Spring 2020 Course Descriptions

Methodologies Courses

(ENGL 241-244)

ENGL 241, The Text in its Historical Moment.

Prof. Natalie Leger, M/W 10:05am-11:55am (course code 26941)

In this section we will explore how the French, Haitian and Algerian revolutions shaped literature in their respective historical moments. In the process of assessing how these revolutions shaped literary movements and literary efforts in their presents, we will critically assess how oppression and the struggle against oppression shapes not only the tenor of the literary texts under discussion but their form and content. Our discussions of revolution and fiction will foster awareness of how very much texts are of their moment, informed by the pressing conflicts surroundings questions of class, race, gender and colonial rule in the eighteenth and twentieth centuries.

Prof. Wayne Moreland, M/W 1:40pm-3:30pm (course code 26942)

This course is titled The Text in its Historical Moment; to that end we will explore primary texts and secondary texts that situate within a particular historical moment. The primary texts for this class will include Othello, Shakespeare; and writings and cultural manifestations from the post-war period (1945-1975) that challenged the hegemony of official post-war American culture. Some of the artists we may study are Frank O’Hara, Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), Jean Luc Godard, Allen Ginsburg, Toni Morrison, Bob Dylan, Sylvia Plath, Miles Davis, Donald Barthelme, and Ralph Ellison, among others.

Prof. Wayne Moreland, M/W 4:40pm-6:30pm (course code 26944)

This course is titled The Text in its Historical Moment; to that end we will explore primary texts and secondary texts that situate within a particular historical moment. The primary texts for this class will include Othello, Shakespeare; and writings and cultural manifestations from the post-war period (1945-1975) that challenged the hegemony of official post-war American culture. Some of the artists we may study are Frank O’Hara, Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), Jean Luc Godard, Allen Ginsburg, Toni Morrison, Bob Dylan, Sylvia Plath, Miles Davis, Donald Barthelme, and Ralph Ellison, among others.

Louis Nicolosi, T/Th 10:05am-11:55am (course code 28027)

This section of 241 will look at two particular moments and national literatures. The first will consider the cusp of 1800 in British literature, considering the question of female agency by examining works my Mary Wollstonecraft, Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, and poetry of the period. The second segment will consider the post-war era of literature in America, considering themes of disconnection and fear in the roman noir and its cousin, the film noir, by examining novellas such as James Cain’s “The Postman Always Rings Twice," the novel White Noise by Don DeLillo, and films by Alfred Hitchcock.


ENGL 242, Literary History.

Prof. Michael Sargent, T/Th 1:40pm-3:30pm (course code 26946)

Utopias and Otherwise.

This course explores literary history as a mode of inquiry, asking how authors and their creations have responded to predecessors, and how such responses have transformed literature in English over time. The course examines both how literary traditions have been constructed in the past and what conceptual tools we now have available for defining and describing literary traditions. The course includes material from before 1800 and after 1800, as well as material from at least two national literatures. The texts included span at least two centuries, with at least one portion of the course focused on poetry.

We will explore the tradition of utopian and dystopian fiction, looking at the cultural work that stories of perfect societies––and their opposites––do. We will start with the original Utopia, Thomas More’s sixteenth-century Latin humanist response to his friend Erasmus’s Praise of Folly. Each is founded on a two-language joke: in Greek (but in Latin letters), the title of Erasmus’s work is The Praise of More; More’s Utopia could mean either “goodplace” or “noplace”. But the idea of projecting an image of what would happen if certain tendencies in society were allowed to dominate has provided a useful form of societal analysis in the past century in such works as Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, and Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale––all highly influential dystopian visions.

Prof. Cliff Mak, T/Th 4:40pm-6:30pm (course code 26947)

This section specifically explores the history of literature as it has revolved around the theme of suffering. We will trace a line of literary inquiry into this theme, looking at what authors have argued are the sources and purposes of suffering, and at how literature has understood its own relationship to suffering—whether that of documentation, alleviation, or, even, redemption. We will also examine how texts become part of literary history: how they become “important” and canonical, how they interact with each other over and across time, how different literary movements, periods, genres, and traditions emerge and decline, and how, in particular, confronting the question of suffering has played a key role in these processes and, over time, come to constitute its own literary tradition(s). Readings will include, among many others, the Book of Job, Hesiod’s myth of Prometheus, and works by William Shakespeare, John Milton, Alexander Pope, Voltaire, Mary Shelley, George Eliot, H. D., Virginia Woolf, Langston Hughes, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Samuel Beckett, Arthur C. Clarke, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lydia Davis, and Mohsin Hamid.

