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Spring Optional Content 2012

Optional Content Course Descriptions, Spring 2012

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 to TitanWeb. 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.


Selected Course Descriptions Spring 2012

226-001 Modern American Literature: Growing Up American

Instructor: Pam Gemin
Description: In this course we will explore the ways in which young Americans negotiate issues of family, belonging, class, race, and gender in novels, short stories, poetry, and film.  We will also pay attention to the art of storytelling and writers' use of language, theme, character, and setting to create memorable and meaningful stories.

English 226-002,003, Modern American Literature:  19th- and 20th-Century Literature

Instructor:  Robert Feldman
The purpose of this course is to gain an understanding and an appreciation of a number of major works by well-known modern American writers.  Students will examine American literature between the post-Civil War era and the present.  After focusing on the significance of these works, students will be tested on their knowledge and understanding of the literature.  The literary genres of study will consist of short stories, poetry, novels, and dramas.

331/531-001 Contemporary Lit: Transnational Asian Amer. Lit.

Instructor: Mijeong Park
Description: This course will examine a series of literary works that highlight the Asian diaspora and transnational aspects of Asian American experiences. The subjects of the selected texts are not limited within the U.S. national borders; rather, these works demonstrate that the productivity of Asian American literature stems from its transnational involvements and imagination. Moreover, the class will discuss how diasporic elements can be extended to experimental writing styles that unsettle the assumptions about native language and narrative conventions. The goals of this course are (1) redefining the notion of Asian American literature in the global context, (2) examining literary constitutions of in-between and border-crossing experiences thematically and formally, (3) investigating the varied arguments of diaspora and transnationalism, (4) interlacing critical thinking to effective writing. The reading list of this course includes David Mura’s Turning Japanese, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee, Jessica Hagedorn’s Dogeaters, Jane Jeong Trenka’s Language of Blood, Fatima Mernissi’s Dreams of Trespass, and more. The course requires active class participation, a midterm paper, and a final paper.

335/535-001 Personal Narratives: Portraits & Self Portraits

Instructor:  Marguerite Helmers


This course will examine the many ways that self-representation occurs in literature and the other arts. Students will encounter self-portraits in literature and the visual arts.

Readings include Marjane Satrapi's graphic novel memoir Persepolis (2003) and Lucy Grealy's Mirrorings (1999).


353/553 Early Modern British Lit 1485-1660: Spenser and the Faerie Queene

Instructor: Duke Pesta
Description: In 1590, Edmund Spenser presented his poetic masterpiece The Faerie Queene to Queen Elizabeth, the woman who inspired him and the queen whose image became the work’s guiding force.  The longest and most challenging poem in the English language, The Faerie Queene chronicles the adventures of seven brave knights who undertake perilous quests to succor the oppressed, rescuing damsels in distress and slaying dragons.  Each knight represents a different virtue, and their quests can be seen as extended lessons on right living. Thus, the tale of Red Cross Knight teaches Holiness, the tale of Sir Guyon teaches Temperance, the tale of Britomart (a female knight) teaches Chastity, the tale of Cambel and Telamond teaches Friendship, the tale of Artegall teaches Justice, and the tale Calidore teaches Courtesy.  Because of this emphasis, The Faerie Queene is also perhaps the greatest and most extended reflection on love—romantic love, platonic love, sexual love, and divine love—in the English language.

369/569-001 Literature of the Victorian Period:  World of Alice in Wonderland

Instructor: Christine Roth
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 stories 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.


372/572-001 American Short Story: American Short Story

Instructor: Ron Rindo
Description: In English 372/572, we will study the development of the American short story from its origins in the nineteenth century to the present day, with a particular emphasis on the work of contemporary writers.

380/580-001 Modern Drama:  American and Continental Drama

Instructor:  Robert Feldman
Description:  The purpose of this course is to gain an understanding and an appreciation of a number of major works by well-known modern and contemporary American and Continental playwrights.  After focusing on the significance of these works within the framework of their respective periods and movements—realism, existentialism, naturalism, expressionism, absurdism—students will be tested on their knowledge of and insight into these works.  These plays enable students to examine themselves, their place in history, and the world in which they live.

