Department of English Course Descriptions—FALL 2012

210. Academic Research & Writing: Poverty, Hunger & Food (Professor Grace Wetzel)

This course will introduce you to academic research and writing in various disciplines.  We will explore the central topic “Poverty, Hunger & Food” from a range of disciplinary perspectives in order to understand how different disciplines develop research questions, locate and evaluate sources, interpret data, organize evidence into arguments, and present those arguments in the genres associated with the particular discipline.  The course will emphasize critical reading skills, rhetorical analysis, genre awareness, and research methods.  Writing assignments will include a rhetorical analysis, abstracts, an annotated bibliography, translating an academic article for a new audience, a business proposal, and a conference paper.  You will leave the class understanding that choices of genre and rhetoric reflect a discipline’s values and priorities, and with the tools necessary not only to analyze and evaluate the genres you encounter in college, but also to compose in these genres.  You will also have the opportunity to develop your writing skills individually with a faculty member who specializes in writing.

Required Texts:

  1. The Informed Writer: Using Sources in the Disciplines (Bazerman)
  2. Writer’s Help (Hacker)
  3. Course Packet (containing all other readings)

285. Poetry Workshop (Professor Elisabeth Whitehead)

“To discover the mode of life or of art whereby your spirit could express itself in unfettered freedom.”  --James Joyce


An immersion into the writing and reading of poetry, this class will function as both a seminar and a workshop.  In our readings and discussions, we will begin to explore the richness of textures and multiplicity of voices working today in contemporary poetry.  In addition to close readings of established poets, we will also engage in respectful and thoughtful conversation of each other’s works.  Because writing is usually a solitary act, this will be a chance to rejoin through community.  Exercises and experiments in writing will be conducted with an eye to “unfetter,” to help you explore a variety of styles and practices that might be best suited to your own individuality.  Show up with a willingness to delve into the uniqueness of your own voice and support others who are doing the same.  We will hopefully be left with new ways of seeing the poem and the means to keep moving ahead as writers.        

286:  Short Story Workshop (Writer in Residence John McNally)

Short Story Workshop introduces students to the elements of narrative writing: point-of-view, characterization, plot, tone/style, etc.  The student will be expected to read, on average, one published short story per day throughout the semester.  The student will also be expected to write two original short stories for the course, plus a revision of one of those stories for the end of the semester.  Students interested in taking this course should understand that this is a university-level creative writing course and that they will receive professional feedback on their stories.  The successful student in this course is open to feedback, understands that fiction writing is a craft, realizes that some techniques are more effective than others, and is willing to work with his or her stories based on feedback given to him or her.  The unsuccessful student is defensive and resists feedback.  Prerequisite for this course is English 111.  Please note: Students must take English 286 to continue on to Advanced Fiction Writing

300:  Seminar in the Major: Portraits of the Modern Artist (Professor Kuberski)

We will study a sequence of major modern works devoted to the figure of the artist as aesthete, aesthetician, martyr, enchanter, criminal, and visionary.  We will be especially

interested in exploring the ways in which these works present accounts of the artist’s development as a means of advancing a modernist aesthetic.

Three papers and seminar presentations.


Wilde, The Portable Oscar Wilde

Proust, Swann’s Way 

Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man 

Mann, Death in Venice

Nabokov, Lolita

Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Woolf, Moments of Being

Woolf, To the Lighthouse

(Major Requirement)

300.  Seminar in the Major: Approaches to William Blake (Professor Eric Wilson)

In this course, we will study the poetry, painting, and prose of William Blake from several critical angles.  The requirements will include brief papers, oral presentations, and a research essay.  Here are the texts we’ll read. 

Ackroyd, Blake: A Biography
The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake
A Blake Dictionary: The Ideas and Symbols of William Blake
Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake
 William Blake
William Blake's Poetry
 (Major Requirement)

300:  Seminar in the Major: American Environments   (Professor Judith Madera)

This course looks at the ways literature illuminates environment. It introduces students to significant works of American literature, and it poses questions about the connections between nature and culture (how ideas and meanings are made.) In our readings and discussion, we will examine the ways American authors have created a world of symbols from life forms.