Prof. Michael Sargent, T/Th 6:40pm-8:30pm (course code 26949)

See above

Prof. Kristi Fleetwood, M/W 4:40pm-6:30pm (course code 28028)

This course explores literary history as a mode of inquiry, asking how authors and their creations have responded to predecessors, and how such responses have transformed literature in English over time. Specifically, this course will explore how serialization has shaped our understanding of literary history. Serialized literature offers a unique perspective as its rapid publication reflects history as it unfolds, creating a narrative of response and revision as authors challenge the serialized form.

 In the beginning of the semester, we will explore “classic” works of serialization, which might include Ann Radcliffe (The Mysteries of Udolpho), Thomas Hardy (Tess of D’Urbervilles), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes), Agatha Christie (And Then There Were None), and Truman Capote (In Cold Blood).  Approaching the end of the semester, we will explore more contemporary works, which might include Nancy Drew, X-Men, television shows, YouTube series, Wattpad fanfictions, and social media.

ENGL 243, Genre

Prof. Rhoda Sirlin, M/W 10:05-11:55am (course code 26950)

This section will provide literary and cultural theory to help students understand two main literary genres--drama and fiction.  We will explore the theory and origin of drama and the novel as literary forms.  We will begin with analyzing ancient Greek tragedy and then the social dramas of European playwrights such as Ibsen and Strindberg along with classic American playwrights like Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller as well as contemporary American Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatists.   We will move on to fiction, specifically to William Styron’s controversial novel SOPHIE’S CHOICE and Raymond Carver’s short stories.  We will put on scenes from these plays as well as view film excerpts of some of these texts.  If possible, we will see a Broadway play together.

Prof. Kent Szlauderbach, M/W 1:40pm-3:30pm (course code 26952)


Prof. Lee Norton, M/W 6:40pm-8:30pm (course code 28029)

From Sherlock Holmes to The Watchmen’s Rorschach, from the novels of Agatha Christie to HBO’s True Detective, crime stories have perennially revolved around two questions: a question of detection (“whodunit?”) and a question of discipline (“what do we do about it?”)

This course will provide an introduction to the concept of literary genre through a deep dive into the genre of crime fiction, beginning with the classic detective stories of the 19th century (Conan Doyle, Poe); tracing its evolution into the “hard-boiled” crime novels of the 20th century (Hammett, Chester Himes, Dorothy B. Hughes); and concluding with a survey of its enduring influence on other genres (science fiction, metafiction) and in other media (film, graphic novels).

Through it all, we will keep the genre’s animating questions in mind, considering whether and how these texts do more than provide lowbrow, “cheap thrills.” Through lecture and discussion, and with the assistance of secondary readings, we will explore the ways in which crime fictions—accounts of painful encounters with a world disordered by crime and violence—have served as philosophical treatises and political critiques in disguise, compelling their readers to reckon with the limits of the human reason and the frailty of our social ties.

Prof. Edward Currie, T/Th 1:40pm-3:30pm (course code 32272)


ENGL 244, Theory

Prof. Ethan Goldberg, 10:05am-11:55am (course code 26954)


Prof. Seo-Young Chu, M/W 1:40pm-3:30pm (course code 26956)

From aesthetics and reader response criticism to ecocriticism and disability studies, literary theory--theories--will organize and illuminate our discussions of topics such as memes, dreams, sublime poetry, cute commodities, the epistemology of spoilers, uncanny stereotypes, gender, race, cathartic experiences, the importance of pronouns, the future of the English language, climate change, labor, and the relationship between representation and reality. Possible author/sources include Achebe, Anzaldua, Barthes, Benjamin, Buell, Burke, Caruth, Dickinson, Foucault, Haraway, Instagram, Kang, Kincaid, Monáe, Mori, Morrison, Ngai, Shelley, Stein, Woolf, and you.

