Extended Descriptions for Undergraduate Courses
English 230-001: Studies in Literature (Dawan Coombs)
English 230 section 1 will introduce students to literary themes, forms, and authors through young adult literature. In this course students will become familiar with the genre of young adult literature, critically examine a variety of award-winning contemporary novels, short stories, and poetry as well as demonstrate their understandings through discussion and writing.
English 236: Masterpieces of English Literature (Bruce Young)
This section of English 236 focuses on the thought, writings, and life of C. S. Lewis. Besides looking at his theological writing and his fiction, we will consider his work as a literary critic with challenging and instructive views on myth, on changes in worldview, and on Christianity and literature. As a convert to Christianity and a deeply religious man, Lewis can serve as a model for Latter-day Saints, especially for those who share Lewis’s literary interests. In addition to considering Lewis’s writing, this course will explore the intersection of literature and life as we examine Lewis’s life and the literary representations of it he and others have created (including the play/movie Shadowlands).
Readings will include The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, Mere Christianity, excerpts from Miracles and Surprised by Joy, Perelandra, Till We Have Faces, A Grief Observed, excerpts from The Four Love, various essays, and several of the Chronicles of Narnia.
English 318R: Writing Fiction (Stephen Tuttle)
English 318R is a fiction-writing workshop. We will dedicate the bulk of the semester discussing short fiction written by students in the class. At the beginning of the semester, as models of writing, we will study a number of influential works from important writers. We will also read Jerome Stern’s Making Shapely Fiction to help us recognize the ways narrative can be formed and shaped. The goal of this course is to make you a better, more attentive writer by learning to identify what makes good fiction good, and by encouraging you to practice those techniques.
English 327/337: Beyond Argument: The Varieties of Epideictic Rhetoric (Greg Clark)
In his Rhetoric, Aristotle described three categories of persuasion: the legislative and judicial that persuade through direct argument, and the “epideictic” that persuades indirectly and even unconsciously. This kind of rhetoric is pervasive in our experience but we often don’t notice it because it persuades not by arguing a point but by presenting images and stories that express values that we should hold dear. In this class we will study examples of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry as well as photography, painting, and music that influence in “epideictic” ways. Then students will develop explanations of epideictic rhetoric at work in their own experience.
English 328R: Style in Academic, Professional, and Public Genres (David Stock)
This course aims to help students develop a degree of stylistic awareness, proficiency, and flexibility needed to communicate effectively in multiple genres and contexts for varying audiences and purposes. This course is motivated by two questions: What have you learned about academic writing while in college, and how will what you’ve learned prepare you to write in once you’ve left college? The course is organized in three genres (see course title). With each genre, students will complete a variety of assignments to determine what constitutes an effective style, identify similarities and differences across styles, and learn and experiment with techniques to develop stylistic competence. The goal of this course is to help students develop knowledge and skills that will facilitate their transition from writing in college to writing outside of college.
English 362-001: American Literature 1865-1914 (Dennis Cutchins)
Since the late 19th century a combination of literary scholars, philosophers, writers, and nationalist proponents have worked to actually create the idea of American literature. We don’t usually think of it that way, but American literature did not always exist and more or less came into being during the period of history we are about to study. Some of the tools used to invent American literature were literary critiques, literary journals, literature classes at colleges and universities, and most importantly, literary anthologies. Early anthology writers like Moses Coit Tyler, Charles F. Richardson, and Barrett Wendell, helped to define the authors, styles, and works we still read today. The choices early anthology editors made were watershed moments in American literature and have dictated the course of much of what has happened since.
