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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

Angela Flury

255B: Tps: Artist in World Lit

This course brings together students from DePauw University and Effat University, Jeddaj, Saudi Arabia in a collaborative course. We will study two distinctive prototypes in literature: the figure of Scheherazade, female artist and narrator-as-creator, whose tales keep at bay the sword that would end her life, and the romantic artist who continues to influence contemporary culture.

Angela Flury

255C: Tps: Writing About Film

In this course, we will study different approaches to reading and processing film. Concomitantly we'll practice distinctive ways of writing in response to a diverse repertoire of films. By studying forms of writing from the more conventional to the experimental, your relationship to cinema is bound to become more nuanced, expansive, and complex.

Wayne Glausser

255D: Tps: The Seven Deadly Sins

Here's the lineup: Sloth, Lust, Envy, Wrath, Gluttony, Greed, Pride. As we start our analysis of each sin, our first layer of reading will include "something old, something new." The standard list of deadly sins has its roots in medieval Christianity, and we will begin each sin by reading something old--excerpts from Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica. But we will set alongside Aquinas something new: recent work in cognitive science that attempts to explain how and why our brains negotiate the emotions and behaviors Aquinas labeled sinful. To flesh out our exploration of each sin, we will discuss and write about a number of short stories, novels, poems, essays, and films.

Amity Reading

255E: Tps: History of the English Language

Linguists estimate that today nearly 2 billion people world-wide use English as either a primary or a foreign language. In the US, we use the 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 the language? Through a series of writing assignments, 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?

Michael Sinowitz

255F: Tps: The Romantic Comedy: Plays, Novels, and Films

Today, the Romantic Comedy remains one of the most popular of film genres. The origins of the genre, however, can be dated at least as far back as 400 years to William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. This class will explore the origins of the genre with Shakespeare, as well as other literary forms, including the novels of such writers as Jane Austen and Nick Hornby. We will also consider how the Romantic Comedy has evolved in film, looking at some classic Hollywood versions like Philadelphia Story and Bringing Up Baby, darker versions like The Apartment, as well contemporary versions like Knocked Up and Out of Sight. We'll consider the idea of the disguised Romantic Comedy as well. Discussions will focus on how this genre reflects upon the cultures of its creation, what it values and how it conceives of gender and marriage as an institution. It's a W-Course, so we'll be writing about them too!

Nicole Lobdell

255G: Tps: Brain on Fire: Medical Narratives

The title of this course comes from Susannah Cahalan's medical memoir Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness (2012), a work in which Cahalan explores how a rare type of encephalitis led to periods of madness and delusion before she received diagnosis and treatment. Cahalan's memoir is compelling not only for the medical mystery it presents but also for its storytelling elements. Through readings of medical narratives, including both nonfiction (memoirs, essays) and fiction (short stories, novels), this course will explore narratives of disease and illness. We'll read works by writers who practiced medicine, such as William Carlos Williams; writers who reflected on their own illnesses such as Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath; and doctors who became writers, such as Paul Kalanithi in When Breath Becomes Air (2016), which chronicles his diagnosis of terminal, stage IV lung cancer at age 36, when he was at the end of his training to become a neurosurgeon. "Medical Humanities" is a recent movement that emphasizes an empathetic and humanistic treatment of disease, illness, and the doctor-patient relationship, and this interdisciplinary course, open to all majors, offers students an avenue by which to explore these issues.

Fall Semester information

Istvan Csicsery-Ronay

255A: Tps:Contemporary American Science Fiction by Women

Literary science fiction in our present age differs considerably from science fiction even of the recent past, and even more so from the "sci-fi" of films and television. This is due in large part to the influx of new perspectives from women writers. In this course, we will study literary works by U.S. women writers who are still living and producing literary fiction. Writers may include Nnedi Okorafor, Nisi Shawl, Eleanor Arnason, Ann Leckie, N.K. Jemison, Karen Joy Fowler, Ann Leckie, Pat Cadigan, Ada Palmer, Misha, and one digital outlier, Janelle Monae.

Angela Flury

255B: Tps:Writing About Film

This course teaches you to write about film in both conventional and unconventional ways. As you move from writing film reviews to more experimental forms, you are at the same time studying cinema in all of its splendor and complexity, from the basics to more thematic, historical, and socio-political frameworks. The diverse group of films in this course aims to challenge your cinematic sensibilities and broaden your repertoire. Warren Buckland's concise little text book condenses film studies into an accessible general approach (introducing his readers to all the requisite terms); Corrigan's Guide teaches you the skills necessary to write critically in specific genres, and Robert Ray uses the avant-garde arts as model for more experimental ways of writing and thinking about the movies. By studying and practicing different forms of writing, your relationship to cinema and culture-at-large is bound to become more nuanced, expansive, and nimble.

Deborah Geis

255C: Tps:Contemporary African American Drama

This course is for students who are interested in learning about the major playwrights and artistic/political movements in mid-twentieth and twenty-first century African American drama. We will begin with some earlier works from the Civil Rights and Black Arts eras (e.g., Douglas Turner Ward, Amiri Baraka), but most of the course will focus on later plays, including significant Black women playwrights of the seventies (e.g., Adrienne Kennedy, Ntozake Shange), and major theater voices from more recent times (e.g., Tarrell Alvin McCraney, Suzan-Lori Parks). Students should be prepared to participate actively in discussions and scenes, as well as to do a significant amount of writing since this is a "W" course.

Nicole Lobdell

255D: Tps:Dead Bodies in Literature

In our books, movies, and television shows, the corpse has a leading role. From Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus to Hitchcock's Psycho to George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones, dead bodies occupy positions of real power. We like to play with dead bodies, according to Fintan O'Toole, "spinning stories around them that can be austere or grotesque, tragic or farcical, haunting or hilarious." Why are we so fascinated and simultaneously repulsed by corpses? How do writers treat dead bodies as characters, plot devices, and symbols? How are corpses represented by writers such as Stephen King compared to other writers such as William Faulkner or Mary Shelley? This course will use literature as its primary vehicle for discussion but will also include short nonfiction writings on the cultural anthropology of the dead and the business of death. Although this course is about corpses, students should anticipate lively discussions and a significant amount of writing.

Spring Semester information

Beth Benedix

255A: Tps:

Vanessa Dickerson

255B: Tps:

Angela Flury

255C: Tps:

Joseph Heithaus

255D: Tps:

Amity Reading

255E: Tps:

Michael Sinowitz

255F: Tps:

Karin Wimbley

255G: Tps: