Course Descriptions

Link: Current Undergraduate Courses                                                       Link: Current Undergraduate Catalog

Interested in English 318R with Brandon Sanderson? Learn more here. 

 Link: English 318R Application Download



Winter 2019


English 230: Studies in Literature: Young Adult Literature (Karen Brown)

This course will introduce students to literary themes, forms, and authors through young adult literature. Students will become familiar with the genre of young adult literature, critically examine a variety of award-winning contemporary novels, and demonstrate their understandings through discussion and writing.

English 235-1: Studies in American Literature: American Renaissance (Dennis Perry)

This course will focus on classic texts of the American Renaissance period, including attention on major issues of the time such as slavery/abolition, Native American removal, Western migration, the Mormon problem, etc. (1835-65).

English 235-2: Studies in American Literature: Dramatic Literature (Brooke Downs)

Students will read a survey of plays from the American Revolution to the present. We will particularly investigate the development of American theatre history as well as the relationship of plays as texts versus plays as performance. Authors include Eugene O’Neill, Lillian Hellman, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Lorraine Hansberry, and August Wilson.

English 236-1: Studies in English Literature: C.S. Lewis (Bruce Young)


English 236-2: Studies in English Literature: Sensation Literature: Culture and History (Anne Fleming)

Few things seem more universal in literature than the criminal and the macabre. We’ll look at how different eras, authors, and genres deal with crime and sensation. We’ll use critical theory and different reading strategies to look at how history and culture and readers relate to different works and how works and authors react to the history. You’ll write analytical arguments about the literature and criticism we read–the best way to really get into literature. I’ve chosen works that I think you will enjoy talking about and assignments that will help you understand and get into the literature.

English 295-1: Writing Literary Criticism (Michael Lavers)

This section of 295 will focus on the story of a university student who is plagued by certain troubling questions: why is my country in such disarray? What is the truth? Who can I trust? Is no one honest or genuine, not even the king? Not my family and friends? Not even myself? How should I act? Why should I do anything—love, work, study—if fate seems capricious and death inevitable? Could I be going mad?

I mean, of course, Hamlet, not you during finals week. But I mean that too. This course will consider what William Hazlitt meant when he wrote “it is we who are Hamlet,” how it’s possible that a play written four centuries ago still feels like it’s about each of us, how it contends with timeless concepts such as the nature of the individual and the state, of the human mind and its access to truth, of good and evil, as well as the problem of death and what comes after.

In addition to exploring Hamlet itself, a main focus of this course will be A) learning to connect on a personal and conceptual level with a literary text, and then B) turning that connection into a piece of well-crafted literary criticism.

English 295-2: Writing Literary Criticism (Meridith Reed)

In this section of English 295, we will read, analyze, and write about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Frankenstein celebrated its 200th birthday in 2018; the novel raises questions that are as relevant today as they were at the time of its first publication in 1818. With Frankenstein as our shared text, we will learn and practice the art of writing literary criticism through intensive writing exercises, workshops, and revision. Expect to write frequently, both formally and informally. By the end of the semester, you will write an 8-10 page paper advancing an original argument about Shelley’s Frankenstein.

English 295-3: Writing Literary Criticism (Jason Kerr)

This section of 295 will take Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice as its primary text, which lends itself to conceptual approaches having to do with literature and law, the politics of religious identity, political theology, and gender.

English 295-4: Writing Literary Criticism (Miranda Wilcox)

Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests.

I’ll dig with it.

Seamus Heaney published “Digging” in 1966 at the eve of The Troubles, the ethno-nationalist guerrilla conflict in Northern Ireland between the 1960s and 1990s. This class will focus on the poems that Seamus Heaney wrote about bogs and bog bodies during this violent period. We will immerse ourselves in his vivid and startling juxtaposition of the Iron Age with his contemporary Ireland. As we read Heaney’s poems and literary criticism about the poem, we will learn basic conventions that professional literary critics employ, tools that we will then imitate and implement in our own literary criticism. As we write about Heaney’s poems, we will become more attuned to the kinds of questions that literary critics ask, and we will begin to read with greater discernment and formulate more sophisticated conceptual claims about these poetic gems.

English 295-5: Writing Literary Criticism (Mary Eyring)

In this course, we will read several short stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville. We will also read Hawthorne and Melville writing about the other’s writing. Students can write about either or both of these authors as they analyze these stories, which focus on the body, the soul, American religion, and American consumer society. 

English 295-6: Writing Literary Criticism (Peter Leman)

English 295 is a writing-intensive course for English majors, designed primarily to help you develop a foundation in the analytical, research, and writing skills necessary for success in most 300 and 400-level English courses. Literary analysis, or literary criticism, is a distinct genre of writing that has its own particular rhetorical and intellectual conventions. We will read literature in this course, but our goal will be to use the literature as a means of exploring, understanding, and practicing the conventions of written literary criticism. Therefore, in addition to two works by the contemporary Irish playwright Brian Friel, which will be our core literary “case studies,” we will also read, analyze, and discuss examples of literary criticism written by other students, by professional scholars, and by you. As we study both literary and critical texts in this course, you will learn to:

  • read and analyze literary and critical texts closely, building on what you learned about different reading strategies in ENGL 251;
  • develop the ability to summarize, paraphrase, and quote literary and critical texts clearly and accurately;
  • develop an understanding of and facility with a range of research methodologies as you find, evaluate, and use secondary sources;
  • construct intelligent and persuasive arguments grounded in literary evidence and supported by reliable secondary sources; and
  • write essays that correctly use the conventions of literary criticism, including MLA guidelines for style, formatting, citations, etc.