In large measure, the anthology actually defines the class. Not only does that limit what is taught in classes like ours, but many of the best questions about the study of American literature may never be asked because of anthologies. Which of Walt Whitman’s poems, for instance, should students read? The practical answer is a simple one: we read the ones found in the anthology. Should students read Whitman at all? That’s a question we’ll never ask because nearly every anthology of American literature includes Whitman’s work. But what about other 19th Century poets? Few anthologies include the poems of Thaxter, Wilcox, Adams, or Appleton, though each of these poets was more popular than Whitman for most of the 19th century. Why aren’t we reading these other poets? There are plenty of answers to that question, but the most pragmatic is that we don’t read them because they are not in the anthology. For these reasons our class is not going to use an anthology this semester. Moreover, I am not going to choose most of your readings, either, since that would be basically the same as using an anthology. It would just be an anthology in which the readings were chosen by me. Instead, you are going to choose the readings for this course. I hope that this more or less radical approach to American literature will help us contextualize our readings in new and dynamic ways.
English 382-001: Major Authors: Nathaniel Hawthorne (Dennis Perry)
This course will focus on the life, short fiction, and novels of American author Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864). We will study his life by reading a critical biography, as well as reading the short fiction as introductory material for our studying three of his four novels. Besides Romanticism and the Gothic as contexts for reading Hawthorne’s fiction, we will also study them in terms of his interest in fairy tales. To do this we will read some of myths that he turned into fairy tales, which ultimately made him one of the three major American contributors generating interest in them in 19th-century America.
English 382-003: Shakespeare’s Poetics (Jason Kerr)
Helen Vendler has argued that “the true ‘actors’ in [poetry] are words” and that we ought to learn “the art of seeing drama in linguistic action.” As we study the work of arguably the most important poet and dramatist in the Western canon, our primary task will be learning to recognize the art of Shakespeare’s linguistic action. We will attend to the ways that Shakespeare operates first and foremost as a poet, studying how poetic craft informs his approach to drama. In our quest to map a trajectory of the Bard’s poetics, we will read several works that span both time and genre, including the sonnets, the longer poems, and three works of drama: Richard II, As You Like It, and King Lear. As we engage these works, we will ask, above all, how they speak to Shakespeare’s status as a poet.
English 394R-002: Professional Writing (Jon Balzotti)
This weekly, 3-unit seminar is designed to give majors at BYU an overview of possible career and internship options in professional writing and ways to pursue their professional interests. Each student will be placed in a competitive professional writing internship and at the end of the semester will produce a polished writer’s portfolio that can be used in applying for future internships and employment.
English 394R-003: Visualizing Wonder: Fairy Tales and Television (FTTV) Digital Humanities Project (Jill Rudy)
This course fulfills the English + requirement and provides students instruction and experience in translating and narrating how skills such as critical reading, writing, and research apply in new situations. Specifically, my 394 section grounds students in contemporary fairy-tale scholarship and requires them to contribute to the FTTV digital humanities project. In the course, written communication and research skills will be practiced and deployed as students write and publish blog entries and create and execute a research project. Collaboration skills will be involved in creating and putting on public discussions. Students will develop project management skills in conducting a fairy-tale-themed public event. These events involve analytical skill in assessing the fairy tale in contemporary culture and crafting an event to entertain and instruct the public about traditional narrative, fairy tale, and televised tales. Additional collaborative skills may be involved in identifying and working with community partners. Professionalism will be stressed because this course produces public products: blog posts, events, discussion groups, show screenings, and digital humanities visualizations. The final project will involve teamwork to produce a business plan to extend the reach and contributions of the FTTV research project.
The student will hone skills with digital humanities, WordPress, event planning, production and graphic design, project management, budgeting, and team building.
English 394R-004: PROVO CITY LAB (Jamin Rowan)
In this section of English 394R: Provo City Lab, students will work with Provo City’s Community Development and residents from the Joaquin Neighborhood to address issues such as parking, walkability/bikeability, and local street improvement. The course is designed to help students draw upon the skills they have developed in their English, General Education, and other courses to contribute in important ways to the communities to which they belong. This course satisfies the English+ curricular requirement.