Authors will include: Crèvecœur, Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Martin Delany, Adams, Jewett, Frost, Stevens, Faulkner, Carpentier, Kerouac, Carson, Barry Lopez, Merwin, Eiseley, Erdrich, Danticat, and Paul Theroux.

English 300 is a seminar designed for English concentrators. Course literature is paired with theoretical and critical texts. Students should expect to write two papers and prepare an oral presentation.   (Major Requirement and Environmental Studies credit for English majors)

302: Feminist Theory and Practice (Professor Balzano)

This course will focus primarily on feminist theories that are generally categorized as “poststructuralist” and their application to literature and cinema. It will endeavor to ensure that students acquire sufficient vocabulary and familiarity with key theories in order to understand and work with literary texts and films. Among other things, this means that the course will consider the epistemological ramifications of poststructuralist feminist theory: how do writings that fall within this loosely bounded arena impact the kinds of questions we might ask when analyzing literature and cinema? What “moves” do they enable us to make in our study of literary and film narratives? What are the assumptions made by these theories and how might they affect what we think we know about the world and how we “know” it?

Through the lens of feminist theory we will focus on the following:

Literary Texts (tentative)

Angela Carter, The Passion of New Eve

Angela Carter, “The Company of Wolves”

Emer Martin, Baby Zero

Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas

Dorothy Allison, “A Lesbian Appetite”

Jeanette Winterson, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

Caryl Churchill, Top Girls

Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea


Films (tentative)

Alejandro Amenábar, Agora

Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding

Trinh T. Minh-ha, Reassemblage

Neil Jordan, The Company of Wolves

Beeban Kidron, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit

Cary Fukunaga, Jane Eyre

Brendan Maher, Wide Sargasso Sea

(Major Elective)

302A: “Where Do We Go From Here?” Dreamers, Dissenters, and the American Dream in African-American Literature (Professor Bowie)

 In 1967, Martin Luther King penned Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community, his prophetic text on economic and social justice in the United States.  A prelude to his People’s Campaign, this text outlined King’s vision for a better, more inclusive America, one that would not be weighed down by legal, racial, or class-based feuds but lifted up by the cause of human rights.  It is important to note that King’s ideas, though prophetic, were part of a history of African American political and literary thought. In this course, we will examine the rhetorical trajectory of the Dream and dreamers in twentieth-century African American literature. This course will place in conversation a variety of fiction and non-fiction works that have been a part of African-American (and American) cultural life.  Beyond a study of rhetorical strategies and designs, we will examine ways that a diverse body of writers wrestled over the idea of the Dream and its fulfillment. Taking the longer view of African American literature, we will trace the then and now of race and nationhood in these works, and by the end, ask the crucial question of “where do we go from here?”          (Meets American Literature Requirement)


302A: Adventures in the American Avant-Garde post 1945 (Professor Rapaport)

Adventures in the American Avant-Garde post 1945 is a course that will begin by looking at the world of the former Black Mountain School, west of us in North Carolina, and its major artistic figures (Josef Albers, Franz Kline, Willim de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Walter Gropius, Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Denise Levertov, Charles Olson, Robert Rauschenberg, Merce Cunningham, John Cage) in order to examine what its main legacies have been to the arts in America. In particular we will be focusing on John Cage, because this course complements a conference on Cage that WFU is mounting in October of 2012. To that end, Cage will serve as a nexus that brings numerous artists and movements of second wave modernism into relation. In fact, Cage is just one among a vast number of people who were painting, making video art, developing happenings, reconceptualizing theatre, creating electronic music, and writing in entirely new textual forms and formats. However, he is a good anchorage point, given how much his work overlapped with everyone else’s work, and given that he was working in New York City, which is “art central” in the United States. Aside from looking at what literature people call “the other arts,” we will be surveying a number of American literary figures in what I call “small format.” That is, everything we study will be of relatively short length so that we will have the ability to gain a fairly large overview of avant garde approaches to writing by the end of the course. Literary figures of interest will include Jackson Mac Low, Frank O’Hara, David Antin, Clark Coolidge, John Ashbery, Thomas Pynchon, Leslie Scalapino, Mark Z. Danielewski, Jorie Graham, Jennifer Scappettone, Ron Silliman, Barrett Watten, Charles Bernstein, Bruce Andrews, Laura Mullen, Nate Mackey, Mei Mei Bressenbrugge, Forrest Gander, Renee Gladman, and Vanessa Place. The course requires four short papers of about four pages each and an independent project that can be either scholarly or creative (of no predetermined length).  (Meets American Literature Requirement)        

305: Old English Language and Literature (Professor Overing)

Hwæt!  A study of language, literature and culture in the Anglo-Saxon period (600-1100). The course aims at a basic sight reading knowledge of Old English, though we will also read in translation. Texts include Beowulf, selected Old English poetry, and prose selections from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and Bede's Ecclesiastical History.  (Meets Pre-1800 literature requirement)


315: Chaucer (Professor Sigal)

In reading Chaucer’s masterpieces, The Canterbury Tales and Troilus and Crisedye, we will consider the ways in which Chaucer creates a national British literature, even as he resists, comments on, adapts and extends the literary and cultural conventions of his day.  Chaucer's transformation of intellectual and artistic currents, his narrative and poetic innovations, and his gift for creating multilayered, “realistic” characters will be explored.  We will be especially attuned to the uses -- literal and metaphorical – Chaucer makes of motifs such as pilgrimage, the Trojan War, and courtliness as well as how he addresses the role of rhetoric in theological, poetic and fictive contexts.  We will learn to ferret out Chaucer’s representation of the “slyding” meanings of good and evil, courage, love, virtue and heroism. Students will read Chaucer in his original Middle English, examine critical scholarly works, and experiment with a variety of theoretical approaches to texts and topics. (Meets Pre-1800 literature requirement)

323: Shakespeare (Professor Olga Valbuena)

We will read plays and poems from Shakespeare’s career as chief dramatist for The Lord Chamberlain’s Men and, later, The King’s Men.  Our class discussions will involve close analysis of Shakespeare’s language, his culture, and the various moral, political, and aesthetic issues raised in the plays and poetry.  We will favor a thematic over chronological order of reading so that we can build on our progressive examination of love, gender, and friendship; reciprocal obligation, and king and kinship.   In relation to these issues, we’ll examine domestic and political tyranny—and of course, revenge and moral redemption. Required Text: The Necessary Shakespeare, 3rd ed.  Edited by David Bevington.  

Writing Requirement: three essays (one with outside research) and occasional response papers.  (Meets Shakespeare Requirement)

328. Seventeenth-Century British Literature (Professor Herman Rapaport) 

The seventeenth century is an especially interesting century because it divides into three main periods that are very different from one another, the Jacobean/Caroline period, the Interregnum, and the Restoration. Whereas at the beginning of the century, one is much closer to Renaissance and late medieval outlooks (Shakespeare), by the end of the century one has clearly entered the age of reason (Locke, Newton). Between all this lies a very bloody and divisive revolution that is still the source of much historical debate. On the European Continent, meanwhile, the emergence of a place officially known as “Europe” takes place for the first time after the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. During the course, we’re going to be looking at a wide range of literatures of the times: philosophical, poetic, novelistic, dramatic, political, scientific, religious, and popular. We will also be reading a history of The English Civil War, text to be determined, which should give us a good idea of what the period was like and how a whole country could fall apart the way England did. We will, of course, be looking at major canonical British literary writers, among them, Ben Jonson, Thomas Browne, John Donne, John Milton, George Herbert, John Dryden, Samuel Pepys, Margaret Cavendish, Aphra Behn, and many others. This semester we will read some Restoration drama, which will be a first. The purpose of the course is to introduce British literature in terms of a transitional century within which England moved from religious intolerance to liberal democracy, speculative reasoning to scientific inquiry, mercantilism to bourgeois capitalism, colonial expansion to the beginnings of empire. That England managed to produce a rich and varied literature during an enormously tempestuous and bloody century is more than just remarkable, for it speaks to the emergent significance of art and culture in times of great crisis and change.   (Meets Pre-1800 literature requirement)

336: Restoration and 18th Century British Drama (Professor Kairoff)

After a long period of enforced inactivity during the Puritan regime, London theatres reopened in 1660 with the return of King Charles II from exile.  The ensuing Restoration period witnessed some of the most sparkling comedies ever produced by English writers.  In addition, scathing satires and idealistic tragedies reveal the extent of both bitter cynicism and hopes for renewal typical of the era.  These trends evolved in the eighteenth century, with softer humor and tragedies that explored the potential heroism of middle class individuals.


