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Topics Courses Offered, spring 2014

Topics courses change every semester. In this way, students can be exposed to a wide variety of subject matter while still taking courses within the discipline.

The following topics courses will be offered spring semester of the the 2013-2014 school year.

ENG 255a Topics: Wilderness Tales (W course) (Professor Bayer)

“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. 


ENG 255b Topics: The Seven Deadly Sins (W Course) (Professor Glausser)

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).


ENG 255c Topics: Poetry in the World (W Course) (Professor Heithaus)

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.   


ENG 255d Topics:   The History of the English Language (W course) (Professor Reading)

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?  Is ð really an English letter?  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.


ENG 255e Topics:   Seeker, Poet, Lover, Friend (W course) (Professor Sununu)

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 PearlKatherine 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.


 ENG 255f Topics: African-American Film (Professor Wimbley)

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.


 ENG 302 College Writing II:  FicTopics:  The Art of the Novella (Professor Crouse)

Some consider the novella to be the red headed stepchild of the literary family, too short to be a true novel but too long to be a short story. But writers such as Ian McEwan, Richard Ford, Rachel Ingalls, and Alice Munro have claimed that the novella, or "long story" is the most perfect of literary forms, combining the grace of the short story with the emotional depth of the novel. In this course each student will draft and complete their own novella and critique that work while also reading key examples of the form. 


ENG 312 College Writing II: Poetry Topics:  Songwriting Workshop (Professor Dye)

In this class students study song form, type and genre; and compose lyrics based on traditional and popular music models.  The course also explores the differences and similarities between song and poetry.


 ENG 322: Flash Nonfiction: The Beauty of Brevity (Professor Autman)

Can you write a complete essay in one thousand words? This course requires  that students employ the precision of a poet and yet think, expansively like an essayist, a brief essayist. While flash nonfiction is enjoying a renaissance in creative writing, it has been a tool at the essayists finger tips for centuries. In this class students will push themselves to write fully bodied essays in a small amount a space. Using The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction as our road map,  we will see that's it's possible to go deep while using a few words.


 ENG 390: Advanced Topics: Women & Lit: Science, Nature, Environment (Professor McInnes)

 In this Women and Literature class, we will investigate what women writers have to say about science, scientists, and the natural environment.  We will focus primarily on poetry and fiction, with some excursions into critical theory and creative nonfiction.   My preliminary list of readings for the course includes works by poets Mary Oliver, Elizabeth Bishop, Marianne Moore, Gjertrud Schnackenberg, and Anne Carson; novels and short stories by Sarah Orne Jewett, Barbara Kingsolver, and Andrea Barrett; and nonfiction by Rachel Carson and Sandra Steingraber.    


ENG 391: Authors:  Advanced Topics:  Joyce (Professor Sinowitz)

James Joyce’s importance in the development of contemporary literature cannot be overestimated.   In his first book, Dubliners, a collection of short stories that can be seen as forming a novel from its parts, he changed the way people wrote short stories.  His second major work, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, marks one of the earliest and most significant uses of the narrative technique now known as stream-of-consciousness.  His next novel, Ulysses, forever left its mark on literature and opened up the world to the breadth and scope of possibility inherent in the novel as a form.  Joyce boasted that Ulysses would keep scholars busy for a hundred years, but, with his last major work, Finnegan’s Wake, he seems to have underestimated the difficulty.  His novels are challenging, intellectual, and full of comedy, high and low.  Well, to be more up front about it: his books are both damn hard to read and damn funny when one can break through the difficulty they present. They make you work like few other texts, but they also pay off like few other texts.

We will focus primarily on three of Joyce’s major works, Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Ulysses.  We may dabble a little in Finnegan’s Wake now and again, but that novel is a matter for another course.  Our readings will be supplemented by relevant discussions of Joyce’s work, and some contextualizing works on Irish history.   We will spend the first half of the course focusing on the two shorter works.  For the second half of the class, we will focus almost exclusively on Ulysses, going through this immense and foreboding text at a gingerly pace. 


ENG 392:  The Great Novel: Dickens and Dostoyevsky (Professor Csicsery-Ronay)

This course is devoted to two of the great social novelists of 19th century Europe. The novel was long considered the most ambitious and exemplary literary genre of the period, yet because of their length, such works are rarely studied in the classroom. We will read four novels, two by Charles Dickens and two by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. We will submit each to intensive, careful reading, with special attention to their historical contexts, their artistic architecture, and their philosophical implications.