Extended Descriptions for Undergraduate Courses
English 495: The Rhetoric of Literature (Greg Clark)
This course will focus on the ways that literature is rhetorical — that is, the ways that a literary text affects ideas, feelings, aspirations, and values held by those who read it. In other words, it’s a study of how literature inﬂuences people using resources from rhetorical and literary theory.
We become who and what our stories teach us to be. “Literature” is the term a culture uses to describe the stories it considers essential for its members to internalize. Readers should be careful about that, about whether they want to accept the beliefs, values, and identity they are being taught through literature. But they should also celebrate the opportunity to embrace those that ring true.
The course will begin with a reading of Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony, a powerful American novel about that kind of choice. That will be followed by Plato’s Phaedrus – his meditation about what is at stake in making such choices. Then we will read Brian Boyd’s On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction to understand with considerable detail how literature can affect us, and we’ll conclude our study with Paul Woodruff’s book, Reverence, that reminds us that in exchanging stories we are dealing with something like the sacred. The course will include several short papers and a longer, researched essay on some aspect of the influence and effects inherent in literature.
English 495: Literature and the Theory of Spiritual Experience (Matt Wickman)
This class explores spiritual experience as a subject of academic inquiry. Our objective is not to identify spiritual experience in works of literature as much as to undertake a generative inquiry into what a concept of spiritual experience might mean relative to literature, or perhaps through it. This means that spiritual experience – conceived not only in religious terms but also, and more ecumenically, as pertaining to matters of ultimate concern – may appear by way of content, form, or reception (or, more broadly, use – that is, how readers, societies, departments, and fields either interpret literature or put it to work). What we will strive to elucidate in our inquiry, then, is not a theology of spiritual experience, but rather a literary theory of it. How do texts conceive of, lend form to, and communicate spirituality? And how does spirituality figure in relation to other kinds of literary effects (like beauty, desire, etc.)? In formulating such a theory, we will read a variety of poems, novels, stories, scholarly studies of spiritual experience (from philosophy and the sciences), and religious texts. Our discussions will center on questions like these: What is spiritual experience? What does it bring to our self-understanding as well as our understanding of literature? And how can literature enhance our understanding and appreciation of spiritual experience?
English 495: Poe on Film (Dennis Perry)
This course will study film adaptations of Poe’s writings, including La Chute de Maison Usher (Epstein 1926), The House of Usher (Corman 1960), Psycho (Hitchcock 1960), Vertigo (Hitchcock 1957), The Pit, the Pendulum and the Hope (Svankmajer 1983), and The Fall of the House of Usher (Svankmajer 1980).
English 495: African-American Literature and the Politics of “Home” (Kristin Matthews)
America has been called “home of the brave” and “land of the free .” “Home” invites ideas of inclusion, community, and safety. At the same time, “home” also communicates a sense of “belongingness” that, while including some, necessarily excludes “others” from particular spaces, places, and orders. Understood in these ways, “home” becomes a concept that is at once philosophical, psychological, and political. Our class this semester will focus on the ideas, performance, and complexities of “home” in modern African American literature. These texts pose key questions about “home” and its relationship to geography, ancestry, language, history, displacement , class, and gender. Ultimately, the texts selected for this course examine what it means and what it takes to feel “at home” in one’s community and one’s own skin.
English 495: Odd Angles of Heaven: A Contemporary Poetry of Belief (Lance Larsen)
After reviewing devotional verse from the Renaissance forward and sampling a few of the greats, we’ll consider several key contemporary poets and read collections by nine of them, including two Pulitzer-prize winners, Louise Gluck and Charles Wright. What will you gain from such a class? One, an in-depth reading of an often ignored genre. Two, crucial links to devotional poetry, modernism, and postmodernism. Three, a greater understanding of prosody, form, and the evolution of genre. Four, a distilled report of our present cultural moment. Five, a sense of how contemporary poets grapple with issues of belief against a secular backdrop.
