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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

Fall Semester information

Angela Flury

255A: Tps:Global Spy Fiction

The course traces the development of modern spy fiction up to the present. Although there are precursors of the genre in the 19th century and spying is by no means only a recent phenomenon, the modern spy novel is very much entangled in the political, historical, economic, and social developments of the 20th century--especially with regard to imperialism, World War I, World War II, the Cold War and global capitalism. We will study stylistic and thematic particularities of this largely eurocentric genre (complex plotting, polyglottery, the import of surveillance, the spectacular, etc.), the spy novel's place within the history of the novel (for example, its designation as popular fiction--or so-called genre fiction), the genre's construction of a culture of masculinity, and its infringements on, and appropriations of, other genres (like detective fiction). As this is a W-course, our goal is to develop a sophisticated awareness about all matters of writing, including style, audience, genre, voice, language, writing strategies, editing, etc. To that end, you will write frequently and experiment with your writing.


Deborah Geis

255B: Tps:Performance Poetry

Not all poetry is meant to stay on the page: poetry in the oral tradition has been around at least since medieval times. In this course, we'll mostly focus on contemporary performance poetry and the phenomenon known as "slamming," but we'll begin with examples from earlier eras, including Beat and Black Arts poets. Students who register for this course should expect to participate actively and to write frequently.


Karin Wimbley

255D: Tps:American Drama

This course explores American drama, including works by O'Neill, Nottage, Baraka, and Albee to name a few. We will play particular attention to how these plays engage with the American dream; love and alienation; ideological shifts concerning tradition and family across generations; agency and self-empowerment. As a W-course, we will also spend time learning the basic elements of the argumentative essay.


Michael MacKenzie

255E: Tps:First World War and Modernist Culture

It is often said that the First World War -- the first industrialized war -- changed everything, brought an end to 19th century culture and politics, and ushered in the Modern era. An entire generation experienced the horrors of the trenches, endless artillery bombardments, and poison gas, only to return home to a world they no longer recognized, and that no longer understood them. The painters, poets, novelists, and movie makers among them did their best to convey their experiences of war and combat through their art forms -- and in the process, contributed to the creation of modernist art and literature. This course will examine the experience of the war through art and literature.


Howard Pollack-Milgate

255F: Tps:Reality, Fantasy, & In Between: Fiction and Modernity

In the German tradition, philosophical, scientific, and ethical approaches--theories, facts, and rational faiths--have never been seen as sufficient responses to the mysteries of life. Art, especially literature, is considered essential to making one's way in the world; the powers of fantasy allow us to approach what cannot be rationally comprehended. In this course, we will consider imaginative treatments of the quandaries of the modern world, a world of perpetual uncertainty and change, of untold danger and opportunity, examining literary forays into such questions as: Are human beings the masters or the playthings of nature? Can there be a society without unjust domination? How has the advance of technology changed human nature and blurred the line between reality and fantasy? Is there a modern answer to death? We will read, in translation, German-language literature and literature inspired by the German tradition by such figures as Kleist, Brecht, Kundera, Wolf, Kehlmann, and Houllebecq in the context of Marx, Freud, Nietzsche, Einstein, and Benjamin.


Spring Semester information

Vanessa Dickerson

255A: Tps:


Istvan Csicsery-Ronay

255B: Tps:


Angela Flury

255C: Tps:


Wayne Glausser

255D: Tps:


Amity Reading

255E: Tps:


Michael Sinowitz

255F: Tps:


Nicole Lobdell

255G: Topics in Lit Studies