English Major Courses

FALL 2020

ENGL 30009
Writing the Anthropocene
Roy Scranton
MW 11:00-12:15

We face worldwide ecological catastrophe, accelerating global warming, and political upheaval: this is the Anthropocene. What problems does the Anthropocene pose to narrative? What storytelling skills and rhetorical strategies do journalists, scientists, memoirists, bloggers, and philosophers need in order to adequately address and communicate about the epochal crisis we all face? Through journalism, essays, and other media, this course will explore the question - in practice - of what it means to write the Anthropocene. 


ENGL 30101
Intro to Literary Studies
Yasmin Solomonescu
TR 9:30-10:45
Sec 02 - Majors
Sec 03 - Freshmen

This course provides beginning English majors with experience in the analysis, interpretation, and appreciation of literary works of different kinds and eras. Texts assigned will vary from one section to another, but all sections will include significant attention to poetry, as well as treatment of at least one other genre (fiction, drama, non-fiction prose). Frequent writing about works studied will introduce students to the practice of critical argument and consideration of how to read criticism as well as literature critically.


ENGL 30101
Intro to Literary Studies
Laura Betz
TR 12:30-1:45
Sec 03 - Majors
Sec 04 - Freshmen

This course provides beginning English majors with experience in the analysis, interpretation, and appreciation of literary works of different kinds and eras. Texts assigned will vary from one section to another, but all sections will include attention to poetry and at least one other genre (fiction, drama, non-fiction prose). Frequent writing about works studied will introduce students to the practice of critical argument and consideration of how to read criticism as well as literature critically.

 

ENGL 30101
Intro to Literary Studies
Cyraina Johnson-Roullier
MW 3:30-4:45
Sec 03 - Majors
Sec 04 - Freshmen

This course provides beginning English majors with experience in the analysis, interpretation, and appreciation of literary works of different kinds and eras. Texts assigned will vary from one section to another, but all sections will include attention to poetry and at least one other genre (fiction, drama, non-fiction prose). Frequent writing about works studied will introduce students to the practice of critical argument and consideration of how to read criticism as well as literature critically.

 

ENGL 30110
British Literary Traditions I
Michelle Karnes
TR 12:30-1:45
Sec 01 - Majors
Sec 02 - Unallocated 

This course will introduce students to the beginnings of English literature. We will start with arguably the first piece of literature written in English, Caedmon's hymn, and revel in the beauties of Old English, Middle English, and early modern literature. We will read texts from different genres, including riddles, lyric, epic poetry, drama, allegory, and romance. Texts we might read include Beowulf, The Owl and the Nightingale, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Julian of Norwich's Revelation, Spenser's Faerie Queene, Shakespeare's The Tempest and King Lear, Lady Mary Wroth's Pamphilia to Amphilanthus, and Milton's Paradise Lost, among others. No prior knowledge of early English or early English literature is expected. Students will write several short papers and at least one long (7-10 page) paper. There will be a mid-term and a final exam.

 

ENGL 30115
American Literary Traditions I
Sandra Gustafson
MW 2:00-3:15 
Sec 01 - Majors
Sec 02 - Unallocated

"Nations are narratives" - so our historians tell us. That means the voices of a nation's artists and writers help to tell us who we are, even to create our very identity as a nation. So what are the narratives of our nation, the United States? This course traces the emergence of what we now know as "America" from the small and struggling British colonies of Virginia and New England, founded early in the 1600s on lands cultivated for millennia by Native Americans. We will consider the early "contact zones" in which settler societies from Europe met and mingled with indigenous Native American cultures, languages, and literatures; the institution of slavery as the foundation of American economies, and the growing contributions of free and enslaved African-Americans to the development of a distinctive American voice and literary tradition; and the literature of the American Revolution that established the United States as an independent nation. Finally, we will conclude with several works from the American Renaissance that characterize an emerging modern American literary tradition.

