All of the 3-hour courses described below—except 380—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. This does not apply to Creative Writing course 350 and 352.
ATTENTION MAJORS: English majors should take English 380: Literary Theory and Criticism in the fall of their junior year. They should take 480/481 (Capstone) during their senior year unless they are considering a College Honors or Departmental Distinction project, in which case they should talk to their advisor about taking it earlier. It is recommended that students complete 380 and two other 300-level courses before enrolling in the Capstone.
Students who have taken more than one English course should set a goal of joining Sigma Tau Delta, the English Honors Society. Not only is STD a great addition to your resume, but it also is a ticket to special events with other lovers of literature, like last semester's Midsummer Night's Dream Symposium and trip to see the Virginia Opera in Richmond. To qualify, students must have a B or greater average in at least three English courses, one of which can be a creative writing course, and a GPA of 3.0 or better. If you are interested in Sigma Tau Delta, just tell any member of the English department.
English 185.01 and English 185.02 Heroes and Villains in Literature
Section 185.01: TR 10:00-11:20
Section 185.02: TR 12:30-1:50
How does literature represent and engage the archetypes of hero, antihero, and villain? How can we use literature to better understand how notions of heroism and villainy have evolved over time? In the course, we will discuss how heroes and villains have transformed over a wide spectrum of cultural and literary traditions. We will consider what the terms mean from both an historical view and today. What makes a villain? What differentiates a hero from an antihero? How does literature wrestle with these categories? Over the course of the semester, we will read literary texts from multiple genres and consider how specific writers continually re-invent heroes and villains. Readings will include Beowulf, Arthurian legend, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Lord Byron’s Manfred, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, and the Gothic novel Frankenstein. We may also sample some films that deal with a similar set of issues. Class assignments include reading quizzes and exams, multiple literary analysis papers, and a final creative project. Freshmen and sophomores only.
English 191.01 and 191.02 Literature of the American Road
Section 191.01: TR 8:30-9:50
Section 191.02: TR 10:00-11:20
O public road, I say back I am not afraid to leave you, yet I love you,
You express me better than I can express myself.
-Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road
The metaphor of the road, common throughout literature, has especially resonated in American literature. Why, from Nathaniel Hawthorne to Flannery O’Connor to Cormac McCarthy, have so many writers set their tales on the road? Why is the image of the road so tantalizing, and also often so fraught with danger? Why does the road appear with unusual frequency in American literature, film, and music? (And why, in the image to the right, has someone tattooed his back with an image of Jack Kerouac at his typewriter, surrounded by the text of On the Road?) Over the course of the semester we will explore poems, plays, novels, and short stories that invoke the road as a central theme. In particular, we’ll be looking at literary works that throw up obstacles to the ways we might tend to think of the road, for the road rarely gives us what we expect. We will also be exploring how American literature uses the road: how road metaphors work, how travel can structure a plot, and how (if?) a road-like voyage can be presented on a stage. Literature, like life, is a road: Hold on. Freshmen only.
English 195.01 Literature and Medicine
Prof. Hardy, TR 10:00-11:20
This course will explore connections between the discourses of medicine and literary writing. How are the acts of diagnosis and storytelling related? Who has the authority to determine illness or to determine truth in a narrative? When do doctors and authors work alone, and when are they acting as members of their communities and cultures? How do new technologies change the “story” of medicine? In our consideration of illness, health, science, and the body, we will read texts from a variety of traditions told from the point of view of practitioners, patients, and onlookers. Freshmen only.
English 211.01 The History of English Literature
Prof. Eriks Cline, MWF 9:30-10:20
In this course, we will survey a range of early English literary texts, including oral narrative, devotional literature, plays, poetry, and novels. As we move from the early medieval period to the late eighteenth century, we will track both changing social and literary conditions and recurring themes or tropes: monsters, quests, encounters with the Other, revelations, the unfaithful woman, and the virgin. Throughout the course, we will pay particular attention to how major literary and historical events (and indeed what counts as a “major” literary or historical event) might look different when considered through the lenses of gender, class, race, and sexuality. Written assignments for the course will guide students in accumulating and synthesizing their observations over time, as they move from short entries in a Commonplace Book to single-text and comparative essays to a collaborative, cumulative exam.