English 495: Adaptation Theory (Dennis Cutchins)
This course is a result of my own frustration over the lack of a workable theory to deal with what I have loosely termed “adaptations.” Within that term, I include films which have been adapted from literary (or non-literary) texts, literary texts which have been adapted from films, films which have been adapted from other films, literary texts which have been adapted from other literary texts (including translations) and other permutations of these relationships.
Though some may consider my use of the term too broad, I have found it to be a useful grouping, and it fits well with the ways other scholars have approached adaptation. My own goal for the class is simple: I want to work through adaptation theory, particularly that which has been published in the last ten years. This course will offer a good overview of theory in general, and will help them see the process of theoretical thinking in action.
English 495: Literacy Studies (David Stock)
In this class, students will explore what literacy means beyond reading and writing, focusing on answering the following questions: What is literacy? How is it learned? How has it changed over time? The first half of the course will focus on intensive readings that will allow students entry into scholarly conversations about literacy, while completing writing assignments that allow them to process and apply what they’re learning about literacy. The second half of the course will focus on students developing original research projects that have meaning for a professional audience and for their personal lives.
English 495: Translation Studies & Literature in English (Emron Esplin)
What can a course on translation studies offer an English major? For starters, it will reveal that our literary canons are grounded on translated texts and that our very language changes as translated texts enter our literary traditions. “English” as a field of study relies heavily on the translation of ideas, theories, concepts, and literary texts from other languages. This course offers an introduction to various theories of literary translation and to the growing field of translation studies. We will examine several versions of key translated texts that form the center of literary study in English—e.g. the Bible, The Iliad, 1001 Nights—we will question the notions of translatability and fidelity, we will highlight the importance of paratextual materials, and we will challenge the hierarchical relationship between “originals” and translations. The final course assignment will allow both for projects that examine texts in two languages (e.g. a Spanish- language original alongside an English-language translation) and for projects that analyze multiple versions of one or more texts in English.
English 495: Shakespeare and Film (Brandie Siegfried)
This section of English 495 will focus on a variety of theatrical, socio-historical, political, and literary issues in relation to several film adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays. The course includes a historical overview of the evolution of Shakespeare’s plays from stage to page, to illustration, to painting, and to moving pictures. The class also requires you to learn special terms in film criticism, introduces you to the stages of movie making, invites you to explore the similarities and differences between stage and screen productions, and encourages you to develop some ability in the craft of film criticism by way of close readings of Shakespeare. Remember that Shakespeare wrote the plays to be enjoyed, and enjoyment will be our first order of business as serious critics.
English 495: Unholy Satire: Lampooning Religion in the Long Eighteenth Century (Brett McInelly)
The eighteenth century is recognized as a great age of satire. From gentle and lighthearted rebukes to candid and cutting attacks, satirists mocked individuals, ideas, and institutions as well as a myriad of social practices and attitudes. Even sacred subjects like religion did not escape the satirists’ view; in fact, a number of religious groups, teachings, and practices proved fertile ground for satiric critique, from Catholics and Quakers, to revivalist enthusiasm and the stoic preaching of uninspired ministers. And such critiques materialized in verse, prose fiction, drama, and graphic prints. This section of 495 will examine the satiric treatment of religion in the Long Eighteenth Century, examining poems, novels, plays, and even graphic art that set out to mock religious belief and practice. We will situate our study by looking at prevailing attitudes toward satire during the period, its means, ends, and justifications, particularly as those means, ends, and justifications relate to a critique of something as personal as spiritual experience and as sacred, at least to many individuals, as religious belief and practice. We will consider how and why certain religious groups and practices invited public scrutiny and try to determine what effect such satire has on religion, both in its public perception and its private performance.
English 495: Literature & Culture in the Age of Climate Change (Jamin Rowan)
As we settle in to life in the Anthropocene, a wide variety of writers and culture makers have responded to the emerging conditions of this new climactic period. Through course readings and independent research, we will have the opportunity to identify and analyze the narrative and formal patterns through which writers and other artists are making sense of the Anthropocene. We will also address the challenges that climate change poses to our conventional understandings of literary history and our traditional analytical approaches to literary study.