 

ENGL 30851
Poetry Writing
Sara Judy
MW 9:30-10:45

The poet Mary Ruefle writes that poetry is nothing more than "a wandering little drift of unidentified sound," sound that we can follow, and listen to, but never find its source. In this course, we will do our best to follow the drift, as we read a diverse array of writers, and discuss a range of aesthetic, formal, personal and political possibilities in poetry. Students will read and write extensively both in and out of class throughout the semester, as we experiment with a variety of composition styles and techniques, present and perform poetry, and complete two larger projects consisting of a curated anthology which puts their own poetry in conversation with others, and a creative project of their own design. 

 

ENGL 30853
Fiction Writing 
Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi
TR 2:00-3:15

In her book Wonderlust: A History of Walking, Rebecca Sulnit writes, "The rhythm of walking generates a kind of rhythm of thinking, and the passage through a landscape echoes or stimulates the passage through a series of thoughts." In this course we will examine notions of journey, pilgrimage, space and subjectivity through the lens of walking. We will look at representations of walking in a variety of genres: essay, graphic novel, fiction, film, prose and poetry and use the practice of walking as a platform to write provocative texts that contemplate the body, architecture, language, philosophy, religion, nature, music and film. Students will engage with course themes and motifs by writing fictions, poems and essays of their own.  

 

40xxx Level Courses

 

ENGL 40202  
Legends, Gods, and Heroes
Tim Machan
MW 11:00-12:15
Section 01 - Majors
Section 02 - Unallocated

Why did the Middle Ages produce so many legends, so many stories about gods, heroes, and fantastic events? What do the origins of these stories tell us about medieval European culture and the way it used both writing and the fantastic? What do the differences between different versions of the same story reveal about the stories’ audience and composition? Why do some of these stories still resonate powerfully today? These are the kinds of questions we will ask as we survey a range of medieval works representing a variety of literary traditions, including Anglo-Saxon (Beowulf), Norse (the Poetic Edda and Hrolf Kraki’s Saga), French (the Song of Roland), Italian (the Inferno), Welsh (the Mabinogion), and Finnish (Kalevala).

 

ENGL 40212
Introduction to Old English
Chris Abram
MW 2:00-3:15
Sec 01 - Majors
Sec 02 - Unallocated

In November 1882, Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote to his friend and fellow-poet Robert Bridges: "I am learning Anglo-Saxon and it is a vastly superior thing to what we have now." Auden was similarly moved by his first encounter with Old English: "I was spellbound. This poetry, I knew, was going to be my dish . . . I learned enough to read it, and Anglo-Saxon and Middle English poetry have been one of my strongest, most lasting influences." ENGL 40212 is an introduction to the language and literature that so captivated Hopkins and Auden, that later inspired Tolkien and Lewis, and that remains the historical and linguistic foundation of English literary studies. Our focus for about half the term will be the grammar of Old English, but from the very beginning we will read from a variety of texts in verse and prose (including riddles, a monastic sign-language manual, and King Alfred's prefatory letter to the Old English translation of Gregory the Great's Pastoral Care), and the course will culminate in a focused study of The Wanderer and The Dream of the Rood. This course may be especially useful for students interested in historical linguistics and the history of the English language, in the Anglo-Saxon foundations of British literature, and in medieval literature in general. Requirements include two exams, a series of grammar quizzes, and a translation project. The final exam will involve a short oral recitation. Graduate students will meet for two extra class periods and will be assigned some additional reading.

 

ENGL 40213
Milton
Laura Knoppers
TR 9:30-10:45
Sec 01 - Majors
Sec 02 - Unallocated

This class introduces John Milton’s poetry in the context of his life and times and with attention to current critical issues. Much of the course will be focused on Milton’s major poems: his early masque, Comus, his grand epic, Paradise Lost, his brief epic, Paradise Regained, and his late tragedy, Samson Agonistes.  We will also explore Milton’s influence on the Romantics and beyond, looking at William Blake’s water-color illustrations of Milton’s poetry, at Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and at the Miltonic influence in classic Frankenstein films and in Ridley Scott's Blade Runner.    