English 221.01 American Literature
Prof. Horne, MWF 12:30-1:20
In this class, we will survey American literature from early explorations and the Puritan migration to the rise of romanticism in the mid-nineteenth century. Lectures and discussion will focus both on the cultural, political, and aesthetic concerns of individual texts and on broader literary and historical trends. Students will be introduced to a variety of genres and to the multiple concerns of race, gender, class, and religion. Authors studied will include Anne Bradstreet, Phillis Wheatley, Frederick Douglass, Henry David Thoreau, and Edgar Allan Poe, among others. In particular, this class will focus on what it means to be “American,” identifying competing assumptions, myths, stories, and beliefs that seem to persist from early America.
English 224.01 African-American Literature
Prof. Horne, TR 10:00-11:20
This class is an introduction to African American literature as both an artistic tradition and a political conversation. This class will cover significant authors who ask what it means to be African American and what that experience means for the nation as a whole. Focusing on fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, we will discuss abolitionist autobiographies written by ex-slaves, the lyrics and short stories written when Harlem was in vogue, and the non-fiction work of social activists, among others. As we read these works in historical, literary, and biographical contexts, we will explore these authors’ influential negotiations of race, storytelling, and citizenship. Prerequisite: none.
English 245.01 Satire
Prof. Davis, MW 12:30-1:50
Surely we don’t belong among the “lumps of deformity,” “pernicious vermin,” and “odious Yahoos” that Jonathan Swift describes in Gulliver’s Travels. Or do we? Welcome to the world of satire, where you will be entertained, angered, vexed, and challenged; where the line between morality and offensiveness will at times be disturbingly blurred; and where your best reading skills will lead you into labyrinths of paradox. We will begin the course with a close study of irony and other satiric tools before turning to major prose satires by Swift, Nathaniel West, George Orwell, Evelyn Waugh, Margaret Atwood, Gary Shteyngart, George Saunders, and Stephen Colbert, among others. The course does not assume any previous English courses, only an openness to literature that bites.
English 257.01 Fiction into Film
Prof. Weese, MWF 12:30-1:20
Students in this course will explore 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, we will then focus on the different ways that stories are told in short fiction, novels, plays, and films. By looking at a print text’s transformation into a different medium, students will gain a deeper understanding of the narrative 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 not be on discussing the faithfulness of the adaptation or on deciding which version is better, but on understanding the important differences between print and film media for narrative and narration. Texts and films might include, among others, James Joyce’s The Dead (film adaptation by John Huston); Toni Morrison’s Beloved (film adaptation by Jonathan Demme); Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men (film adaptation by Joel and Ethan Coen), David Mamet’s play Glengarry, Glen Ross (film adaptation by James Foley), Yann Martel’s Life of Pi (film adaptation by Ang Lee), and a BBC television adaptation of one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories or novels.
English 317.01 English Novel
Prof. Eriks Cline, TR 12:30-1:50
Over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the novel not only rose in literary prominence but exploded in broad popularity. In this course, we will track the so-called "rise of the novel" alongside Britain's expanding empire, increasing industrialization, and shifting structures in class, race, and gender. At the same time, we will examine a large range of different novel genres – from travel literature to serial sensations to Gothic horror – to think broadly about how different forms of fiction shape how readers will understand social and cultural changes. As we read authors like Aphra Behn, Daniel Defoe, Jane Austen, Wilkie Collins, and Bram Stoker, we will engage novels both analytically and creatively. Students will keep serial reading journals, write an analytical paper, take a midterm exam, give an oral presentation, and adapt a novel from the course into a new genre or medium.
English 323.01 Contemporary Poetry
Prof. Perry, MWF 11:30-12:20
This course is a survey and study of contemporary poetry. The course will focus primarily on poetry written in English from the 1970s to the present, though earlier work may be read to provide appropriate perspective. 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. Readings will include Geoffrey Hill, Elizabeth Bishop, Alice Oswald, Gjertrud Schnackenberg and others.
English 380.01 Literary Criticism
Prof. Weese, MWF 10:30-11:20
What assumptions govern our interpretations of works of literature? What theoretical models do we employ in the acts of reading and finding meaning in what we read? What kinds of meanings are we looking for, and why? The study of literary theory helps us become aware of and unpack the various assumptions that drive our interpretations. This course will address the large questions of why and how we study literature; it will focus on 20th century developments in literary criticism, beginning with the New Criticism and structuralism and exploring how these approaches to the study of literature influenced more recent schools of thought such as deconstruction, reader response, feminism, and other socio-historical ways of reading. We will investigate the ways in which these different theories intersect with and diverge from one another. In addition, we will read a novel and some poems and short stories (and perhaps view a film) in order to see how various theories can illuminate the same literary work in different ways. The readings and concepts are challenging, so you should be prepared to work hard—but you’ll thereby increase your understanding of the field of literary studies and expand your knowledge of literature in new ways. Requirements include mid-term and final exams and several short papers on the schools of thought we study, as well as a longer paper analyzing a work of literature with attention to the theory(ies) that drives the interpretation.
