English Courses for Fall 2013

All of the 3-hour courses described below-except English 250, 252 and 257-satisfy the general literature requirement of the core.

All 300- and 400-level courses have as a prerequisite any 100- or 200-level course or permission of the instructor.

English 185.01 and 185.02 Literature of the Road
Section 185.01: Prof. Davis, TR 10:00-11:20
Section 185.02: Prof. Davis, TR 2:00-3:20

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
-Robert Frost

Is the speaker of Frost's poem right? What difference does the choice of a road make, and how do we know what lies down the road not taken? From Hercules at the crossroads to Chaucer's Canterbury pilgrims to Cormac McCarthy's indelible story of a father and son traveling down the road of a post-apocalyptic wasteland, literature often makes use of roads as setting, metaphor, and even character. Students will read poems (Tennyson, Whitman, Larkin, Ginsberg), plays (Beckett, Miller), fiction (O'Connor, McCarthy, Auster), and electronic literature that feature the road. In the process, they will learn to interpret, write about, and speak about literature with special attention paid to the differences between genres. (Incoming freshmen and rising sophomores only.)

English 211.01 The History of English Literature
Prof. Nowlin, MWF 10:30-11:20

This course will introduce you to some of the writers and texts that have come to make up the first half of the canon of English literature. Our class will cover poetry, drama, and prose ranging from the Middle Ages to the eighteenth century. We will examine literary aspects of these works, including form, theme, and genre, and we will explore how these works relate to developments in British history. We will also study how English writers build on and transform the work of their predecessors. The important cultural issues that these texts address-ideas about gender, family, identity, the home, the soul, magic, the other, the nation, and a diverse array of human interactions-will demand our attention as well. Finally, we will discuss how many of these writers take up the idea of writing itself, asking what literature is, what literature is good for, and how literature relates to the rest of the world. Class meetings will be discussion-centered. Students will complete online posts, short essays, and a midterm and final exam.

English 221.01 American Literature
Prof. Bagby, MWF 9:30-10:20

A study of early North American literature, from the English colonists to the Civil War, with emphasis on the major writers of the nineteenth century, especially Hawthorne, Melville, Emerson, Douglass, Thoreau, and Whitman. We typically focus on two issues: What traits increasingly differentiate "American" literature and culture from its English (and other) roots? And what do such "distinctively American" traits have to do with our culture and ourselves in the early twenty-first century?

Readings in The Norton Anthology of American Literature are supplemented by paperback editions of longer works:  this year, probably, Frederick Douglass's My Bondage and My Freedom, and Walden. The class will involve as much discussion as possible, depending on class size. There are usually about four short papers and a final, mostly take-home. 

English 221.02 American Literature
Prof. Perry, MWF 1:30-2:20

This is a survey course that integrates critical reading, thinking, and writing about phenomena and issues in the trajectory of American Literature from its earliest stirrings up to the Civil War.  In the course we will read a variety of writers and their writings, including sermons, tracts, fiction, poetry and the occasional essay.  We will read mostly from the Norton Anthology, but will also take a long look at the writings of one of the truly popular writers of all time, Longfellow, and will conclude with, perhaps, the great American novel, Moby Dick.  Students will analyze texts in ways that engage and challenge their previous experiences with literature and the country (this one!) that produced it.  To be specific, your reading and writing in this course will investigate the multifaceted ways in which American writers (define that as you will) have approached themselves and their craft, and the ways also in which they have approached the task of getting this country up on its first wobbly feet.  There will be frequent reading responses, two or three papers, and two exams.

English 224.01 African-American Literature
Prof. Bagby, MWF 11:30-12:20

An introduction to some of the central works of African-American literature, from spirituals and folktales through contemporary novelists and poets. We will use The Norton Anthology of African American Literature plus The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and probably two twentieth-century novels. Altogether we will read works by nearly twenty writers, studying them as literature, as cultural history, and as documents which shed light on the racial situation in the contemporary U.S.

Probably three or four papers and a final exam, mostly take-home. Class participation is an important part of this course.

English 257.01 Fiction into Film
Prof. Weese, MWF 10:30-11:20

An examination of how several notable works of fiction have been adapted for the screen.  After beginning with general principles of narrative theory and some general principles of film aesthetics, the course will then focus on the different ways that stories are told in short fiction, novels, and films. By looking at a novel or story's transformation into a different narrative medium, students will gain a deeper understanding of the conventions of different genres (for example, character narration), as well as of the cultural factors that shape the particular narratives. The texts included will be ones that present some interesting challenges for adaptation from one medium to another, with the films often representing significant departures from the print text. In keeping with changes in adaptation studies in recent years, the focus will be not on determining which version is better or on the faithfulness of the adaptation, but on understanding the important differences between print and film media for narrative and narration. Texts and films might include Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (film adaptation by Francis Ford Coppola, Apocalypse Now); James Joyce's The Dead (film adaptation by John Huston); Raymond Carver's Short Cuts (film adaptation by Robert Altman); Toni Morrison's Beloved (film adaptation by Jonathan Demme); Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient (film adaptation by Anthony Minghella); Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men (film adaptation by Joel and Ethan Coen). 