387/587-001 Special Topics Rhetoric and Comp: Feminist Approaches to Rhetoric, Writing, and Language

Instructor:  Samantha Looker
Description: In recent decades, feminist scholars have worked to make women’s contributions and perspectives more prominent within writing and language scholarship. Thanks to feminist rhetorical historians, we’re now aware that ancient rhetoric wasn’t all Aristotle and Plato (Haven’t heard of Aspasia? You will!). Thanks to feminist linguists, we’re conscious of how language features like the masculine generic (using “he” when gender is unknown) and gendered job titles (like steward/stewardess) perpetuate gender inequality in society. This course will examine these and many other ways in which feminist theories and methods have contributed to rhetoric, writing studies, and linguistics. You don’t need to identify as female or feminist to enjoy this course; you just need to be interested in hearing what women have to say.

English 392/592:  Special Topics in Literature- Virginia Woolf

Instructor:  Julie Shaffer
Description:  This course will focus on Woolf and her milieu as they virtually defined modernism. The majority of the course will be on Woolf's fiction but we will also look at her non-fiction prose and the poetry and fiction of other modernism writers, such as war poets, T. S. Eliot, and James Joyce, who explored topics similar to those Woolf explored and wrote in a similar fashion. We will thus not only study Woolf but will look at the climate in which she wrote - the climate that may have influenced her, and that she may have influenced in her turn

396/596-001 Literature & History: Images of Empire: fiction and history

Instructor:  Andy Robson
Description:  The British Empire attracted many adventurers, explorers, missionaries, and writers, and the postcolonial period has inspired Indigenous writers to "write back." We'll look at all of this and will include some films. The footprint of empire can be seen in much of the world even today; we'll have a tour.


405/605-001 Creative Writing: Picture Books for Young Readers

Instructor: Laura Jean Baker
Description: In this course, we will read and interpret picture books for children in order to establish out own artistic sensibilities about how to write for developing readers, how to create meaningful images, and how to establish a relationship between texts and illustrations. In the process of writing our own picture books, we will turn to young readers in the community for authentic feedback and inspiration toward revision.


481-001 Seminar in English Studies: Moby-Dick; or The Whale 

Instructor:  Don Dingledine
Description:  Students will read Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick; or, The Whale (1851), along with a selection of critical analyses of Melville’s novel. Students will write fifteen- to twenty-page projects concerning Moby-Dick; final projects will include abstracts and annotated bibliographies.  

481-002 Seminar in English Studies:  The Medieval Male and Female Heroic Figures

Instructor:  Karl Boehler
Description:  This class will trace the social forces and traditions--religious, Germanic, and romantic--that came together to create the ideals of heroic behavior in medieval English writings, from Old English religious and heroic texts through Chaucer's classically based Romances. Students will choose a particular facet of heroism to focus on in major project.  Whether scholarly or creative, the project will include significant readings of medieval and modern readings which will help immerse the student in medieval thought and understanding.  Through this, students will create works that explore and explain how the diverse ideas and ideal of medieval culture come together to create a particular hero and what that means about that particular character and his/her culture.

709-001 Special Topics in Creative Writing: Forms of Literary Nonfiction

Instructor: Douglas Haynes
Description: The term literary nonfiction 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’ll join in the ongoing discussion about what constitutes literary nonfiction by exploring three of its dominant forms: the personal essay, literary journalism, and the lyric essay. We’ll use these forms as frameworks for investigating the unlimited subjects literary nonfiction writers engage, including travel, memory, and nature. Though travel writing, memoir, and nature writing are often considered subgenres of literary nonfiction in their own right, we’ll consider them as kinds of true stories subsumed by our larger umbrella of three formal approaches that literary nonfiction writers use. In doing so, we’ll focus on how writers choose to tell their stories and how their choices are suited to their subject matter.

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by Brucks, Sandra J. last modified Feb 10, 2012 09:53 AM