its common forms: personal narrative, group portrait, experiment/immersion, journey, investigation, and collage. We will use these forms as frameworks for investigating the unlimited subjects literary nonfiction writers engage. Reading as writers, we will focus more on structure, style, and central questions than subject matter. Our goal with this approach is to develop imagination and fluency with multiple ways of telling true stories. Course readings will include at least four book-length works of literary nonfiction, as well as essays and texts on craft. We will have two authors of our course books visit class to share their perspectives on writing literary nonfiction.
Instructor: Pesta, Duke
Course Description: A typical senior seminar--requiring everything one would expect from a capstone course, including a substantial research paper--focused on the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky and emphasizing Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov.
Instructor: Dingledine, Don
Course Description: Come spend a semester at sea...without ever leaving campus. In this section of English 481: Seminar in English Studies, we will devote the semester to studying Herman Melville's Moby-Dick; or, The Whale (1851). Described as "the unavoidable centerpiece of the American tradition," Moby-Dick permeates our culture, inspiring everyone from graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and playwright Tony Kushner to Led Zeppelin and the founder of Starbucks. It is a book everyone, especially English majors, should read. We will explore Melville's commentary on his own age--a time of westward expansion, violent clashes over slavery, and a looming civil war--as well as his novel's relevance to our own--Moby-Dick has been used, for example, to frame analyses of the War on Terror and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Along with Melville's massive text, we will study a selection of key critical interpretations of Moby-Dick and even recent scientific findings concerning whale cultures, dialects, and brain functions (leading some researchers to conclude that whales "fit the philosophical definition of personhood"). Each student will produce either an analytical or a creative seminar project, a fifteen- to twenty-page work interpreting or inspired by Moby-Dick. Students will workshop their projects in class and will be encouraged to share resources with their classmates. This process will be facilitated by the fact that everyone will be working with the same novel; we will all be in the same boat, you might say. Close attention will be paid to writing and editing as students draft and revise their seminar projects. To this end, we will also read Line by Line: How to Edit Your Own Writing, another book all English majors should know.
Instructor: Rindo, Ron
Course Description: This course will be a graduate seminar on the art and craft of novella writing. In class, we will focus predominately on traditional, literary, novella-length mimetic fiction, though students are free to explore both genre fiction and experimental forms in their creative work. All students will write and revise the opening 40-50 pages of a novella or two stories of about 25 pages in length. We will also read several novellas, including Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, Jane Smiley's The Age of Grief, and Jim Harrison's Legends of the Fall.