We will read a selection of plays representing the variety of Restoration and eighteenth-century British drama.  The course requirements will include several short essays, willingness to read aloud and act in class-staged scenes, and to prepare for the final examination a substantial scene from among the plays on our syllabus. Examples of plays we may read include The Man of Mode (Etherege), The Rover (Behn), All for Love (Dryden), The Country Wife (Wycherley), The Way of the World (Congreve), A Bold Stroke for a Wife (Centlivre), The Beaux’ Strategem (Farquhar), Cato (Addison), The Beggar’s Opera (Gay), The London Merchant (Lillo), The Belle’s Stratagem (Cowley), She Stoops to Conquer (Goldsmith), The School for Scandal (Sheridan).  (Meets Pre-1800 literature requirement)

340: Mothers and Daughters: Literature and Theory (Professor DeShazer)

In this course we will examine the complexities of motherhood and mother-daughter relationships for contemporary women across cultures.  After an introductory week, the class will be divided into two sections: (1) Multicultural U.S. representations of mothers and daughters in fiction, poetry, and theory—here we will explore mother-daughter symbiosis, feminist theories about mothering, and themes of anger, ambivalence, and affirmation; (2) Maternal desire and the politicization of motherhood—here we will examine the psychological and political landscapes in which women mother. This class meets the requirement for the English major/minor and the WGS major/minor.

TEXTS:  Edwidge Danticat, BREATH, EYES, MEMORY


           Toni Morrison, BELOVED

           Amy Tan, THE JOY LUCK CLUB

           Joan Blades & Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, THE MOTHERHOOD MANIFESTO

           Daphne deMarneffe, MATERNAL DESIRE

   Readings to be posted on Sakai: feminist theories of motherhood, poems about

        mothering, maternal politics in the Global South

   Required Films: “Sylvia,” “Beloved,” “The Joy Luck Club”

REQUIREMENTS: A six-page analytical essay, a twelve-page final research paper, group and individual presentations, and a midterm exam.  (Major Elective)

346: The Tragic Effect: Philosophy and Drama (Professor Young)

What is tragedy? Why do we derive pleasure from fictional portrayals of events which, in real life, would horrify us? Does tragedy have to be about kings and queens? Does it have to observe 'the unities'? Does the tragic hero have to have a 'tragic flaw'? What is 'catharsis'? Is Shakespeare inferior to Sophocles? We shall try to answer these and other questions with the help of, among others, Plato, Aristotle, Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Benjamin, Camus, Arthur Miller and Slavoj Žižek. On three evenings we shall watch Sophocles' Antigone, Shakespeare's Hamlet and Miller's Death of a Salesman.  (Major Elective)

358: Postcolonial Literature (Professor Hena)


The British Empire at its height in 1921 encompassed a quarter of the earth’s surface. In the era after World War II, however, Britain’s former colonies struggled, often violently, to overthrow colonial rule and to establish national independence and self-definition. Resistance to British imperialism was not solely a matter of contesting political governance, economic exploitation, or racial discrimination. It also entailed re-imagining the imperial legacy of the English language, literature, and culture. This seminar examines how postcolonial writers from Africa, South Asia, and the Caribbean respond to the violence of imperial modernity, from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1902) through Arundahti Roy’s The God of Small Things (1996). As we journey across world literature, we will simultaneously venture into postcolonial criticism and theory, asking how literature and criticism intersect with and depart from one another concerning the condition of postcoloniality. For instance, the course will probe how postcolonial literature and theory contend with a range of problems including the relation between European imperialism and its racial others; the writing of the colonial subject; the question of resistance to colonialism in the midst of torture and terror; the tumult of decolonization and national independence; the experience of migration, diaspora, and hybridity; the formation of national, racial, and gendered and sexual identities within the colonial matrix; the onslaught of globalization upon postcolonial states; the future of postcolonial studies in the aftermath of 9/11; and the global inheritance of the western literary tradition in a transnational frame. Above all, this class will ask the dialectical question: what is the power of writing in  political and cultural crisis, and what are the claims of theory upon the postcolonial condition?