English 258.01 Literature of the South
Prof. Hardy, TR 10:00-11:20

In this class you will read some of the great Southern writers of the twentieth century-Faulkner, Hurston, Percy, Williams, Welty, O'Connor-and encounter some other wonderful voices you may not have heard of yet. Through readings of fiction, poetry, and drama, we will develop our own definition of Southern literature.  We will consider the idea of the "Southern" writer as a geographical, cultural, and historical distinction.  Within this broader category, we will look at differences of region, race, class, and gender.

English 270.01 Introduction to Shakespeare: Shakespeare on Theater
Prof. Varholy, MWF 9:30-10:20

We know of Shakespeare as one of the greatest playwrights in English.  But how did Shakespeare move his plays from the page to the stage, and how did he react to the rise of London's entertainment industry during his lifetime?  In this course, which is an introduction to the major poetry and drama of Shakespeare, we will use the theme "Shakespeare On Theater" to study what some of the sonnets, comedies, tragedies, history plays, and romances say about acting, producing, and attending plays. Our texts, including A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hamlet, and The Tempest, represent stagecraft with all its related glories and problems.  Our primary goal will be to become better readers of the literary texts, but our theme will also enable us to study stage practices and ideas about theater in Shakespeare's London.  We will use both film clips and acting exercises to make the plays come to life.

English 302.01 Eighteenth-Century Literature
Prof. Davis, TR 12:30-1:50

Between 1718 and 1726, London readers encountered the following "true" stories: Robinson Crusoe landed on his island, Lemuel Gulliver traveled to Lilliput, Edmond Halley declared that stars move, and a young woman from Surrey gave birth to seventeen rabbits. To enter the literary world of the eighteenth-century, lying just on the other side of Romanticism, is to enter a world that is both familiar and strange. It is the period when modern novels and daily newspapers first appeared; when the first copyright laws were passed; and when authors began to live solely on the sale of their works. At the same time, it is also a period of abundant anonymous works, of scatological satire, and of ingenious literary hoaxes and forgeries. Throughout the semester, we will be exploring this contradictory period that has left such an engrained mark on our own, examining such themes as the creation of modern authors and readers, the development of new literary genres, the relationship between literature and science, and the literary construction of the modern self. As we do so, we will invite the literature of the eighteenth century to challenge, perplex, enlighten, and vex us.

English 311.01 Epic Writing|
Prof. Hardy, TR 2:00-3:20

In this course we will consider the nature of the epic and of episodic storytelling. The course will begin with the Odyssey and include the Epic of Gilgamesh and portions of Joyce's Ulysses, as well as selected other texts from the English, American, and broader European traditions. Along the way, we will consider a number of questions connected to the epic genre:  how epics represent their political and social contexts, how epics establish a fictional world in their opening lines, how this genre uses the episode to isolate and illuminate action or thought, in what ways notions of the heroic evolve as this genre develops in later traditions. We will also consider the relationship between the epic and different forms of storytelling-from oral to early writings to mass produced print to visual media-and how differing media shape narrative conventions.

English 317.01 The English Novel
Prof. Davis, MW 2:30-3:50

Featured this semester will be castaways, orphans, madwomen, murderers, bankers, thieves, and escaped convicts. The course will introduce you to some of the major English novelists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, possibly including Defoe, Richardson, Fielding, Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Dickens, Eliot, and Hardy. While the novel is the most protean of all genres, we will try to understand where the novel came from, what it means to call something a novel, and what distinguishes the English novel. Along the way, you will meet some of the most unforgettable characters and stories of English literature.

English 323.01 Contemporary Poetry
Prof. Perry, MWF 11:30-12:20

This course is a study of contemporary poetry.  The course will focus on poetry written from the 1970s to the present, though earlier work may be read to provide appropriate perspective.  The reading will mostly center on English-language verse (primarily American and British writers) and could include poets such as Elizabeth Bishop, Geoffrey Hill, Robert Wrigley, Alice Oswald, Terrence Hayes, Maurice Manning, and others. The course will focus closely on contemporary form and prosody (not forgetting that free-verse is not free from verse, and that formal poetry is not free of its informalities) as well as content, attempting to take into its ambit a wide range of poets, styles, and concerns.

English 330.01 Chaucer
Prof. Nowlin, MWF 12:30-1:20

This course will introduce you to some of the major works of the first major poet of the English language, Geoffrey Chaucer. Our class will cover selections from Chaucer's most famous work, The Canterbury Tales, but we will also examine some of his other writing, including dream visions, short narratives, and lyric poetry. We will spend time also getting to know Chaucer's language and the world in which he lived: a time of tremendous variety and change in the English language, and a time of social, political, and spiritual transformation. In short, our class will study the way that Chaucer uses literary forms and genres to address cultural issues central not only to his time, but to ours as well: ideas about gender, ethics, personal identity, political relationships, spiritual understanding, the nature of love, and the ways in which we experience the world. Class meetings will be discussion-centered. Students will complete online posts, essays, in-class presentations, and exams. 