Prof. Bill Orchard, T/Th 4:40pm-6:30pm (course code 26958)

English 244 is an exploration of theoretical formulations that inform the work of literary study, examining what different methodologies value, how they are articulated, and how they assign meaning to texts. The course focuses on at least three distinct critical methods, and it includes both the use of theory in interpreting specific literary texts, and the critical scrutiny of theoretical texts themselves. In this particular class, we will focus on Marxism, Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, and Queer Theory. Together, these approaches help us pose questions about how literary texts relate to society and identity.

Prof. Kate Schnur, T/Th 1:40pm-3:30pm (course code 28030)


 Elective Literature Courses


ENGL 301W, Fiction Workshop.

Prof. John Weir, Tue 6:40pm-9:30pm (course code 26995)

In this course, we will banish the “silent workshop” in which a writer sits mute while their work is diagnosed as if it were a disease.  Instead, each writer who submits work will be asked to outline for their classmates the specific writerly or technical/strategic narrative problems or challenges they have set for themselves.  “I wanted to write a first-person story where the narrator doesn’t know the whole story but the reader somehow does.”  “I wanted to write a story in which I never used the letter ‘e.’”  And so forth.  Students will submit a series of writing exercises organized around various narrative elements - diction, syntax, dialogue, event, etc. - and they will submit a 10-20 page story for discussion in class, and a revision of that story to be done by semester’s end.  Additionally, we will read stories by authors ranging from Chinua Achebe to Nell Zink, and “craft” essays, including essays that react against the fetishizing of “craft.”


ENGL 303W, Non-Fiction Workshop.

Prof. Joshua Neufeld, Wed 6:40pm-9:30pm (course code 26996)

This workshop will focus on nonfiction graphic novels. We will read — and create — a range of examples of the form, from biography to memoir, from history to journalism. Through our readings and exercises, we will discuss the uniquely powerful ways comics connect with readers, and the different ways the form allows for the treatment of “truth.” We’ll unpack the “comics process,” and devote class time to various collaborative writing & drawing exercises that help generate strong comics work. Early in the semester you will formulate a nonfiction comics project which you will work on throughout the term, according to an individual plan. Please bring writing and drawing materials — whichever ones you’re most comfortable with.

Readings for the course include comics by Craig Thompson, Scott McCloud, Matt Madden, Alison Bechdel, Art Spiegelman, Marjane Satrapi, Raina Telgemeier, Joe Sacco, Harvey Pekar, John Lewis, Tom Hart, and others.

ENGL 304, Poetry Workshop.

Prof. Roger Sedarat, M/W 1:40pm-2:55pm (course code 26960)

This upper division workshop requires the poet to take a series of creative risks within the context of both form and free verse. Students are strongly encouraged to write themselves out of their comfort zones, exploring new themes through writing styles somewhat unfamiliar to them. Considerable attention is given to imitation of master works of poetry, and students are also invited to experiment with such current trends as documentary poetics. Poets write and revise several poems over the term, completing a final project comprised of original verse as well as substantial process essay.

ENGL 304, Poetry Workshop.

Prof. Ryan Black, Tue 6:40pm-9:30pm (course code 40191)

In response to a letter from a reader seeking advice on becoming a poet, Elizabeth Bishop writes, “Read a lot of poetry—all the time—and not 20th-century poetry. Read Campion, Herbert, Pope, Tennyson, Coleridge—anything at all almost that's any good, from the past—until you find out what you really like, by yourself. Even if you try to imitate it exactly­—it will come out quite different.” Bishop continues, “then [read] the great poets of our own century—Marianne Moore, Auden, Wallace Stevens—and not just 2 or 3 poems each, in anthologies—read ALL of somebody. Then his or her life, and letters, and so on. (And by all means read Keats’s Letters.) Then see what happens.” Bishop speaks from a position of experience and offers the simplest, most important advice any young writer needs: read. Read voraciously. Read for pleasure. Read whatever you can get your hands on. Then, read more.

