While refining students' general analytical and interpretive skills, this course offers intensive examination of specific issues in literature and culture, often those at the center of current critical interest. Recent sections have focused on The Gangster Film, Memoir and Sexuality, Quest for the Grail, and Native American Literature. Students may only count one ENG 255 that is a cross-listed Modern Language course toward the major or minor.
|Arts and Humanities||1 course|
Current Semester InformationEllen Bayer
Topics: Wilderness Tales
"Wilderness was the basic ingredient of American Culture. From the raw materials of the physical wilderness, Americans built a civilization. With the idea of wilderness they sought to give their civilization identity and meaning." -Roderick Frazier Nash
In this course, we will examine the conception of "wilderness" in the American imagination through an exploration of a wide variety of literary texts. By investigating human relationships to and representations of the non-human world, in a range of genres and time periods, we will seek to understand the social, political, cultural, and personal contexts that shaped, and continue to shape, a distinctly American conception of wilderness. How do we define "wilderness," and how has Americans' understanding of its significance changed? Who goes into the wilderness, and to what end? Do we, as Henry David Thoreau suggests, "need the tonic of wildness?" We will investigate these and other questions as we read works in which humans feel compelled to enter the "wild" and to share that story with others; such texts might include Cheryl Strayed's "Wild"; Jon Krakauer's "Into the Wild"; Eddy Harris's "Mississippi Solo"; Linda Hogan's "Solar Storms"; or Annie Dillard's "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek". In addition to these longer texts, we will read relevant shorter pieces of fiction and non-fiction. The course will also give you the opportunity to explore your own relationship with and attitude toward the natural world. Given that this is a W course, you will develop essays across several genres in response to course texts and themes and practice writing as a process by devoting a significant portion of your energy toward drafting, revising, and polishing your work.
Topics: The Seven Deadly Sins
Wrath, Greed, Sloth, Pride, Lust, Envy, Gluttony. We will be exploring each of these so-called deadly sins, with analysis of relevant texts in fiction, film, and theology (and perhaps a bit of neuroscience).
Topics: Poetry in the World
In this class we will read and respond to the works of poets from around the world. Ideally, the poems will become windows into cultures, histories, and languages sometimes similar, but often vastly different from our own. We will favor bi-lingual translations of work when available and the class will have visitors who will be able to read the poems to us in their original languages. I expect to read poets from Central America, South America, the Middle East, Africa, as well as Russia, China, and Vietnam. Students will keep journals, write papers, and be involved in creating multi-media presentations on the work we uncover. Two poets who have recently died, Seamus Heaney, the great Irish poet and Kofi Awoonor, the esteemed Ghanaian poet who was killed during the terrorist attack at the Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, will get our special consideration.
Topics:The History of the English Language
We use the English language every day, in writing and in speech, in formal essays and in casual texting, in the classroom and in the dorm room. But how often do we really stop and think about our language? This class will examine the English language from its earliest stages recorded more than 1000 years ago to its current spoken and written forms in the United States, the British Isles, and across the world. We will also learn basic linguistic concepts and descriptive terminology in order to understand English as a manifestation of the principles of human language. We will be considering questions such as these: What are the essential features common to all human languages? To which other languages is English related, and how? Why is there a b in subtle? What is grammar and why is it important? What are the distinctive varieties and dialects of modern spoken English? Why is it knife, but knives? What is "standard English," and what are the social implications and ideological investments of such a construct? This course will provide you with both a history of the English language and a basic introduction to the linguistic study of languages.
Topics:Seeker, Poet, Lover, Friend
Drawing inspiration from Eudora Welty's aphorism "all serious daring starts from within," this course will analyze poetry, fiction, and drama while asking questions about the directions that even a "sheltered life" can take. Core poems will include the fourteenth-century poem "Pearl," Katherine Philips's "Wiston=Vault," John Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale," W.B. Yeats's "Sailing to Byzantium," Constantine Cavafy's "Ithaka," and T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets. Dramatists will include Sophocles, Shakespeare, Jean Anouilh, and Margaret Edson; fiction may include works by Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Barbara Kingsolver, Penelope Lively, William Trevor, and Jhumpa Lahiri. One of the five papers in the course will consist of a major project on poetry.
Reading African American cinema as a pivotal archive in African American cultural production, this course explores the diverse black aesthetic traditions that African American film has and continues to develop, explore, and shape. Specifically, we will track how African American films produced, written, and/or directed by African Americans are situated in larger debates about the politics of race and representation. Beginning with African American modernism and black cultural politics, we will look at the emergence of African American cinema in the 1910s through to the early 21st century. Films we will investigate include works by Oscar Micheaux, Spencer Williams, Mario van Peebles, Charles Burnett, Spike Lee, Cheryl Dunye, Julie Dash, Dee Rees, The Hughes Brothers, and Lee Daniels, to name a few.