Although this course is officially titled “Writing Literary Criticism,” I think it is slightly misleading to speak of this solely as a “writing” course rather than a “literature” course–it is, certainly, not focused on literary content or literary history, but the fact is that your ability to engage deeply with literature and to construct intelligent, well-informed, and well-formed arguments about literature depends largely upon your ability to read closely, research deeply and responsibly, and write well. I like to think of this as a literature course, therefore, in the sense that any serious engagement with literature requires precise thought, clear analysis, and a unique sensitivity to the structures and nuances of language, both the language of the literary text and the language through which you discuss the text–in other words, the language of the critic, which can and should be artfully crafted. My hope, therefore, which reflects a very serious commitment to our discipline and to you as students, is that this course will give you the opportunity to establish a lasting foundation for developing and improving the craft of writing literary criticism.


English 295-7: Writing Literary Criticism (Keith Lawrence)

This course will be using Collected Stories of Flannery O’Connor (we’ll focus on five stories from this collection) and You Say, I Say as primary texts. While I don’t plan to impose a single conceptual framework on the course, I will privilege postcolonial and adaptational responses to O’Connor’s texts.

English 318-1: Writing Fiction: The Short Form (Spencer Hyde)


English 318-2: Writing Fiction: Science Fiction (Brandon Sanderson)

Admittance to class by application only. Go to for application. Register for ENGL 321 section 002 (open enrollment) for the lecture only portion of Sanderson’s course.

English 318-3: Writing Fiction: Beginning Novel (Cheri Earl)

If you’re a novelist who’s never actually written a novel or you’ve started one and need some guidance, this is your course. You will study the theory and practice of writing literary novels that are not only beautiful in form but that also explore complex social and cultural issues.

Each class period is dedicated to one or two elements of writing the adult, character-driven novel: inventing plot arcs and story-opening strategies; managing pacing; creating moral conflicts; building tension; developing compelling characters; crafting description and dialog; shaping scenes and incorporating backstory; and from the first chapter to the end of the novel, exploring what it means to be human. You’ll also begin to identify and define your own distinct narrative voice and the characteristics of the fiction genre in which you choose to write. Finally, you’ll be introduced to the complex business of publishing your work in the digital age. The core of the class is the writing workshop sessions where all students in the class share their work with each other and the instructor and receive constructive input.

This course is writing and reading intensive, and though all students, freshmen through seniors, would benefit from creative writing instruction, the class is best suited to those who have a serious interest in learning the craft of writing a literary novel and in submitting their work for publication.

English 337: Advanced Studies in Genre: The Meditation, Sacred and Secular: A Formulary Genre for the Literary Arts (Nancy Christiansen)

From the sacred Davidic Psalms and secular philosophical meditations of Marcus Aurelius, through confessions, morality plays, devotional poetry, emblem books, literary essays, nature poetry, philosophical or scientific musings, and sundry narratives, the genre of the meditation has wielded significant formulary influence on literature. In this course, we will study the meditative tradition in Western culture, with roots in classical philosophy, art of sacred meditation manuals, and Christian conduct books. Then we will sample the various manifestations of the meditation in British and American literature from medieval to present times in order to formulate a description of the genre’s features, trace its developments through time, and evaluate the quality of insights that come when interpreting literary texts in the context of this tradition. We will also ask whether meditational literature (and literature itself), stemming from the contemplative life, is truly opposite to its supposed countering binary, the active life. We will be brought face to face with the question: What is the value of liberal arts’ pursuits?

English 384: American Authors: Cormac McCarthy (Phil Snyder)

This major author course will engage McCarthy’s writerly life and brilliant work through a collaborative study of representative texts from the McCarthy canon:  The Orchard Keeper (1965), Child of God (1974), Blood Meridian (1985), All the Pretty Horses (1992), No Country for Old Men (2005), The Road (2006), and The Sunset Limited (2006). Our study will be supplemented by selected secondary criticism (The Cambridge Companion to Cormac McCarthy) and by the Cormac McCarthy Corpus Project (CMCP), developed and hosted by BYU’s Office of Digital Humanities, which will help us do quantitative analysis of McCarthy’s work. Requirements will include attendance and participation, quizzes, a 1200-word CMCP analysis, a 1200-word proposal abstract with a 20-item annotated bibliography, and a 12-page conference paper. As Sgt. Pepper once said, “A splendid time in guaranteed for all.”