English 236/397: World Literatures in English (Aaron Eastley)
With the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature to South African novelist J. M. Coetzee in 2003, Africa has produced four Literature Nobel Prize winners and a host of extremely high quality literary works. Yet much of the best work remains relatively unknown. Many people have read the works of Achebe, Soyinka, Gordimer, Mahfouz, Coetzee, and Ngugi, but few have ventured much beyond that. This course will consider Anglophone African literatures within both chronological and geographical frameworks, with a focus on some of the best but somewhat lesser known 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 including Chiek Hamidou Kane, Ama Ata Aidoo, and Ben Okri. Our second unit will feature South African writers including Alan Paton, Sindiwe Magona, and Zoe Wicomb.
English 419R: Advanced Creative Writing Practice and Theory (Michael Lavers)
In this course, we will read both the poetry and prose of great writers to consider how their theories of poetry inform actual poetic practice. We will consider such questions as: Why have so many poets felt the need to write “defenses” of poetry? How might the letters of John Keats or Emily Dickinson enlarge our appreciation of their poems? What was Rilke’s “advice to a young poet,” and did he follow it? Our main goal will be to improve the quality of our own poems by watching how great poets resolve (or not) the theoretical and compositional questions they raise in their prose. We’ll start by reading excerpts from Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Poetics, and then move through the work of such poets as Horace, Sidney, Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Dickinson, Eliot, Stevens, Bishop, Rilke, Czeslaw Milosz, and Zbigniew Herbert, reading their essays, letters, and manifestos along the way. The class will be structured as a workshop, and writing assignments will be a combination of poet’s choice and prompts based on our readings. The culmination of this course will be a portfolio of polished poems, as well as a manifesto in which you articulate your own practice and theory of poetry.
English 452: Literary Theory and Criticism 2 (Dan Muhlestein)
Winter semester, English 452 will cover select aspects of contemporary literary theory. We’ll begin with a quick review of Friedrich Nietzsche and Michel Foucault, two challenging but interesting writers who helped set the table for postmodern thought generally. We’ll then read representative samples of reader response theory, structuralism, deconstruction, and the work of Mikhail Bakhtin, with a particular emphasis on his theories of dialogism, heteroglossia, and the carnivalesque. For the bulk of the rest of the semester, we will read and discuss what is often called identity politics, considering various of the ways in which race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and religious affiliation influence the ways we read, write about, and are influenced by literature. The course will include two midterms and a semester paper (the midterms are open-book all-essay midterms, where you are given a list of all the possible questions that might be asked on the exam several seeks before the test). And five or six times during the semester, we will take a few moments to discuss the implications of what we have been reading for religious faith and thought, and vice versa. When the elephant is in the room, we’ll talk about it rather than simply ignore it.
The course helps fulfill the rhetoric and theory requirement for the major. It can also be counted as an elective. It is designed to expand your toolbox of effective approaches to literature. But more than that, it is designed to help you think more clearly, and more deeply, about a number of the issues that matter most in life: what truth is, how we perceive the world, and the extent to which the communities of which we are a part influence what matters most to us in life, including literature. I hope you enjoy the class. I hope it helps you become a better writer and thinker. I hope it helps you prepare for graduate work, if that happens to be your inclination. I hope it helps you negotiate the sometimes difficult terrain between faith and postmodern thought. Most of all, I hope it helps you become an even better person than you already are.
English 495: Rhetoric, Jazz, and the Power of Aesthetic Experience (Greg Clark)
How do literature, visual art, dance and theater, film and television, and music influence us? How can an encounter with artistic expression change us? Simply put, how is art rhetorical? My recent book, Civic Jazz (U of Chicago Press, 2015) asks and answers these about jazz music. We’ll use this book to set the stage for student research projects examining the rhetoric at work in your own encounters with the arts. You will learn to use concepts of rhetoric and aesthetics derived from readings in Aristotle’s Poetics, Paul Woodruff’s, The Necessity of Theater, and writings of Kenneth Burke, Wayne Booth, Susanne Langer, Ralph Ellison, and others, along with various sorts of research, to examine the power of influence at work in your own aesthetic experience.
English 495: 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).
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: Law and Literature (Peter Leman)
This class will provide an introduction to the field of “Law and Literature,” focusing in particular on methodological questions, ethics, and language. As a field, Law and Literature has been notoriously heterogeneous throughout its (relatively recent) history, with scholars positing a variety of configurations for relating the two disciplines: e.g., law as literature, law in literature, literature in law, literature as law, law and rhetoric, law and hermeneutics, etc. Though touching on some of the most important of these configurations, we will draw heavily upon Robert Cover’s insight that the law depends upon a deep structure of cultural narratives for its meaning. We will ask what it means to think about law in terms of culture and what cultural texts (novels, plays, films, etc.), therefore, have to do with law. In what ways do works of literature enhance our understanding of the cultural foundations (and ragged edges) of the law? In what ways does the law provide a theoretical or historical framework for thinking about literature? Can the literary be legal and the legal literary? We will read key theoretical texts, including works by James Boyd White, Robert Cover, Brook Thomas, Richard Posner, Martha Nussbaum, Richard Weisberg, and Ravit Reichman, among others, as well as a combination of legal cases and literary texts from multiple periods and national traditions.
English 495: Let the Games Begin: Sexual Politics in the Literature of the Long Eighteenth Century (Brett McInelly)
This course will examine the ways dramatic texts represented, and informed, courtship practices, marriage customs, and gendered spheres during what is often referred to as the Long Eighteenth Century, roughly 1660-1800. The drama produced and performed during this period demonstrates a preoccupation with the relationships between the sexes, gender norms, and identity formation within domestic and sociopolitical spheres. This course will examine these themes in a number of plays, considering how context influenced the development of drama on both thematic and formal levels as well as the ways the British stage may have influenced social practice and norms. We will also give attention to contemporary criticism of eighteenth-century literature, investigating the preoccupations and methods of contemporary literary critics.
English 495: Literature and (the Theory of) Spiritual Experience (Matt Wickman)
This class explores spiritual experience as a subject of academic as well as religious 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 may appear in a variety of ways across the spectrum ranging from content to form. What we will strive to elucidate in our inquiry, then, is not a theology of spiritual experience, but rather a literary theory of it. In formulating such a theory, we will read a variety of poems, novels, stories, academic works on spiritual experience (from philosophy and the sciences), and religious texts. Our discussions will center on questions like these: What does spiritual experience bring to our understanding of literature? And how can literature enhance our understanding and appreciation of spiritual experience?
English 495: The Civil War in Contemporary American Literature (Trent Hickman)
This course will consider writing by E. L. Doctorow, Geraldine Brooks, Charles Frazier, and Natasha Trethewey as well as contemporary theoretical and critical readings on memory, history, nostalgia, and trauma in order to discover why, within the span of only a few years, several key contemporary American writers would recur to the American Civil War to work out their ideas about issues in race, gender, and representation.
English 620R: The English Renaissance: Continuities in Modern Film (Brandie Siegfried)
In this course you will have the opportunity to read works by several influential Renaissance writers, including Spenser, Elizabeth I, Shakespeare, Raleigh, Jonson, Donner, Herbert, Cavendish, Milton, and several others. You will also read segments from the 1611 King James Bible, a book that until very recently was the single most influential publication in English. In this course, we will explore the religious, philosophical, and aesthetic aspects of Renaissance literature in relation to their modern film avatars, giving special attention to Humanism, Reformation, and question of belief vs. knowledge. For film, the predominant focus will be on the concept of transposition: the replacement of verbal passages with visual analogues, expansions, or transformations. The main focus of inquiry will be the role of imagination in completing the “worlds” created by literature and film, and the possibility of strengthening, expanding, and deepening our awareness of beauty as a frame for knowledge. This course is also both a seminar and a practicum. Upon completing this course, you will have (1) 2-3 professional items to add to your CV, (2) a good preliminary grasp of the relationship between Renaissance literature and related film adaptations, and (3) the opportunity to write a conference-ready paper and abstract for consideration by a regional, national, or international conference.