English 380.01 Literary Theory and Criticism
Prof. Deis, TR 10:00-11:20

Literary criticism presents the fruits of an encounter between a reader and a literary text. A course in literary theory and criticism, therefore, has two major goals: 1) to improve students' ability to read and so to write about what they read; and 2) to make students aware of the principles and assumptions and strategies that shape every individual's reading. English 380 will focus on recent trends in the development of literary theory, beginning with structuralism and the New Criticism as background to more recent schools of thought such as deconstruction, reader response, the New Historicism, and gender criticism. We will explore the ways these theories intersect and conflict in a variety of poststructuralist approaches to the reading of literature. We will read selections from the work of a variety of literary critics and theorists to acquaint students with the central tenets of a range of interpretive approaches. Throughout the term we will read some short stories, poems, and a novel and will practice applying theories to texts with the goal of broadening and deepening our understanding of those texts. The readings and concepts in this course are challenging-literary theory exists on the border between literature and philosophy-but they are accessible and rewarding to those who work hard. The course will open new avenues to understanding literature.

Students will write several brief papers and one longer essay during the course of the semester. There will also be a midterm and a final exam.

English 480.01 Capstone Seminar: Narrative, Epistemology, and Detective Fiction
Prof. Weese, MWF 12:30-1:20

This capstone seminar for senior majors will focus on detective fiction, especially the metaphysical detective story, from its roots in stories by Poe and Conan Doyle in the 19th century to postmodern versions of detection in the works of Jorge Louis Borges, Paul Auster, Margaret Atwood, and Julian Barnes. Students in this course will explore the ways we construct stories to make sense of experience, investigating how the tale of detection probes the foundations of narrative itself. Central to the course will be a consideration of how detective fiction explores the ways we know the world around us: "the metaphysical detective story is distinguished...by the profound questions it raises about narrative, interpretation, subjectivity, the nature of reality, and the limits of knowledge," write two of its critics (Merivale and Sweeney, Detecting Texts 1). The tale of detection can be considered a microcosm of the way narrative in general functions, since to solve a crime is in effect to reconstruct a story from bits of evidence and weave them into a coherent pattern. We will explore-and students will write a researched essay about-how recent detective fictions highlight impasses in this pattern-making activity and the relationship between questions of epistemology and the genre's engagement with its socio-historical context.  (Co-requisite: English 481)

English 481.01 Research Methods for English Majors (1 credit hour)
Prof. Varholy, F 1:30-2:20

In this course, advanced English majors who are working on their capstone projects will develop and strengthen the skills they need for independent research.  The syllabus for the course will be coordinated with the syllabus for English 480. Tasks and topics will include developing an annotated bibliography, honing library skills, reviewing citation formats, designing oral presentations appropriate to literary studies, and using critical discourse effectively. There will be several writing workshops. This course is restricted to students who are completing the capstone requirement for the major. (Co-requisite: English 480)

[*The following Capstone course will be taught by Prof. Davis in Spring 2014]

English 480: Text and Image

It's tempting to imagine that literature enters our minds unhindered by our five senses. But as many authors and readers have recognized, to encounter a text is to use our eyes (or ears or fingers), and texts often depend on their visual appearance as they create meaning. From William Blake's illuminated printing to the illustrations of Victorian novels to Christopher Ware's best-selling graphic novel Building Stories, literature can require us to grapple with both text and image, or sometimes text as image. Drawing on the theoretical work of WTJ Mitchell among others, students will write capstone papers that explore the interrelationship between words and images. Potential topics might come from poetry, fiction, electronic literature, or graphic novels. For more details or to talk about how their particular interests will fit into the course, students should contact Professor Davis.


English 250.01 Introductory Creative Writing: Poetry
Prof. Perry, TR 2:00-3:20

The eminent (and grisly) American poet Hayden Carruth, has said "Why speak of the use of poetry?  Poetry is what uses us."  In this we surmise that poetry is not something to be taken at all lightly.  It is not simply a bullhorn or a pretty little chalkboard.  It is a tradition, an entity, an enormity-something with which poets must wrestle, not just shake hands.  As such, this course will examine, as best it can, the many edges of writing poetry.  To do this we will have to do a lot of reading poetry and more specifically, reading a lot of different kinds of poetry.  We will talk about poems I assign and poems that you find.  We will read essays about poetry.  And, of course, we will write poetry.  Sometimes there will be specific assignments to generate writing, other times you will be set adrift to write with very little to guide you.  My intent is that you will emerge from the semester (from poetry's using you for a while) with something you could not have written before.  There will be poems to turn in along the way and a final portfolio of revised work due at the end of the semester.

English 252.01 Introductory Creative Writing: Fiction
Prof. Robbins, MW 2:30-3:50

A workshop in the discipline of writing short stories. We will study the techniques of a variety of short-story writers, including ones considered masters of the form such as Edgar Allan Poe, Anton Chekhov, and Guy De Maupassant, as well as more contemporary writers such as Ernest Hemingway, Eudora Welty, Flannery O'Connor, Reginald McKnight, and Alice Munro, among others. Students will read drafts of their stories and revise them, submit work to magazines, and attend some of the many readings by writers invited to the College.