Fall 2020 Undergraduate Courses

Special Topics Courses

ENG 310J: Intercultural Rhetorics: Our Storied Ways

Emily Legg | TR 10:05-11:25am | UPH 131

"The truth about stories is that’s all we are." – Thomas King

Rhetoric, culture, identity–ask anyone to define each of these words, and you'll end up with as many definitions as people you might ask. Our notions of each of these is deeply situated in our own stories of the roots, locations, and relationships we've known and experienced. Yet, as we come to understand each term in our own narratives, our diverse society adds layers and brushstrokes in these stories that can challenge and push us. By analyzing the writings, cultural practices, music, visual rhetorics, and performances of America’s intercultural storied pasts and presents, this course will provide you with opportunities to expand your knowledge of intercultural rhetorics through race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, and abilities; analyze the complex relationships between people of different cultures and power structure; and reflect on your own cultural background and its impact on your ways of knowing and communicating. We will do this through a variety of written and multimodal projects, including (but not quite limited to) a genealogical narrative project, a music history and analysis project, an archival research project, and a digital storytelling project.

English 388: The Nineteenth-Century English Novel

Mary Jean Corbett | MW 10:05-11:25am | BAC 138

This course will explore the theme of error in four major novels in the nineteenth-century English tradition: Jane Austen’s Emma (1816), Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations (1860-1), George Elliot’s Middlemarch (1871-2), and Henry James’ The Portrait of a Lady (1881). Depending on student interest, we may also attend to this theme in selected film adaptations of these novels. 

ENG 440: Major Authors – Eugene O'Neill

Katie Johnson | TR 2:50-4:10 PM | BAC 138

Eugene O'Neill was the first American playwright who rivaled European dramatists with his literary talents. Indeed, O’Neill remains the only American dramatist to have captured the Nobel Prize for literature (in addition to garnering four Pulitzer Prizes).

Ever the innovator, O'Neill crafted fresh voices with Irish-, Swedish-, and African American characters, experimenting with styles and genres (from expressionism to modern tragedy). His plays broke dramaturgical molds and color lines. "Anna Christie" was the first play about a prostitute in which the female character lived. The Emperor Jones broke the color line when Charles Gilpin was the first African American actor to be cast in a leading role on Broadway in 1920. When O'Neill’s play about miscegenation, All God's Chillun Got Wings, portrayed the first interracial kiss in 1924, O'Neill and the actors received death threats. The operatic adaptation of Emperor Jones broke the color line at the Metropolitan Opera. And the 1933 film version of The Emperor Jones was the first Hollywood picture with a black leading actor, Paul Robeson. Again and again, Eugene O'Neill’s plays became vehicles that allowed performers to break barriers across the U.S. and indeed, across the Atlantic.

In addition to reading O’Neill’s collected plays, students will write performance criticism and research various productions (from historical premieres to recent revivals). We will also utilize performance theory, critical race theory, and feminist theory. Students will have the opportunity to develop research papers that they submit for the 11th International Eugene O’Neill Conference (held in Boston in June 2021).

English 490C: Literatures of the Future

Timothy Melley | MW 11:40am-1:00pm | BAC 256

One of the strangest features of contemporary US culture is how relentlessly it imagines social collapse. Our society is awash in narratives of pandemic, alien invasion, nuclear disaster, zombies, mass extinction, terrorism, social disintegration, and ecological disaster. This trend is not confined to Hollywood. It has also been central to the work of celebrated writers such as Colson Whitehead, Margaret Atwood, Cormac McCarthy, Barbara Kingsolver, and Chang-Rae Lee. What is the meaning of this phenomenon? If the novel’s capacity to imagine alternate futures has been central to the rise of modern capitalism, as the German sociologist Jens Beckert argues, then what does it mean that our imagined futures now look so bleak? And how does the contemporary trend relate to earlier visions, including techno-pessimism from Frankenstein to Blade Runner and Terminator; the great dystopias of the twentieth century (Brave New World, 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale); the catastrophe narrative from the Cold War to the anthropocene (2012, Snowpiercer, The Day After Tomorrow); and the representation of homeland security state in the work of Don DeLillo, William Gibson, Olivia Butler, Mohsin Hamid, and post-9/11 security state film (Minority Report, Children of Men, The Hunger Games, and many others). What do dystopian projects tell us about modernity? About technical or geological challenges?  What is their cultural function in age of genetic and environmental engineering, rising inequality, climate change, and a growing state emphasis on security? 

Capstone Courses

ENG 460A: Capstone (Creative Writing)
Crafting A Literature Of Witness

Daisy Hernández | MW 11:40am-1:00pm | BAC 138

Across borders and time, poets, novelists and creative nonfiction authors have written books about devastating events including genocide, dictatorships and pandemics. How do writers produce texts that bear witness to these difficult realities while also speaking to future readers? How, in such creative works, does language and narrative structure change or even collapse? In this creative writing capstone, you will read and discuss texts by several writers including Edwidge Danticat, Herta Müller, Luis Alberto Urrea, and Carolyn Forché. You will generate new writing and also consider the ways in which your existing work bears witness to collective experiences.

English 495R: Capstone (Rhetoric and Writing)
Circulating Texts for Engaging the Public

Michele Simmons | TR 1:15-2:35pm | BAC 151

ENG 495D: Capstone (Literature)
Literature & Environment: Past, Present, Future

Michele Navakas | TR 11:40AM-1:00PM | BAC 151

What can words do at a time of unprecedented, worldwide, environmental crisis? How can literature help us perceive, understand, analyze, narrate, and respond within a continually changing ecology? This Capstone seeks to answer these and other questions through advanced study of environmental writing, past and present, across different genres, communities, and geographies. As we examine this writing, we will attend to intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, and environment, while sharpening our knowledge of key concepts, including Anthropocene, Natural Disaster, Wilderness, Urban Nature, Kinship, and EcoGrief. The study of past and present environmental writing is rewarding on its own. Now, more than ever, however, it can also help us chart better future relations between humans and the more-than-human world.

Other English Offerings

ENG 328 A: 16th c. Literature: The Tudor Era

Kaara Peterson | TR 10:05-11:25am | UPH 339
Our course explores the intriguing world of the Tudors. We’ll begin at the end of the War of the Roses and the “Tudor Myth of History” as written by Thomas More and so memorably depicted by Shakespeare in Richard III: the villainous last Yorkist king is dethroned by Henry VII, the first Tudor king, written during the long reign of the last Tudor monarch, Queen Elizabeth I (1557-1603).
Our survey through the Tudor era examines writers penning fashionable Petrarchan sonnets and a range of other themes, from melancholy lovers praising Anne Boleyn to epic’s pastoral shepherds praising Queen Elizabeth, the “virgin” queen, as well as Elizabeth’s own poetry and speeches: from Marlowe, Spenser, Donne, Wyatt, Shakespeare, and Ralegh to Hilary Mantel. A large catalogue of artworks will help us visualize and contextualize the Tudors, considering this family’s role in popular culture from the 16th c. to the present. On stage, in portraits and films, and in fiction and poetry, our course brings the culture, history, and literature of the Tudor dynasty to life!