In The Gazer Within, Larry Levis argues that to “find a subject is also, simultaneously and reflexively, the act and art by which anyone finds himself, or herself.” As a class, we will explore the myriad ways poets discover and sustain generative subjects. Levis goes on to say that if a poet is “lucky, it is to find out how [they] can be filled enough by what is not [them] to use it, to have a subject, and, consequently, to find [themself].” What does it mean to be “filled enough by what is not [you] to use it?” And how might this kind of “looking” illuminate what Audre Lorde calls “the skeleton architecture of our lives?” These are just a few of the questions that will prompt our work over the course of the semester.

ENGL 305, Studies in Literature and Culture.

Prof. John Weir, T/Th 3:10pm-4:25pm (course code 26963)

Are You Gay Enough?

2020 is a presidential election year, and our spring semester parallels the season of political primaries that will determine the Democratic and Republican nominees for US President.  The GOP is busy canceling their primaries so that Donald Trump goes unchallenged; but: there are numerous Democratic candidates in contention, one of them Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, the first openly LGBTQ American who is considered a viable candidate for the presidency.  Buttigieg’s candidacy is under attack both from the religious right - evangelist Franklin Graham has warned that Buttigieg wants to turn America into a “homocracy” - and from left wing of the LGBTQ community: novelist Dale Peck’s anti-Buttigieg rant was yanked from the pages of The New Republic after complaints that Peck was accusing Buttigieg of “not being gay enough.”  What does it mean to be “gay enough?”  What does it even mean to be gay?  Or queer?  Or LGBTQ?  Or “curious?”  Or an ally?  Or, for that matter, straight?  Or a gay Republican?  We’ll read novels and poems and memoirs and plays and essays and rants and Facebook posts and Twitter feeds and graphic texts and histories and comix that ask questions about queer and un-queer identities, emphasizig texts by QPOC – queer people of color – and writers who resist the mainstreaming of queer peoples and cultures, with the overall goal of tracking as many possible different ways of claiming - or perhaps refusing - a queer identity.


ENGL 307, Studies in Fiction.

Prof. Wayne Moreland, M/W 10:45am-12.00pm (course code 26966)


“It was not a story to pass on”

The body of work produced by the late writer Toni Morrison touched upon a plethora of “issues”: race, gender, sexuality, history, commerce, the production of art and the production of wealth, memory, family relations. The comprehensiveness of her fictions, the sheer totality of it, has been recognized both nationally and internationally. Ranging from the brutal examination of beauty in The Bluest Eye, to the relations between women in Sula, to the search for roots in Song of Solomon, to the evaluation of the beauty industry in Tar Baby, to the profound immersion in the world of slavery that is Beloved, Morrison’s work has had a bracing effect upon her readers. Yet none of the topics above approach the complexity and artistry of her written work. Her work is theoretical (Playing in the Dark)), her work is innovative (Jazz and “Recitatif”), her work is restorative (Desdemona). This will be a comprehensive examination of Morrison’s themes, techniques, concerns, and styles in producing this fictional world.

ENGL 321, Seventeenth-Century Literature.

Prof. Andrea Walkden, M/W 10:45am-12.00pm

An overview of poetry and prose during a century in which the British people rebelled against and executed their king. We’ll consider the literary impact of this political revolution alongside the revolutions in seventeenth-century thinking about political sovereignty, human society, natural rights, universal and artificial language theory, the material world, and the existence of God. We’ll also trace the radical experiments in such literary forms as the devotional lyric, utopian and early science fiction, and the first English novels. Throughout we’ll call attention to the century’s persistent concerns with empire, race, and redemption during a century in which people, commodities, and ideas were constantly in motion, within Britain and around the globe. Authors include poets Ben Jonson, John Donne, George Herbert, and Anne Bradstreet; utopian philosophers, Francis Bacon, Margaret Cavendish, Henry Neville and John Wilkins; and the co-inventors of the English novel, John Bunyan and Aphra Behn.


This course satisfies the British Literature before 1800 elective area requirement for English majors.


ENGL 326, Women’s Writing.

Prof. Veronica Schanoes, T/Th 3:10pm-4:25pm (course code 26970)

Women and the Fantastic 1915-present

In this course, we’ll explore how women have written themselves into fantasy literature over the past century. From utopias to fairy tales to haunted houses, women writers have used the fantastic mode of writing to think about questions of gender, patriarchy, and women’s power.  What does the fantastic allow that realism doesn’t? How can the impossible help us think about what is possible? Writers we will study include Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Angela Carter, Nalo Hopkinson, Hope Mirlees, Naomi Mitchison, and Sylvia Townsend Warner.


ENGL 332, Shakespeare I.

Prof. Miles Grier, M/W 1:40pm-2:55pm (course code 26972)

In this course, we will focus first on understanding both Shakespeare’s verse and the emerging world of professional theater that he entered. Subsequently, we will read plays from the early part of his career that demonstrate his influences, preview recurring tools and obsessions, and begin to make his reputation. Readings will likely include The Sonnets, Titus Andronicus, Henry V, 2HenryVI, and As You Like It. Students will be expected to make presentations based on historical research, to explicate poetry, and to propose dramatically interesting ways of staging (or filming) scenes.


This course satisfies the British Literature before 1800 elective area requirement for English majors.


ENGL 340, Medieval and Early Modern Drama.

Prof. Michael Sargent, T/Th 5:00pm-6:15pm (course code 26974)


This course satisfies the British Literature before 1800 elective area requirement for English majors.


ENGL 348, The Black Atlantic.

Prof. Miles Grier, M/W 3:10pm-4:25pm (course code 26976)

Blackness is not as plain as the nose on a person’s face. Without that essential recognition, we find ourselves asking how Africans sold other Africans into slavery. But, with that in mind, we can begin to reconstruct the transformations in personal and group identity, gender, religious practices, lineage, and labor from the 1450s to the 1820s that produced the fraught and sublime abstraction we now too easily refer to as the (homogenous) black community.  To aid in our efforts, we will read Christian converts and Muslims, women and men, polemics and poetry—as well as creative writers and scholars from the present who will help us reimagine the creation of blackness throughout the Atlantic world from above and from below.


This course satisfies the pre-1900 American Literature requirement within the English major.


ENGL 351, Nineteenth-Century U.S. Literature.

Prof. Paul Hebert, Thur 6:40pm-9:30pm (course code 28031)

Runaways, Renegades and Castaways

Crucial to the mythology of the United States is the opportunity for self-invention. And it makes sense, too. At the start of the nineteenth-century, a newly-minted U.S. was anxious to inscribe a history and culture to rival other world powers. Similarly, isn’t the desire to run away or escape also the desire to define one’s own history?


In this course, we’ll explore the American process of nation-building in the nineteenth century by looking to the narratives of renegades, runaways, and castaways. These figures often help define cultural boundaries. They are crucial to the definition of who is, and who is not, part of the national narrative. We will be asking questions about what characters are running from and what they are running to. We’ll consider how authors represent themselves or fashion characters for readers. We’ll also examine the numerous visions of community these characters offer, along with the intersections, affinities, and attractions their stories reveal.


Over the semester, we’ll read novels, excerpts, and short texts by Charles Brockden Brown, William Wells Brown, Lydia Maria Child, Richard Henry Dana, Frederick Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Fanny Fern, Hannah Webster Foster, Margaret Fuller, Harriet Jacobs, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Tabitha Gilman Tenney, Henry David Thoreau, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain, Nat Turner, and Walt Whitman.


This course satisfies the pre-1900 American Literature requirement within the English major.


ENGL 354, African American Literature I.

Prof. Wayne Moreland, Wed 6:40pm-9:30pm (course code 26979)

Black Lives Matter

This class will examine the ways and means enslaved African men, women, and children and the men, women, and children who were their descendants have struggled to assert their humanity over the last 400+ years,primarily through the culture they created to assert that humanity. The class will focus on written texts, although that focus will not be exclusive. Some of the writers we may examine are Douglass, Jacobs, Chestnutt, Hughes, John Keene, Eric Sundquist, Wheatley, and Hurston.


This course satisfies the Global, Ethnic, or Post-Colonial Literature requirement OR the pre-1900 American Literature requirement within the English major.


ENGL 360, Latino/Latina Literature.