Required texts will likely include:

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (Norton Critical)

Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart (Norton Critical)

Nawal El Saadawi, Woman at Point Zero (Zed)

J.M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians (Penguin)

Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children (Random House)

Derek Walcott, Selected Poems (FSG)

Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things (Random House)

(Major Elective)

363: Studies in Modernism (Professor Maine)

In this seminar, we will examine why memory was a preoccupation of modernists from Proust to Beckett.  We will study how modernists re-defined both the personal and collective past and its relevance or importance.  In light of the fact that narrative itself is often an act of memory, we will study how changing conceptions of memory are manifested in narrative forms of the modernist period. And we will examine these and other questions that cluster around the problem of memory: what is the relationship between memory and consciousness? between memory and the self?  between memory and nostalgia?  what makes memory a site of individual and cultural disquiet?  if we can do nothing to change the past, why do we worry so much about it? what do we forget and why?  In addition to examining these and other issues related to memory and narrative during the modernist period, we will examine more recent novels and films to see if these questions are asked and answered in different ways in a post-modern milieu.  (Major Elective)


Marcel Proust   Swann’s Way 

Willa Cather  My Antonia

Virginia Woolf  Mrs. Dalloway

William Faulkner  The Sound and the Fury

Samuel Beckett  Molloy and  Krapp’s Last Tape

Milan Kundera The Book of Laughter and Forgetting 

Kazuo Ishiguro  The Remains of the Day

W. G. Sebald  Austerlitz

Julian Barnes The Sense of an Ending

Alain Resnais Hiroshima Mon Amour (film)

Christopher Nolan  Memento (film)

(Note: In addition to the above, we will read selected prose works by William James, Henri Bergson, Sigmund Freud, and Fredric Jameson.)

“…let me forget about today until tomorrow…”       

                                                     --Bob Dylan      


365: Twentieth Century British Fiction (Professor Scott Klein)

In this course we will be reading a range of English and Irish novels, from the early 20th century through the 1930s. We will concentrate on the stylistic experimentation of Modernism, and the era’s late and multiple pulls toward satire, realism, and the avant-garde. We’ll also focus on the nature of the individual within British and European society, and authors' differing treatments of sexual, cultural, historical, and religious difference. Two papers, midterm, final exam.

Texts: Conrad, Heart of Darkness (Penguin)

       Forster, Howards End (Penguin)

       Ford, The Good Soldier (Penguin)

       Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Penguin)

       Lewis, Tarr (Oxford)

       Lawrence, Women in Love (Penguin)

       West,  The Return of the Soldier (Penguin)

       Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (HBJ)

       (Major Elective)

371. American Ethnic Literature (Franco)

English 371 introduces you to the field of American Ethnic literature, paying special attention to how historical events and geographical locales are treated by American ethnic writers.  We will exam key texts by important American writers, and examine how they narrate or meditate on the complications of relational social difference—ethnicity. Many of our texts are by and about women’s experiences with assimilation, acculturation, and racialization.  Indeed, “gender trouble” often marks or is central to plot conflicts in our literature.  Consequently, our course-reader will include critical accounts of gender, sexuality, and theories of the body, as well as writing on the history, landscape, and social context that gives shape to or even produces our texts.  Finally, we will also study the literature asliterature, attending to the formal and aesthetics developments, stylistic innovations, experiments in structure, and presentation of a literary voice in all our assigned texts.  We will read novels, stories, and poems, so we will also examine the relationship between genre and the experience of ethnicity.  Assigned reading will include important literary works by Native American, Jewish American, and Latina/o authors, as well as selections of critical, political, and social theory.

Course Requirements

One short essay (3-5 pages):  20%

One longer essay (7-9 pages): 30%

Presentation and Final exams:  15% & 20%

Participation and preparation:  15%

(Meets American Literature Requirement)

387. African-American Fiction: “Manning the Race”: Masculinity in African American Literature (Professor Erica Still)

This course will examine the nature of black masculinity as represented in contemporary African American literature. What constitutes Black manhood? What threatens it? How does gender intersect with race, class, and sexuality to shape identity? How do literary representations of Black masculinity work to limit or enable particular identity performances in the” real world”? We will engage such questions as we consider the role of literature in creating, sustaining, and questioning cultural understandings of “the black man.” Careful reading and class participation will be essential for success in the course.

Possible reading will include (subject to change):

Ernest Gaines, A Gathering of Old Men; Walter Mosley, Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned; Michael Thomas, Man Gone Down; Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon; Randall Kenan, A Visitation of Spirits; John Edgar Wideman, Brothers and Keepers; James Alan McPherson, Elbow Room; Excerpts from Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, and Malcolm X

(Meets American Literature Requirement)

390: Structure of English (Professor Aull)

Most native speakers use English without thinking consciously about the intricacies of words, phrases, and other structures that dictate its use. But in fact, the English language is a complex, rule-governed system, from how sounds are strung together to how we take turns in conversation, from where new words come from to why Americans speak different dialects. In this course, we will systematically uncover the many levels of structure working in language as well as the ways speakers learn and change language over time. We will also discuss social and educational issues tied up in language, including attitudes toward dialects, the teaching of Standard English, and language and gender. Course work will consist of frequent short assignments, three short papers, a midterm, and a final. (Major Elective)

Required Texts

Curzan, Anne, and Michael Adams. 2012. How English Works: A Linguistic Introduction. 3rd ed. New York: Pearson Longman. (Be sure to get the 3rd edition.)

Course packet (available at the University bookstore)

391: Studies in Postmodernism (Professor Hans)

This class will investigate the relations between Modernism and Postmodernism by exploring their links in both literary and philosophical texts.  The exemplars of Modernism will be works by Nietzsche, Wallace Stevens, and Viriginia Woolf.  Postmodernism will be represented by writings from Heidegger, Derrida, A. R. Ammons, Thomas Bernhard, Roberto Bolano, Haruki Murakami, Lydia Davis, John Haskell, Harryette Mullen, and Anne Carson.  (Major Elective)

392: Magazine Writing (Professor Niepold)

This is an advanced feature writing course designed to evaluate, discuss and practice the skills need to produce magazine stories for publication.  Students are encouraged to write creatively and often in a variety of styles and on a variety of topics.  The course, however, is not a creative writing class.  It focuses on writing specifically for magazine readers.  Taught in a workshop setting, students take on roles of actual magazine staffs and write to targeted audiences.  A “mock” magazine is created to sharpen the focus of specific communications skills needed throughout the magazine publishing process.  Readings, in-class discussions, written assignments – in and out of class – focus on the skills of exemplary journalists who use the power of observations, interviewing and fact gathering to craft compelling stories.  Clear writing with substance, personality and a point of view are the elements of a good story, and this class stresses the cultivation of these skills.  The goal of the course is to produce stories worth reading – and remembering – the essence of good magazine writing and powerful newspaper features.         

Assigned books:

 Feature Writing for Newspapers and Magazines, Edward J. Friedlander and John Lee The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th Edition, 1993 (Also listed as JOU 284.)

        (Major  Elective)

397: Creative Nonfiction Workshop (Professor Eric G. Wilson)



In this writing-intensive course, we will explore the practice and theory of creative nonfiction.  This genre encompasses memoir, the personal essay, literary journalism, travel writing, and science writing.  Works of creative nonfiction differ from fiction in that they aspire to be faithful to fact, whether subjective or objective; and they diverge from most nonfiction—such as traditional journalism and academic writing—insofar as they are self-consciously literary, attuned to issues like plot, character development, symbolism,  and style.  Creative nonfiction attempts to report accurately as well as aesthetically.



Through weekly writing workshops and discussions of appropriate texts, we will improve our skills as writers of creative nonfiction, enhance our critical reading abilities, and learn about the nature of creative nonfiction and its subgenres.



Truman Capote, In Cold Blood (Random House)

Joan Didion, White Album (FSG Classics)

Annie Dillard, A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (Harper Perennial)

Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind (Vintage)

Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola, Tell It Slant: Writing and Shaping Creative Nonfiction

(McGraw Hill)

 (Elective in the Major) 

Spring 2013 ENG 300 SEMINARS

Seminar in the Major: Twentieth-Century Irish Literature and Criticism (Prof. Holdridge)