 

ENGL 40327
Victorian Universe
Sara Maurer
TR 3:30-4:45
Sec 01 - Majors
Sec 02 - Unallocated

The Victorian era witnessed rapid and drastic changes created by industrialization, capitalism, new technologies, changing gender roles, and an increasing class mobility. Victorian authors responded to these seismic upheavals with novels that imagined society as both undergoing revolution and yet still densely interconnected. The average Victorian novel was three volumes long and contained multiple plots in which characters were intertwined through romance, politics, money, secret identities, blackmail, disease, and sheer accident. In order to become thoroughly acquainted with the Victorian novel’s ambition to comprehensively imagine a whole society, this class will focus intently on just four novels - William Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, Charles Dickens’s Bleak House, Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, and Anthony Trollope’s The Way We Live Now. We will closely study the formal techniques that each writer used to try to reproduce a sense of dense interconnectedness in Victorian society. We will also read excerpts from other Victorians who tried to explain the complexity of society - Adam Smith, Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill and John Ruskin among them. Students can expect to be graded on class participation, a series of short response papers, two formal paper assignments, and one creative assignment that will ask you to adapt one of our novels for social media.   

 

ENGL 40328  
Swift and Pope
Chris Fox
MW 11:00-12:15
Sec 01 - Majors
Sec 02 - Unallocated

In 1727, shortly before the publication of the first two volumes of their joint Miscellanies in Prose and Verse, Alexander Pope wrote Jonathan Swift a letter in which he expressed his pleasure at the image of their relationship that the work conveyed. “Methinks we look like friends,” he wrote, “side by side, serious and merry by turns, conversing interchangeably, and walking down hand in hand to posterity.”  Elsewhere, Pope would tell Swift that “yours and my name shall stand linked as friends to posterity, both in verse and prose.”

This course will provide a conceptual context in which to read, discuss, compare and contrast the works of these two writers. Jonathan Swift (1667-1744) and Alexander Pope (1688-1744).  Pope is remembered to posterity as the most famous poet of his age, whose satires stung a corrupt political regime during England’s rise to world power. His long career came in spite of a disabling childhood tuberculosis that left him crippled for life.  (In later years, Pope would refer to his “crazy carcass” and “this long disease, my life.”) Swift is seen as a masterful political writer in the first age of party, an early, fierce defender of his native Ireland against English colonial policy, and one of the great prose stylists in the language. (His 1726 work, Gulliver’s Travels, has never been out of print). 

If we look close enough, the lifelong friendship and collaboration between the two-- an Irish Protestant clergyman and an English Catholic poet-- can be viewed as an eighteenth-century rendition of the odd couple.  What issues brought them together? Where did they differ on such questions as the role of women, sociability, the nature of the individual in a new consumer society, political economy and the financial revolution, the role of science, global expansion and the ends of empire? These are a few of the questions we will pursue.

In addition to the required and collateral readings, each member of the class will be responsible for at least one oral report: by posing a question, by sounding out critical and theoretical response to Swift’s and Pope’s art, by presenting a thesis on a work at hand, by executing a pantomime, by doing anything short of public scandal to stimulate discussion and to make the class a body unto itself.  Each student will also prepare a short, five page paper and a longer critical paper (10-12 pages in length) that demonstrates a capacity for independent thought and research and the ability to argue a thesis in a clear and coherent style.  

 

ENGL 40337 
Thinking with Abbeys
Margaret Doody
TR 11:00-12:15
Sec 01 - Majors
Sec 02 - Unallocated

The dissolution of the Abbeys in the 1530s left King Henry VIII and his followers very rich. The Church lost lands and treasures that had been in possession for hundreds of years. Private owners took over places once used for worship, education, medical care and support of the poor. To own a former abbey became a sign of wealth and status, as well as of past Protestant triumph.   

