Show More


ENG 255

Topics in Literary Studies

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.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
Arts and Humanities 1 course

Spring Semester information

David Alvarez

255A: Tps:Enlightenment Travel Narratives: Alterity and Identity

Tps:Enlightenment Travel Narratives: Alterity and Identity

In this course we will try to answer the question "What is Enlightenment?" through 18th-century travel fictions. The project of the Enlightenment seems to require encounters with exotic others - cannibals, women in harems, talking horses. Why? What do these texts seek to understand through these cross-cultural encounters? Are these fictions creating a rational, Western understanding of the self by defining that self against irrational, uncivilized others? Or are these works enabling a cosmopolitan ethos with the promise of resolving the misunderstandings and violence that too often seems to accompany the clash of cultures? We'll raise these questions and attempt to think past them by closely reading texts by Montaigne, Behn, Defoe, Montesquieu, Swift, Montagu, Johnson, Voltaire, Lessing, and Equiano.


Karin Wimbley

255B: Tps:20th Century American Drama

Tps:20th Century American Drama

This is a survey course of 20th Century American Drama.


Harry Brown

255C: Tps:Subcreation: The Art of World-Building

Subcreation: The Art of World-Building

Subcreation is what happens when storytelling meets systems design: the construction of an imaginary world, or microcosm. More than a setting for a story, the imaginary world, in this sense, is a matrix of interconnected physical, geographical, historical, and cultural systems, in which a potentially unlimited number of stories, each one consistent with the conditions of the world, could be integrated--a narrative ecology. J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth and George Lucas's Star Wars galaxy represent two popular examples, though our investigation will range farther than the "universes" of fantasy and science fiction. We will consider the fundamental meaning of "creation" in myth, literature, history, and cosmology. How do myths of origin serve as organizing models for civilization? In what sense is the "real" world we inhabit a narrative construct? In what sense is god an "author," and the author a "god"? Is subcreation a quest for transcendence? We will also consider the more practical critical questions posed by subcreation, including adaptation, authorship, canonicity, reflexivity, and the relation between new media technologies and new forms of narrative. In addition to fantasy and science fiction, our reading will include myths and sacred texts, exploration stories, utopias, science writing, games, and transmedia franchises.


Istvan Csicsery-Ronay

255D: Tps:Global Science Fiction Cinema

Tps:Global Science Fiction Cinema

In this course we will study the neglected traditions of science fiction cinema outside the US production system. Science-fiction cinema is often considered among the most technically and visually innovative genres of film. It has historically been the laboratory for new technologies of sound, special effects, and set design, as well as narratives about the relationship between social life and technological transformation. Although the US has been the primary and most influential producer of science fiction films, major works have been produced in other countries. As globalization extends to more and more societies, science fiction film has become one of its major artforms. In this course we will study films from Russia and Eastern Europe, Great Britain, France, India, Japan, China, and Latin America. We will focus on the science fiction film tradition and the social-historical contexts in which they emerged.


Beth Benedix

255E: Tps:Introduction to World Religious Literature

Tps:Introduction to World Religious Literature

This course introduces major Eastern and Western religious themes and ideas through a combination of sacred and secular literature. The approach is comparative in nature, emphasizing texts that place these traditions in new geographical, cultural, temporal, and philosophical contexts.


Joseph Heithaus

255F: Tps:Poetry In The World

Tps:Poetry In The World

This class will cover poetry from every continent. After surveying poems in translation from around the world, we will study a representative poet from each continent using bilingual texts when necessary. Our class will confront the problems and joys of translation. We will listen, when we can, to poems in their original languages and we will sometimes look at multiple English translations of a given poem. Our goals will be to appreciate poetry in a variety of languages, forms, and aesthetics and to deepen our understanding of cultures, histories, and beliefs from around the world. Students will write reactions, essays, translations and contribute to a web page on world poetry.


Marion McInnes

255G: Tps:Science Writing

Tps:Science Writing

In this course on Science Writing, we will read and discuss an array of contemporary nonfiction essays and book-length studies, all of which have to do, in one way or another, with science and medicine. We'll read, for example, Atul Gawande's Complications, in which he tells hair-raising stories about medical crises and ethical quandaries he faced as he trained to become a surgeon. We'll also read Rebecca Skloot's account of the life of Henrietta Lacks, the American woman whose cells, grown in laboratories around the globe since the 1950s, have helped researchers find cures for disease. Other readings will come from The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2013. In this anthology, editor Siddhartha Mukherjee (an oncologist and a beautiful writer himself) brings together essays about animals, atoms, the ocean, the environment, hallucinogens, perception, and the cosmos.

This writing intensive course will give you a chance to develop your skills in critical analysis, but also to try your hand at writing science essays of your own.


Tamara Stasik

255H: Tps:Crossing the Line: Obscenity, Heresy and Treason in Medieval and Early Modern Literature

Tps:Crossing the Line: Obscenity, Heresy and Treason in Medieval and Early Modern Literature

What does it mean when we "cross the line"? Why do we do it? What are the consequences? This course examines texts that transgress: in other words, writing that resists following established cultural, literary, political or religious rules. We will read stories about verbal and bodily excesses--cursing, swearing, and farting; solve raunchy and explicit riddles; sing inappropriate lyrics; read romances of human-animal relations, investigate trials of witchcraft, heretical claims of faith, and forbidden texts. And we will witness the burning of both bodies and books. Why? Because doing so reveals the diverse 'other' of the Middle Ages. We will learn how writers use the body, puns, parody, gender, interracial relationships and religious fervor to express difficult and dangerous ideas and to critique old ones. We will think about why certain tropes, genres, and materials are used, and who is challenged or threatened by these textual constructions. Finally, we will consider these texts in light of our own current events and theories: free speech, the media, censorship and protest. Possible texts and authors include: Welsh poetry, troubadour lyrics, saints' lives, court records, Chaucer, Margery Kempe, Julian of Norwich, the Romance of the Rose, John Lydgate, John Wycliffe, and the English Bible.


Keith Nightenhelser

255J: Tps:Moulin Hollywood: European Directors in the US Studio System--1920's to 1960's

Tps:Moulin Hollywood: European Directors in the US Studio System--1920's to 1960's

Many directors of the Hollywood studio era established careers in Europe before working in the Hollywood "mill"; in this course we will look at some of their films (both silent and sound, both from Europe and from the United States), and examine how their themes and styles crossed the Atlantic and influenced filmmaking both in Hollywood and outward back to Europe and worldwide.

Our main foci will be the three directors Jean Renoir, Fritz Lang, and Max Ophuls, but we also will consider work by Hitchcock, Sternberg, Lubitsch, Pabst, Fejos, Murnau, Sirk, and even Fassbinder, who was strongly influenced by Sirk. Films will include titles such as Destiny, The Joyless Street, Sunrise, M, The Blue Angel, The Return of Frank James, The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse, Le Plaisir, French Can Can, The Golden Coach, Lola Montes, All that Heaven Allows, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, and The Rules of the Game.

One special emphasis of this course will be comparing the process of adapting literary works in Hollywood to European adaptation practice. In recent years "Adaptation Studies" has become a very active area within Film Studies, and this course will give us ample opportunity to read original stories, by writers such as Zola, Maupassant, and Simenon, and compare film adaptations. For instance, Renoir and Lang both adapted Zola's "La Bete Humaine," Renoir in France and Lang in Hollywood. And Renoir's "The Rules of the Game" is partially an adaptation of an 18th century French play, although it's set in its present, 1939.