Prof. Bill Orchard, T/Th 1:40pm-2:55pm (course code 26980)

The Races of Latinx Literature

Drawing on recent work in Afro-Latinx Studies and Critical Indigenous Studies, this class will consider not only the different ways that Latinxs have been racialized, but also the racialization that exists within Latinx communities. In order to explore this, we will read about racial formation, racial scripts, the differences between race and ethnicity, and compare the different systems of racialization in Latin America and the United States. We will thus read substantial material from sociology, history, and other disciplines in order to inform our discussions of literary works by such writers as Elizabeth Acevedo (The Poet X), Marya Santos-Febres (Sirena Selena), Nelly Rosario (Song of the Water Saints), Julia de Burgos, Willie Perdomo, Jesús Colón (Puerto Rican in New York), Wilfred Santiago (21), Gloria Anzaldúa (Borderlands/ La frontera), Natalie Diaz (When My Brother Was an Aztec), Kali Fajardo-Anstine (Sabrina and Corina), Lila Quintero Weaver (Darkroom), and Aracelis Girmay (The Black Maria).


This course satisfies the Global, Ethnic, or Post-Colonial Literature requirement within the English major.


ENGL 363, Global Literatures in English.

Prof. Sarah Schwartz, T/Th 10:45am-12.00pm (course code 28032)


This course satisfies the Global, Ethnic, or Post-Colonial Literature requirement within the English major.


ENGL 371, Twentieth- and Twenty-First Century Drama and Performance. Prof. Rhoda Sirlin, Mon 6:40pm-9:30pm (course code 2698)

This section will focus on classic and contemporary Pulitzer Prize-winning American playwrights, exploring themes and approaches of contemporary dramatists and what their plays reveal about American culture.   We will discuss both male and female playwrights, discovering any similarities and differences.  We will look at contemporary definitions of tragedy, comedy, and tragicomedy as well as explore the role of realism, naturalism and expressionism in American theater today.  We will analyze the ways theater confronts contemporary social issues, discovering the links to Greek tragedy and to the social dramas of Ibsen and Strindberg.  Some of the playwrights we will cover are O’Neill, Williams, Miller, Nottage, Akhtar, Vogel, and Majok.  We will see the Broadway production of Vogel’s play HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE and put on scenes from these plays.


ENGL 374, Twentieth- and Twenty-First Century Poetry.

Prof. Nicole Cooley, M/W 3:10pm-4:25pm (course code 26985)

There has never been a more vibrant or exciting moment in American poetry than right now. In the class, we will investigate how we got here.


We’ll read a wide and varied range of poetry, from the rise of modernism through post-war confessionalism and Beat poetry and the Black Arts Movement to spoken word and contemporary writing. We’ll discuss the historical, cultural and social background that produced these texts.  And along with close readings we will also focus on critical/theoretical approaches to reading poetry.  Finally, we will consider what the role of poetry might be in our current world and the ways that social media and digital technologies have transformed poems.  In addition to reading poems and essays from anthologies, we will read contemporary single volumes of poetry by such poets as Yusef Komunyakaa, CD Wright, and Natalie Diaz.


ENGL 377, Modern South Asian Literature.

Prof. Basuli Deb, M/W 10:45am-12.00pm (course code 28033)

This course will introduce students to a range of modern South Asian literature from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Myanmar, and Bhutan. The course will be organized around the theme of environmental justice. It will enable students to see how environmental violence in modern South Asian literature is intricately tied to histories to colonialism, nationalism, and globalization, and how climate justice today cannot be thought without taking into consideration the South Asian subcontinent. We will read both established and emerging writers such as Amitav Ghosh, Arundhati Roy, Agha Shahid Ali, Aslam Khan, Sonali Deraniyagala, Tahmima Anam, Fazilhaq Hashimi, and others. Students will examine a range of literary forms in South Asian literature—poetry, drama, short story, memoir, novel, and photo essays, contextualizing them in the history, society, politics, and culture they belong to and forging conversation among the texts about environmental justice in the South Asia region.

This course satisfies the Global, Ethnic, or Post-Colonial Literature requirement within the English major.