The presentation of abbeys in British fiction, travel writing and poetry in the late 18th century represents complex reactions to national history and identity. The “Abbey novel,” from its birth in the 1760s through the period of Jane Austen (the era of the French Revolution), provides imaginative energy that serves to question the past and the status quo. Abbey fiction offers grounding for our anxiety regarding class, religion, wealth and violence.  The presentation of abbeys in prose and poetry by writers as varied as Charlotte Smith, Walter Scott, Byron, and Peacock connects the historical past with ways of imagining possible futures. Novelists from Susannah Minifie through Jane Austen skillfully create imaginary estates with credible social, economic and historical backgrounds. The works in which such abbeys appear point to an accepted normative culture as a describable structure subject to change.  They interrogate privilege and the psychological and judicial power of imperialism and colonialism. Sexuality is interrogated or reimagined. Such edgy and vivid works--including a number that foster the “Gothic” mode--resonate with our own period’s desire for and fear of power shifts. How much of the old should be thrown out - or reinterpreted? Should we relinquish the past altogether? The success of the TV series Downton Abbey (2010-2015) and the ensuing film demonstrates the enduring appeal of abbey stories and their usefulness in fostering a complex consciousness of where we may be now.

TEXTS: Susannah Minifie, Barford Abbey; William Gilpin, Observations on the Western Parts of England (selections); Edmund Burke, The Sublime and Beautiful; Charlotte Smith, Ethelinde; or, The Recluse of the Lake; Ann Radcliffe, A Sicilian Romance; M.G. Lewis, The Monk; Byron, Don Juan; Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey, Emma; Mrs. Carver, The Horrors of Oakendale Abbey; Thomas Love Peacock, Nightmare Abbey; Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey (TV series 2010-2015, first two seasons, and film 2019)  

This is an intensive writing course; students are expected to revise essays after individual consultation with the instructor.

 

ENGL 40365
Literature and Disability
Essaka Joshua
TR 9:30-10:45
Sec 01 - Majors
Sec 02 - Unallocated

This course investigates the cultural meanings attached to extraordinary bodies and minds. Cultural and literary scholarship has extensively explored issues connected with identities derived from race, gender and sexuality. Only recently have concepts of bodily identity, impairment, stigma, monstrosity, marginalization, deformity, deviance, and difference begun to cohere around disability as a concept. Discussions of these issues are now part of a discipline called Disability Studies. We will cover topics such as communication, inclusion, passing, medical attitudes, social stigma, normalcy, life narratives, bodily representation, mental impairment, the politics of charity, community and collective culture, the built environment, and empowerment. This course fulfills the English Major 1700-1900 requirement. 

 

ENGL 40529 
Gender and Irish Drama
Susan Harris
MW 3:30-4:45
Sec 01 - Majors
Sec 02 - Unallocated

In this course, we will examine the relationship between national and sexual politics through our study of gender and twentieth-century Irish drama. Beginning with the first controversies surrounding the representation of women on the Irish stage at the beginning of the twentieth century, we will study representations of gender and sexuality in the major canonical figures of the Irish renaissance--W. B. Yeats, J. M. Synge, Sean O'Casey--while investigating lesser-known female and queer Irish playwrights from that time such as Lady Augusta Gregory, Lennox Robinson, and Teresa Deevy. We will also look at how the treatment of gender and sexuality changes in the work of postwar and contemporary Irish playwrights, including Samuel Beckett, Brendan Behan, Brian Friel, Anne Devlin, Frank McGuinness, and Marina Carr. Along with the plays we will study their historical and cultural context and the sometimes quite vehement responses that these plays evoked in their audiences. Students will write three papers and do one in-class presentation.

 

ENGL 40601
American Renaissance
Laura Walls
MW 12:30-1:45
Sec 01 - Majors
Sec 02 - Unallocated

In the decades leading up to the Civil War, religious certainty, economic stability, and political authority were everywhere in doubt, and sweeping change seemed not merely possible, but essential. As a result, Utopian dreams jostled against the brutal realities of slavery, injustice, and the emerging industrial revolution, conflicts played out in America's first great literature: "The American Renaissance" or "America Reborn." This was the time of abolitionism, women's rights, and Thoreau at Walden Pond; of Emerson's defiant "Self-Reliance," Hawthorne's twisted psychic dramas, Melville's breakthrough fictions, and Poe's grotesque fantasies; of the rise of women's fiction and mass literature; of Walt Whitman's expansive poetry of the body and Emily Dickinson's dense poetry of the mind. As we navigate this period, our questions will be: what connects these writers with their time? With each other? With us?