English 622: Writing the War to End War: Literary Modernism and WWI (Jarica Watts)
Much has been written in all genres about the War to End War. This course will conduct a survey of the written word as it encircles WWI (poetry, short fiction, novel, autobiography, and so on) in order to parse whether the short story is doing something that these other literary modes are not. In short, we will aim to discover whether the short story form may be the most congenial to the modern war-time experience.
The primary goal is to study how different types of writing are used to know a particular reality. Rather than follow the approach that looks in detail at one genre as it addresses general issues, we want to look at many genres as they converge on one issue—The Great War. Finally, the course will reveal the power and limitations of different types of writing for dealing with profound realities of the human condition, especially with the persistent tendency of cultures to interact through war. Students will consider how texts from different genres covering the same topic both overlap and diverge.
English 629: The Gothic in Literature and Film (Dennis Perry)
English 629 will be a Gothic film adaptation course focusing on Hitchcock, Poe, and their unique brand of a modern psychological Gothic. We will read Poe fiction and poetry to develop a Gothic lexicon for reading Hitchcock’s films, including Shadow of a Doubt, Notorious, Strangers on a Train, Vertigo, Psycho, and The Birds.
English 495: The Literature of Twain and James (Dennis Cutchins)
Sam Clemens was born in 1835 and died in 1910. Henry James was born in 1843 and died in 1916. Despite the fact that they were contemporaries, were both realists, published their work in the same magazines, shared many of the same friends, and at least occasionally concerned themselves with the same subject matter, Henry James and Mark Twain are about as opposite as two writers can be. Stylistically, thematically, and even in terms of their world-views these two writers were very different men. James seemed to feel, for instance, that poor people, people who were really struggling to put the next meal on the table, were not good subjects for his brand of psychological realism because they did not have the kind of complex inner life that he felt was important. They simply didn’t have the capacity or the time to develop any real sensitivity. Rich folks, for him, with all their faults, were not worried about their next meal. They had time to become educated. They had time to travel and to appreciate art. They could attend concerts and lectures. They could, in short, enlarge their capacity for everything. If a well-educated and intelligent person of refinement was in love then that love was likely to be a more intense and more sophisticated kind of love. It would not be just lust, any animal (or poor person) could feel that. Rather this would probably be a higher, more delicate, more rare kind of feeling. The same would be true for any other kind of emotion.
Twain’s subject matter suggests that he felt very differently. The pages of his works are filled with scoundrels, rogues and working class poor. Twain considered these folks worthy of being portrayed in literature, and the reading public responded by lionizing Twain. His lectures were regularly standing room only, and his novels always sold well. In virtually every public move Twain spurned the kind of elitism that James wholeheartedly embraced. Despite the fact that he earned and lost several fortunes in his lifetime, Twain always considered himself a writer both of the people and for the people.
Differences aside, these two men actually had a few things in common. Their individual use of point of view, for instance, is surprisingly similar. Both Twain and James often used central narrators through whom ideas and opinions are both filtered and conveyed. Both men were ostensibly realists and worked to create what they considered objective truths in their novels and short stories, but both men were also intrigued by the supernatural. Both men wrote about the American experience in Europe, though their opinions about that experience were very different. And both men were critical of American materialism.
English 495: The Contemporary Memoir (Joey Franklin)
Thomas Larson, author of The Memoir and the Memoirist, wrote that in the 1980s “memoir burst forth sui generis from the castle of autobiography and the wilds of the personal essay.” He calls memoir “an American form” and suggests a study of the genre requires a mix of “criticism, psychology, reflection, essay, [and] historical and cultural contexts.” Using Larson’s book as a starting point, and supplementing it with additional significant writing on the genre, we will explore the memoir as both a literary genre and cultural artifact. We will read 4 memoirs that mark important moments in the contemporary development of the genre and we will write critically and creatively about the role of memoir in literature, popular culture, and our own self-discovery.