English 385.01 Lord Byron and his Literary Circle
Prof. Whitney, MW 2:30-3:50
George Gordon Byron (Lord Byron) continues to be one of the most prolific, compelling, and provocative poets in English literature. As a member of the Romantic period, he helped to usher in a new appreciation for poetry as art form and social critique. He was influenced by writers like John Milton and Alexander Pope, and became the subject of study by his contemporaries. In this course, we will examine the major works of Lord Byron and aim to also understand him through the writings of his contemporaries. We will look at a selection of Byron’s major literary texts – Manfred, The Giaour, Mazeppa, Cain, Don Juan, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, The Vision of Judgment – along with some of his shorter poems and letters. We will supplement Byron with a selection of critical essays and pieces from authors involved in his ‘circle’ such as William Hazlitt, Leigh Hunt, Edward Trelawney, the Shelleys, John Polidori, and Augusta Leigh. Students will read a diverse array of criticism, and consider current scholarly trends in literary debates about Byron. The assignments include frequent reading responses, group oral presentations, 2 mid-length papers, and a final research paper using secondary criticism.
English 480.01 Capstone Seminar: Graphic Novels and the Social Landscape
Prof. Davis, TR 2:00-3:20
Between 1986, when Art Spiegelman published his groundbreaking Maus, and 2018, when Nick Drnaso’s graphic novel Sabrina was nominated for the prestigious Man Booker Prize, graphic novels achieved a cultural status previously unimaginable. Taken together, works in the past decade paint a nuanced picture of our social landscape, addressing issues such as conspiracy theories and modern media, changing expectations of gender and sexuality, loneliness and anomie, urban and suburban spaces, adolescent anxiety, illness and disability, and economic dislocation. At the outset of the course, we will use the work of Scott McCloud to develop a vocabulary with which we can analyze works by cartoonists such as Alison Bechdel, Chris Ware, Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, Joe Sacco, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Nick Drnaso, and Daniel Clowes. Each capstone student will write a substantial essay that focuses on a single graphic novel, and together we will piece together a story about the social landscape of the contemporary United States as it is reflected in these works. Students will meet once this spring to talk about readings they can do over the summer. (Co-requisite: English 481)
English 481.01 Research Methods for English Majors (1 credit hour)
Prof. Perry, 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 engaging with literary criticism relevant to the capstone topic, discussing strategies for writing a long research paper, 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. Hardy in Spring 2020]
English 480: Literary Magazines as Contexts and Contested Spaces
What do the last chapter of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, a letter on “Flattery and Violence,” Marianne Moore’s poetry, and an ad for the Peasant Pottery Shop have in common? They all appear in the same 1915 issue of the little magazine, The Egoist.
In this capstone course we will study the contexts of literary magazines, in some cases called “little magazines,” as they relate to the literary works that appear in them. Literary magazines have often created spaces for avant-garde works or for writing connected to specific political or aesthetic movements. In this course, we will examine these publications as cross sections of social and literary history. We will rely on digital archives like The Modernist Journals Project and will undertake some archival detective work in the College library collections. Students can expect to specialize in a single magazine—its authors, editorial approaches, publication history—in their capstone projects, with attention to a selected text that first appeared there and to its surrounding contexts in this original format. The final project for the class will be to produce a new issue of Stone Cap, an online journal created by English capstone students in 2017. To see the inaugural issue, go to https://hscstonecap.wixsite.com/stonecap. (Co-requisite: English 481)
English 250.01 Poetry Writing: Form and Function
Prof. Perry, TR 2:00-3:20
The poet Hayden Carruth, 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 learn about meter and rhyme and learn about free verse. 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 Fiction Writing: Narrative and Craft
Prof. Robbins, MW 2:30-3:50
A workshop and seminar in the discipline of writing fiction. Students study the techniques of short-story writers, such as Anton Chekhov and Eudora Welty, to use as models in the writing of their own stories. Students are expected to produce analytical responses to the reading, study craft and technique and produce substantial original work.