 

ENGL 20722/40722
The Revolt of Nature: Literature and the Anthropocene
Laura Walls
MW 3:30-4:45
Section 01: Unallocated
Section 02: Freshmen

Coronavirus in China, wildfires in Australia, locusts in East Africa, melting poles, rising seas, the insect armageddon, the sixth extinction, droughts and floods of Biblical proportion . . . Welcome to the “End of Nature” and the beginning of the Anthropocene! For just when we’re being told that “Nature” is at an end, nature seems to be everywhere, invading our headlines and intruding into our lives in sudden and unexpected ways. Not long ago, we could still think of nature as a peaceful retreat from the stress and din of society, a resource for healing, and a refuge from the traumas of history—whether it be an afternoon’s gardening, a day hike nearby, a weekend fishing trip, or a summer’s outing to a faraway National Park. But that was the nature of the Holocene, the geological epoch that, according to the latest science, ended as recently as the 1950s. Today, in the Anthropocene, nature is roaring back into our lives and shaking the very pillars of our society—as if The End of Nature, in Bill McKibben’s 1987 book title, were more truly the end of the world. But perhaps what this panic tells us is that our world has always been intertwined with nature, both actually and conceptually, in ways we have forgotten to remember, ways that the current revolt of nature is forcing us to confront.

This course will inquire into the strange ways that modernity has, over the last 200 years, modified and transformed our notions of Nature, even as our technological explosion has leveraged the power of humanity from regional to planetary scales. This course, therefore, travels from the Holocene of our recent literary heritage to the Anthropocene within which we are all living today—although only some of our literature explicitly takes up this fact. Altogether we are now left with one great question, as we look toward our future: Since we can’t survive without nature, how can we learn to survive with it? Readings will be drawn from poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, from Emerson and Thoreau, through American “Naturalism” and such “nature writers” as Aldo Leopold and Annie Dillard, to the recent writings of Jeff Vandermeer, Linda Hogan, Barry Lopez and Richard Powers. Along the way we will be guided and provoked by such philosophers and theorists as Michel Serres, Peter Sloterdijk, Donna Haraway, and Amitav Ghosh. Students will write two short papers and one longer paper involving research as well as personal observation and reflection.

 

ENGL 40774 
Engendering Renaissance: Chicago, Harlem and Modern America(s)
Cyraina Johnson-Roullier
MW 12:30-1:45
Sec 01 - Majors
Sec 02 - Unallocated

In answering the question "What was American modernism?" most literary critical perspectives might commonly be expected to focus on a modernity represented by the authors of the "lost generation" in the U.S., such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and Ernest Hemingway. While a conventional understanding of U.S. American modernism might serve to underscore the importance of the stylistic, cultural and artistic contributions of these and other canonical moderns, such a view might also give little consideration to the significance of those modern U.S. American voices not ordinarily heard in such a context. This course poses the question "What was American modernism?" to answer it by exploring its roots in two less conspicuous early 20th-century U.S. American modernisms: the Chicago Renaissance of 1912-1925, and the Harlem Renaissance of 1920-1929. In "engendering renaissance," these two moments suggest a literary birth and rebirth of modern U.S. American identity that questions its seemingly stable boundaries and borders, reconfiguring the idea of "American" within and opening the door to the larger and more varied cultural fabric that is modern America(s). By locating the rise of U.S. American modernism in the relation between these two literary moments, this course will broaden our understanding of the idea of "American" at this time by considering how it is created within a frame determined by the interplay of race, gender, class and nation. In this way, it seeks to deepen our understanding of U.S. American culture and the idea of "American" in the early 20th century, while suggesting new ways to engage the global social and cultural challenges facing the idea of "American" in the 21st.

