ENGL 208: American Lit Survey II
This course surveys American literature from the Civil War to the present, organizing readings into three distinct literary movements: Realism/Naturalism (and Supernaturalism); Modernism; and Contemporary (Postmodernism & Multiculturalism). Our approach will combine close reading, literary analysis, literary history, and cultural history. We will move between culture and literature in order to examine how American culture has shaped its literature, and vice versa, as well as how both have shaped who we are today. My approach is to be representative and inclusive in my selection of authors and genres. Therefore, we will study not only the relatively small and homogeneous group of authors traditionally valued by those who have wielded economic power—and along the way we will talk about how things like economics and political power impact what gets published and read and taught—but also we will read literature from peoples traditionally marginalized in this country: Native Americans, African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, women of all races, the poor . . . . I suspect you will discover emotionally powerful and socially engaging texts have been produced by both the powerful and acclaimed and the oppressed and suppressed.
ENGL 210: British Lit Survey II
The subject of this course—and its method—is to focus on major works of British literature from the seventeenth century to the present in their historical context. In the course of one action-packed semester, we will cover some of the most exciting periods of British literature, such as the Restoration, the Romantic era, the Victorian, and the Modernist era. Issues of social class, gender, and imperialism and how the literature of various eras addresses these topics will be a central focus of the course. Writers covered will include Dryden, Behn, Swift, Wordsworth and Conrad, and others.
FILM 271: History of Film—Classical Hollywood
This course will focus on classical Hollywood cinema and the “Golden Age of Hollywood” within the larger context of film history in the 20th century. Hollywood’s golden age—the period broadly between 1927 and 1968—is bounded by the advent of sound and the gradual triumph of television over the grand spectacle of the screen and the influence of a global nouvelle vague. This period was marked by a massive studio system that extended to the monopolization of theaters and distribution, a period of strict censorship defined by the Hayes code, and a codification of storytelling techniques that continue to influence and define film on a global scale. This course will investigate the various codes and styles that define this period and focus on typical genres such as screwball comedies (The Lady Eve), horror (Frankenstein), westerns (Stagecoach), musicals (Singin’ in the Rain), war films (Casablanca) and noir (Double Indemnity). Key themes will include glamour, fantasy, spectacle, invisible editing, music, melodrama, star culture, 1939 in film, the studio system, and censorship. In addition, the class will also contextualize the period by examining what came before (silent films and Pre-Code Hollywood) and after (the New Hollywood and the Blockbuster), and how various directors worked to establish their own vision within the restraints of national censorship. In addition to the above films, we will discuss: short films by Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, The Jazz Singer, Red Dust, Swing Time, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, Citizen Kane, Sunset Blvd., Gentlemen Prefer Blonds, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Psycho.
ENGL 313: Creative Writing – Fiction
We are and always have been story-telling creatures. We’ll be committing our stories to paper, shaping them and giving them a voice. Along the way, we’ll explore how various aspects of fiction – character, plot, scene, structure, pacing, voice, point of view, and language – contribute to the sense of story. We’ll indulge in both creation and revision, and we’ll publish, that is, share our work in small group workshop sessions and informal readings. We’ll learn how to describe each other’s writing and make constructive suggestions. We’ll learn how to read short stories with a writerly eye. By the end of the term, you will have built a portfolio of stories and a community of writers.
ENGL 402/502: Modern Linguistics
How is language organized in the human mind? What rules do we follow when we speak? What does it mean to know and use a language? Despite the fact that our language abilities rely on complex rules, we apply these rules with seemingly little effort hundreds of times every day. This course offers a broad overview of the field of Linguistics as we explore the complex system of human language, how it is organized, how speech sounds are produced and categorized, how words are formed from smaller significant parts, and how they form sentence structures. We will also examine interesting aspects of sociolinguistics, as we move toward an understanding of how humans derive meaning from language and how language systems change and vary across genders, geographical regions, and time. For example, why do some say freeway while others say expressway? Why soda rather than pop? By thinking about language analytically, we will begin to see the patterns underlying all languages, making them capable of being learned and managed in the human brain.
Students taking this course for graduate credit will be asked to complete additional requirements.