English 394-1: Applied English: Building Living Histories (Mike Taylor)

This course offers students the opportunity to apply their Liberal Arts competencies in a range of professional environments, including library and curatorial work, oral history, transcription, and web design. Students will collaborate with BYU’s Native American Alumni Association, the Special Collections Library, and the Office of Digital Humanities in order to build a physical and online space for gathering, documenting, exhibiting, and sharing the intricate histories of BYU’s former, current, and future Native American students.

English 394-2: Applied English: Professional Writing Internships (Jon Balzotti)


English 397-1: World Literatures in English: African Literature (Aaron Eastley)

Africa has produced four Literature Nobel Prize winners and a host of extremely high quality literary works. Yet beyond Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, much of the best work remains relatively unknown. This course will consider African literature within both chronological and geographical frameworks, with a focus on authors hailing from West Africa and South Africa. We will begin by briefly analyzing European impressions of Africa from the colonial era, then transition into the writings of West African writers such as Achebe, Chiek Hamidou Kane, Ama Ata Aidoo, and Ben Okri. Our second unit will feature South African writers such as Alan Paton, Sindiwe Magona, and Zoe Wicomb.

English 397-2: World Literatures in English: Voices and Legacy of the Shoah [Holocaust]. (Taught in English by Ilona Klein, French/Ital)


English 494-1: Story, Place and Identity in America (taught in conjunction with 495 course below) (Greg Clark)

English 495-1: Story, Place and Identity in America (Greg Clark)

This class will study the ways that Americans use the stories they tell to school themselves each other in various versions of a national identity that might bind together despite their different their shared American landscapes. This storytelling is an attempt to solve a problem: life in the United States presents people with contending concepts of what the United States is and ought to be. Just notice how often, in this contentious national moment, some say, “This is not who we are!” while others say, “This is exactly who we are!” Our project will not be to resolve the conflicts but, rather, to explore how they affect individual Americans. Using concepts of public memory, rhetoric of place, and narrative theory, we will look at how American literature and arts prompt people to identify themselves with one version or another of an American national community in ways that can put them in conflict with each other.

English 494-2: Movies Make Arguments: Rhetorical Genres and Film (taught in conjunction with 495 course below) (Brian Jackson)

English 495-2:  Movies Make Arguments: Rhetorical Genres and Film (Brian Jackson)

How do movies make arguments? In this class we’ll use rhetorical theory (genre, narrative, ideology, and publics) to investigate how movies work as rhetorical texts. As rhetorical critics, we’ll go to a movie together. We’ll look at how movies design narrative and express ideological commitments. We’ll analyze how controversy influences public judgment. For your final project, you’ll pick a movie as your text and build a theoretical framework to investigate it in an article-length academic paper.

English 495-3: Memory, Nostalgia, and Trauma in Contemporary American Literature (Trent Hickman)

In recent years and in the wake of postmodernist inquiry, critical attention has turned anew not only to the study of how we represent the past but of memory itself–how it is formed, how it is transformed, and how it is deformed by nostalgia and trauma.  Even as scholars refocus this discussion in newer terms to speak of the past, they still frequently find themselves concerned in many cases with the representations of the past and memory in its various forms, be they individual, familial, collective, national, environmental, or biological.   Our course will familiarize you with some of the seminal theoretical texts on this return to studies of memory in its various forms, introduce you into some of the debates surrounding them, and finally ask you to identify how contemporary American literature incorporates representational strategies which speak to these concerns.

English 495-4: Literature of Imprisonment at Topaz, Utah (Brian Roberts)

Shortly after the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the US government imprisoned some 120,000 people of Japanese descent living in the United States. About two-thirds of these prisoners were US citizens and were detained without due process. They were removed from their homes and held in ten internment camps located in the states of California, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Arkansas, and Utah. Here in Provo, we are located just an hour and a half drive from the prison that was placed in Utah. Called “Topaz Relocation Center,” Utah’s internment camp was built a few miles from the small town of Delta. This senior seminar will be dedicated to reading and analyzing the literature—poetry, short stories, and novels—written by prisoners while they lived at Topaz, as well as the literature written about Topaz after the camp was closed in 1945. In bringing focus to the literature of Topaz, we will make at least one visit to the Topaz Museum (in Delta) and the original Topaz prison site. We will further contextualize the prisoners’ literary output by viewing visual art produced by the camp’s many artists as well as two films made about the camp.

English 495-5: Victorian Literature and Periodical Culture (Jamie Horrocks)

Few readers of Victorian literature realize that nearly all of their favorite novels first appeared serially, in periodicals. Victorian periodicals—more than 1,000 of which began in nineteenth-century Britain—were an enormously popular source of textual consumption, and they offer modern readers a glimpse into a wide variety of textual topics, genres, and practices. We’ll consider some of these in this course, which will take as its focus the readings and reading practices associated with Victorian periodicals. We will draw upon the methods and theoretical practices of cultural studies and literary studies, as well as media studies, literary history, material culture, and archival research. Students will spend time in the HBLL archives, doing original research with our Victorian periodical collection, and they will be asked to read several texts in serial form (as well as poetry, short fiction, and nonfiction).

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