 

ENGL 40781  
You Can't Always Get What You Want: Political Disappointment and Disillusion in 20th-Century America
Sara Marcus
TR 12:30-1:45
Sec 01 - Majors
Sec 02 - Unallocated

This seminar explores literature and culture connected with 20th-century US social movements and their periodic failures. The 20th century included periods when major expansions in American democracy seemed possible, even inevitable. But these periods often ended without delivering on their transformative potential. In this class, we will analyze political disappointment and disillusion as it turns up in fiction and poetry, journalism and memoir, music and film, feminist best sellers and classics of psychoanalytic theory, by Ralph Ellison, Sigmund Freud, Audre Lorde, Tillie Olsen, Ezra Pound, Adrienne Rich, Nina Simone, Richard Wright, and others. In all of this, we will explore how individuals and collectives work to produce political meaning in and out of season. Course requirements will include two substantive essays, presentations, and active participation in online and in-class discussions.

 

ENGL 40850
Advanced Fiction Writing 
Roy Scranton
MW 2:00-3:15

What are the poetics of prose? How do we make voices speak on the page? In this reading-intensive workshop, we will approach these questions through philosophy, literary theory, close reading, and experimental practice. The strange technology of writing easily turns invisible in its everyday familiarity - in order to see fiction-making in all its deep weirdness, we must be willing to take it apart, break it, and remake it. We will perform our experiments with the seriousness of scientists and play with the abandon of the possessed, for as much as writing is a technology, it is also an attunement, a moment shaping collective vibrations as they pass through gatherings of cells. Readings may include work by Plato, Gertrude Stein, Ishmael Reed, David Foster Wallace, Carmen Maria Machado, and others.

 

ENGL 40852
Advanced Fiction Writing II
Roy Scranton
MW 2:00-3:15

This course is intended for students who have already taken an Advanced Fiction Writing and who are seriously interested in writing fiction.

What are the poetics of prose? How do we make voices speak on the page? In this reading-intensive workshop, we will approach these questions through philosophy, literary theory, close reading, and experimental practice. The strange technology of writing easily turns invisible in its everyday familiarity - in order to see fiction-making in all its deep weirdness, we must be willing to take it apart, break it, and remake it. We will perform our experiments with the seriousness of scientists and play with the abandon of the possessed, for as much as writing is a technology, it is also an attunement, a moment shaping collective vibrations as they pass through gatherings of cells. Readings may include work by Plato, Gertrude Stein, Ishmael Reed, David Foster Wallace, Carmen Maria Machado, and others.

 

ENGL 40855
Advanced Fiction Writing III
Roy Scranton
MW 2:00-3:15

This course is intended for students who have already taken an Advanced Fiction Writing and who are seriously interested in writing fiction.

What are the poetics of prose? How do we make voices speak on the page? In this reading-intensive workshop, we will approach these questions through philosophy, literary theory, close reading, and experimental practice. The strange technology of writing easily turns invisible in its everyday familiarity - in order to see fiction-making in all its deep weirdness, we must be willing to take it apart, break it, and remake it. We will perform our experiments with the seriousness of scientists and play with the abandon of the possessed, for as much as writing is a technology, it is also an attunement, a moment shaping collective vibrations as they pass through gatherings of cells. Readings may include work by Plato, Gertrude Stein, Ishmael Reed, David Foster Wallace, Carmen Maria Machado, and others.

 

ENGL 40872  
Toni Morrison
Ernest Morrell
MW 2:00-3:15
Sec 01 - Unallocated

A winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Award and the Nobel Prize for Literature, Toni Morrison is one of the most important American novelists, essayist and literary critics of the 20th Century. She is known for her complex and nuanced portrayals of the African-American experience within the African-American community from the days of slavery to the present. Less well known is Morrison’s nonfiction and her contributions to an African-American Literary theory which she has used to engage authors as diverse as Mark Twain, Willa Cather, and James Baldwin. In this course students will read Morrison’s first six novels (The Bluest Eye, Sula, Tar Baby, Song of Solomon, Beloved, and Jazz) as well as her major work of literary criticism (Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination) and a collection of her nonfiction (What Moves at the Margins). Students will have the opportunity to develop sustained research projects on the works of Morrison and to draw upon Morrison’s literary theory to analyze a broader set of texts in classic and contemporary American literature.