ENGL 422: Edgar Allan Poe and Popular Culture
Edgar Allan Poe has a reputation for being something of a misfit, a dark, possibly even disturbed figure brooding on the margins of American culture. This image of Poe, however, is largely a myth (albeit one that Poe himself helped to create). Indeed, far from being an outsider, Poe, perhaps more than any other canonical author from the early nineteenth century, was plugged in to the popular culture of his time. Although best known today for his gloomy poetry, detective stories, and tales of murderers and madmen, he worked in a wide range of genres, writing whatever he thought people wanted to read. He was also a master of publicity and hoaxes, and, like so many celebrities today, was not above actively courting controversy in order to draw attention to himself and his work. In short, Poe, one of the country’s first professional writers of imaginative literature, managed to make a living by appealing to popular tastes. This class will explore Poe’s relationship both to the popular culture of his time and of our own. We’ll read much (though not all) of Poe’s published body of work, giving particular consideration to the popular genres he is credited with helping to invent, including the detective story, science fiction, and the modern horror story. We’ll attempt to historicize Poe’s mass appeal, examining some of the possible reasons why his writing would have connected with nineteenth-century readers. In addition, we’ll also speculate about why he remains so enduringly popular today, not just with literary scholars, but with the larger reading public as well. Lastly, students will engage in a semester-long project in which they analyze adaptations of Poe’s work in different types of contemporary media.
ENGL 424: Advanced Creative Writing
Please contact Professor Smock for more information about the class.
ENGL 435: Gay and Lesbian Drama
This course will study dramatic literature, from the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries, which features diverse gay and lesbian characters and themes. Playwrights will include Mart Crowley, Jane Chambers, Tony Kushner, Terrence McNally, Diana Song, Moisés Kaufman, and Richard Greenberg, among others. Works will survey changing theatrical representations of sexual orientations and treat such topics as “the closet and coming out,” homophobia, and AIDS. The course will also examine social, religious, cultural, and/or political milieus that inspired the dramatists and their dramas and with which they often clashed. Whenever possible, the class will discuss films of assigned texts and productions of gay and lesbian theatre staged by local companies. Cross-listed with THEA 300.
ENGL 450: Integrative Seminar
In your time as an English major, you’ve probably come across such terms as metafiction and meta-discourse; in some respects this will be a “meta-course.” In other words, as the capstone course for English majors (although open to others with an interest), it will ask you not just to study, read, discuss, and write about texts, but will also ask you to consider what it means to study literature, to work with words and ideas. We’ll look at some of the history of English and literary studies and discuss the nature of different methodological approaches. At its broadest, our theme is “How do I define literature, and what is my relationship to it?
Following a thematic focus to organize our work around the idea of “classics and the canonical, canon-busters and experimentals,” we’ll focus on how that has played out primarily in the genre of the Novel, and we’ll discuss some Theories of the Novel. Rather than being organized according to a particular literary era, mode, or genre, our readings come from a series of questions/categories: What’s a classic you feel you should have read, but haven’t? Perhaps Gustave Flaubert’s nineteenth-century classic, Madame Bovary. Of course, you may have read it, but it also fits another of our categories, a “classic” that changed the way we think about how a genre maybe written, what it can do, what it can concern itself with. What’s it like to reread a classic? F. Scott Fitzgerald’s much-taught The Great Gatsby usually serves here. A story told through images?: Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient. What happens when a world-renowned, extremely influential author decides to try to write a sensational novel for money? William Faulkner’s Sanctuary. Just how far can one push the form of the novel? Virginia Woolf’s The Waves. How are contemporary Third World authors adopting and adapting the novel for their cultures and realities? Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things or Edwidge Danticat’s The Dew Breakers or Julia Alvarez’ In the Time of the Butterflies. In past years, we’ve read in Scott McCloud’s 1993 Understanding Comics to engage his ideas about how the visual and the written word act and interact, and to consider the ever-expanding notion of just what are appropriate and informative “texts” for study—we can do that, or choose another exploration of genre boundaries and highbrow vs. lowbrow. Other links between our texts include a desire to promote and/or critique certain value systems; an interest in the meanings and effects of nationalism; and of course some of the standards of literature: love, death, and figuring out one’s place in the universe. Our theoretical explorations this semester will highlight Narrative Theory, Postcolonialism, Gender Studies, and Trauma Studies (others as time allows).
Each student will devise a project suited to his or her interests and goals. Think of this course as a chance to try some things you haven’t, to stretch, to examine where your head and your heart are. Just why did you major in English, anyway?