Senior Seminars (ENGL 391W)


Prof. Carrie Hintz, M/W 3:10pm-4:25pm (course code 26999)

Child/ Adolescent/ Adult: Rethinking the Boundaries of Children’s Literature

What makes a children’s book different from one written for an audience of adults? How do cultural institutions and the conventions of publishing create—and enforce—these differences?  How have the definitions of childhood, adolescence, and adulthood changed through time? How have race, class, gender, sexuality, and dis/ability shaped our understanding of childhood and its literature?  With these questions in mind, this seminar will consider—and challenge—the historical and cultural construction of “children’s literature” as a separate category of literary production. We will read works originally intended for mixed child-adult audiences, like oral fairytales, and crossover phenomena like the Harry Potter books.  We will also look at works explicitly tailored to the needs of specific age groups, like the board books produced for infants and toddlers, the children’s picture book, early readers, middle grade chapter books, and young adult literature.  One class session will be devoted to a collaborative exercise about the texts you have read over the course of your English major that exemplify the concerns and needs of adult readers, grappling with what cultural forces have marked these works as unsuitable for children. Students will write a final paper and participate in a course blog.


Prof. Annmarie Drury, T/Th 10:45am-12:00pm (course code 27000):

The Victorian Supernatural

Victorians may not have invented ghosts, but they did populate worlds with them. The second half of the nineteenth century in Britain is typically thought of as an era of social propriety and scientific advancement. Yet along with Victorians’ concern for worldly progress came an obsession with otherworldly phenomena: with specters and spirits, with schemes for contacting spirit-worlds, and with ghostly evidence of vanished things. In this course, we examine Victorians’ fixation on the supernatural. We focus on literary accounts of the otherworldly: Robert Louis Stevenson’s eerie embodiment of fissured personality in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the enigmatic occult of Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market,” Tennyson’s longing, séance-like calls to a dead friend in In Memoriam, and ghost stories and satires of ghost stories. As theoretical background, we look at Freud’s theory of the uncanny, at the Spiritualist movement, which sought access to the supernatural through the new Victorian science, and at attempts to represent spirit worlds in visual art (including the new art of photography) and print advertisements. We think about how Victorian representations of otherworldly beings relate to Victorian views of (and fears about) real-life “outsiders.” Other authors in our wide selection include Margaret Oliphant, H.G. Wells, and Conan Doyle. Students will undertake projects to think through questions about the nature and meanings of nineteenth-century otherworldliness.


Prof. Fred Gardaphe, T/Th 3:10pm-4:25pm (course code 27002)

The Gangster in U.S. American Literature

This course uses the figure of the gangster to explore the interactions of gender and ethnicity in the literature of U.S. American writers.  Deriving archetypal origins from the Hermes figure of Greek mythology, the gangster is presented as a trickster that serves a variety of storytelling functions including modeling historical notions of masculinities.   Methodological approaches draws on historical and sociological studies of American masculinity and violence, and popular culture studies to provide a context for the reading and understanding of this mythic presence in U.S. culture.  


Prof. Veronica Schanoes, Tues 6:40pm-9:30pm (course code 27003):

Fairy Tales Past and Present

What happens in between “Once upon a time” and “Happily ever after”? And what happens afterwards?  How have fairy tales changed over time? How has feminism affected our understanding of the stories so many of us grew up with? And why do writers return, time and time again, to the stories we all grew up with? In this class, we will explore the impact of popular culture on fairy tales and fairy tales on popular culture, as well as the perspectives fairy tales offer on gender and women’s lives. We will examine the values of beauty, kindness, youth, sexuality and wealth from a variety of angles, and we will also assess what fairy tales from different cultures suggest about women and femininity. We will also consider what kinds of meanings fairy tales ascribe to racial/ethnic difference and to disability. Finally, we will consider what these tales have to offer contemporary writers--why do writers revise old stories at all? We will read several different versions of the same fairy tale from different time-periods and cultures and contrast the most well-known and influential versions of fairy tales with contemporary revisions of those tales. For your final project, you will have the option of rewriting a fairy tale yourself (but of course you may also do a more traditional lit-crit paper. Authors we read will include: Angela Carter, Tanith Lee, Terry Pratchett, Seanan McGuire, and Naomi Novik.


ENGL 399W, Honors Seminar. Prof. Caroline Hong,

Tue 1:40pm-4:30pm (course code 27014, department consent required)

or Wed 4:40pm-7:30pm (course code 27015, department consent required)