 We will begin with Oscar Wilde, move through writers of the early to mid-century (such as W.B Yeats, James Joyce, Elizabeth Bowen, Kate O’Brien, Louis MacNeice, and Patrick Kavanagh), consider the significance of Samuel Beckett's achievement for post-war writers in Ireland, and end with discussions of selections by contemporary Irish poets. We will assess these writers in light of their own literary ideas, such as Wilde’s insistence on subjective fictions over objective facts, Yeats’s theory of aesthetics and history, Joyce’s portrait of Modernism and the self, his crafting of style and content, Beckett’s minimalist reduction of these ideas, O’Brien’s transgressively sexualized notion of the religious writer, MacNeice’s moral and aesthetic internationalism, and Kavanagh’s emphasis on the imperatives of the parish. We will also analyze these authors in light of various contemporary critical theories as well as such literary movements as Modernism and Postmodernism. The aim is to observe how certain literary concepts of family, home, religion, gender, landscape (urban versus rural), utopia and redemption subtly reflect aesthetic and political controversies. Though critical theory will be engaged, the emphasis will be on close reading as an avenue into the contexts of Irish cultural life. Creative approaches to theory are encouraged. Evaluation will be based on a first mid-term essay of 5-6 pages (30%); and two essays of eight-ten pages (worth 35% each). Attendance is expected. Participation is equally encouraged and appreciated, as this is not a lecture course, but a seminar. Presentations on the theory will be required.

300.   Place/Self/Text (Professor Overing)

The Anglo-Saxon mead-hall, the contemporary mall, the medieval cathedral, Virginia Woolf’s “room of one’s own”, the ancient Germanic forests of Poland, the Roman amphitheatre in Thomas Hardy’s Wessex: what role do these places, literal or literary, play in our understanding of texts? What has place to do with self? How is identity connected to landscape, real or imagined? If, as cultural geographers argue, the perception of “place” is always a dialogue between physical environment and human perception, a sense of place is thus construed as dynamic, lived experience, and can be seen as a window onto human activity—both past and present. Places might then connect us, unsentimentally, with medieval people, and enable us to ask questions about medieval senses of space and place. This course will consider primarily medieval texts, but will also include modern texts and a variety of genres, in an examination of the physical, psychological, political and gendered aspects of relationship to place, and the possibilities for interdisciplinary inquiry that these issues generate. Texts include: Bede’s Ecclesiastical History,  Beowulf, Grettir's Saga, Laxdale Saga,  Chaucer’s Man of Law’s Tale, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,  Hardy's Mayor of Casterbridge, Woolf's To the Lighthouse and A Room of One's Own, O’Flynn’s What Was Lost, and selected Old English and modern poems; there will also be a xeroxed course  reader of essays representing contemporary critical viewpoints.


Requirements: Class participation and class presentations (both individual and collaborative), short informal response papers, 2 research papers. Possible class/group excursions to selected places.  

ENG 300 Seminar in the Major: “Storytelling in South Africa” (Professor Still)

South Africa underwent tremendous change during the last two decades of the twentieth century as it transitioned from an apartheid regime to a non-racial democratic republic. Literature played an important role in documenting and fostering that development, and it continues to serve as a record of and impetus for ongoing social change. In this course, we will examine the role of literature in helping to shape important cultural moments. How did South African authors use literature to protest apartheid? How has literature contributed to efforts toward reconciliation? How does literature speak to issues of cultural trauma and collective memory? To what extent do South African authors shape their culture, and to what extent do they reflect it? Finally, how can we appreciate the specifically literary aspects of contemporary South African literature even while recognizing its social and cultural implications? We will engage these questions in light of contemporary literary criticism and theory. The extensive reading, discussion, research, writing, and presentations required in the course will all contribute to achieving two specific goals: first, to understand and appreciate the literature itself; and second, to understand and practice literary scholarship.

Readings are likely to include some combination of the following: Master Harold…and the Boys (Athol Fugard), None to Accompany Me (Nadine Gordimer), Kaffir Boy (Mark Mathabane), Between Two Worlds (Miriam Tlali), Mating Birds (Lewis Nkosi), The Madonna of Excelsior (Zakes Mda), Country of My Skull (Antjie Krog), Bitter Fruit (Achmat Dagor), Disgrace (J.M. Coetzee), Mother to Mother (Sinidwe Magona), Welcome to Our Hillbrow (Phaswane Mpe), and Playing in the Light (Zoe Wicomb).