Course Descriptions

Link: Current Undergraduate Courses                                                       Link: Current Undergraduate Catalog

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Extended Descriptions for Undergraduate Courses 



English 236: Studies in English Literature (Bruce Young)

This section of English 236 focuses on the writings, thought, and life of C. S. Lewis. We will read some of his fiction—several of the Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, Perelandra, and Till We Have Faces—as well as several works on Christianity, including Mere Christianity and excerpts from Miracles and The Four Loves. We’ll read essays he wrote that shed light on his writing process, on myth, on changes in worldview, and on the relation of Christianity and literature. The course will also explore the intersection of literature and life as we examine Lewis’s life and the literary representations of it he and others have created: Surprised by Joy and A Grief Observed (two autobiographical works), and the play/movie Shadowlands, which portrays his marriage and his wife’s death.

English 363: Race, Region, Modernity: U.S. Literature, 1914-1960 (Emron Esplin)

This course approaches race, racial mixture, and modernity from two regions within the United States—the so-called U.S. North and U.S. South. We will begin the term in New York, and we will finish the term in Texas and Georgia after making a significant stop in Mississippi. Our readings will include works by the following writers: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Langston Hughes, Nella Larsen, William Faulkner, Katherine Anne Porter, and Flannery O’Connor. Our topics of discussion will include the so-called Jazz Age, the Harlem Renaissance, literary modernism(s), racial identity and racial mixture, regional identity, national identity, and expat experiences in Europe, the Caribbean, and Mexico.

English 495: Planetary Modernisms (Aaron Eastley)

In 1827 Goethe wrote eloquently of “Weltliteratur,” opining that “Nowadays, national literature doesn’t mean much: the age of world literature is beginning, and everybody should contribute to its advent.” Rather more recently, say, in the last twenty years or so, theorists such as Susan Friedman, Jahan Ramazani, Emily Apter, and Franco Moretti have asserted that the day (fore)seen by Goethe has actually arrived, and that current experiences of globalization/transnationalism call for the redefinition of presumptively fixed terms such as “modernism,” and, more importantly, for entirely new methods of literary analysis. “World literature,” Moretti asserts, “cannot be literature, bigger; what we are already doing, just more of it. It has to be different.” So, what happens to “American Literature,” or “British Literature,” or any national literature in the wake of these current re-conceptions? This capstone seminar will examine the disciplinary topic of all literature being seen as Literature of the World. We will read a wide range of theoretical texts tied to current notions of global literature, world literature, world-literature, transnationalism and planetarity—especially in the context of debates about modernism/modernity. Several sample literary case studies will be examined in connection to these theoretical ideas, and students will ultimately use the theory studied to examine works of their choice that demonstrate what has been called “unlikely likeness” (Warwick Research Collective), or the strategy of “collage” (Friedman).


FALL 2018


English 230: Young Adult Literature (Chris Crowe)


English 235: Studies in American Literature (Kristin Matthews)

This course proposes to chart the various movements in American literature from its origins to the present. Examining “masterpieces,” we will discuss how different authors struggle to define “America” and a particularly “American” literature. Our study of these definitional politics will entertain many questions about the relationship between national letters and national identity: what is particularly “American” about these texts? What vision of “America” do they propose? What social, cultural, and political use-value do such definitions have? How is literature both a product and producer of its particular period? Our aim in answering these questions will be to engage deeply with the works we read this semester while simultaneously reflecting upon our own position as readers and critics. Our work will be interdisciplinary, drawing on visual sources, sociology, philosophy, and historical materials. The course emphasizes critical thinking and does not operate by lecture; we are collectively responsible for its intellectual activities.

English 235: Masterpieces of American Literature (Eric Eliason)


English 236: Victorian Christmas and Social Reform Literature (Leslee Thorne-Murphy)

Think the Victorian wrote fuzzy, warm Christmas stories? Nope! They were much more creative than that.  Come read the ghostly, zany, rollicking literature of Victorian Christmas celebrations.  This will give us an opportunity to study issues at the heart of the Victorian frame of mind, including social reform fiction that engages with the throes of industrialism and poverty, debates over belief and doubt during the age of Darwin, and the integration of cultures and traditions during the height of the British empire.

English 236: Studies in English Literature: And the Hits Keep Coming-The Best English Novels of All Time (Brett McInelly)


English 295: Writing Literary Criticism (Jarica Watts)

This course will examine James Joyce’s Dubliners, a collection of short stories that gives way to lively discussions of literary modernism.  The collection shows us how Joyce, who went on to write innovative and complex modernist texts like Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, got his start writing simpler tales with more conventional prose. It also provides a portrait of middle- and working-class life in Ireland during a complicated period, when the country was struggling towards independence from England and its citizens were searching for a uniquely Irish identity.  Participants in this course will read, discuss, and write about the text and its influence. In so doing, students will build a foundation of writing, research, and analytic skills necessary to produce an 8-10 page literary criticism, a core assignment in most 300- and 400-level English classes.  The goal of this course is to prepare students to enter the academic “conversation” taking place within literary studies today. To this end, the course will focus on writing, research, and professionalization. Assessment will include daily reading, a series of informal writing assignments, three formal writing assignments, roundtable discussion groups, and a final presentation.

English 295: Writing Literary Criticism (Michael Taylor)

In this section of ENGL 295, students will have the unique opportunity to explore the diverse writings of early twentieth-century Yankton Sioux activist, author, and intellectual Gertrude Simmons Bonnin (Zitkala-Ša). In addition to analyzing current Bonnin scholarship, students will utilize the Bonnin archives housed in BYU’s Special Collections Library to learn how to navigate both critical secondary and primary sources effectively in ways that offer meaningful interventions in the contemporary field of Indigenous and American literary studies.

English 295: Writing Literary Criticism (Jamin Rowan)

English 295 was designed by the department to better prepare you to be successful in your future English courses by helping you further develop your writing skills. Literary criticism is a distinct genre of writing that comes with its own set of conventions, rhetoric, and research procedures. This course will help you become more familiar with these conventions, rhetoric, and procedures, enabling you to more confidently enter into the field of literary studies. In this section of English 295, we will focus our writing on Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, a novel/collection of stories about the Vietnam War.

English 295: Writing Literary Criticism (Peter Leman)

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 works by the Irish playwright Samuel Beckett, 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. I like to think of this as a literature course 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: Writing Literary Criticism (Meridith Reed)

The purpose of English 295 is to prepare you to write literary criticism that contributes to larger, scholarly conversations. To achieve this purpose, we will spend the semester reading, researching, analyzing, and writing literary criticism about this section’s central text, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. This year marks the 200th anniversary of the initial publication of Frankenstein, a novel that remains widely read and culturally relevant today. As such, this text provides a rich starting place for us to explore, analyze, and participate in the conventions and contexts of scholarly literary conversations.

This is a writing-intensive course. Expect to write frequently, both formally and informally, and to engage in effective writing practices like peer review and revision. By the end of the semester, you will write an 8-10 page paper advancing an original argument about Shelley’s Frankenstein.

English 327: Methods of Rhetorical Criticism (Greg Clark)

This course will focus on processes of critical thinking and judgment as they are formalized in the work of rhetorical criticism. Rhetorical criticism examines the influence and the consequences of various kinds of communication including aesthetic communication (literature and other art forms). Its methods involve theoretical study (rhetorical, aesthetic, and social concepts of communication), contextual study (the circumstances of origin of a text or communicative expression including author intent), formal analysis (ways that a text or expression are designed to affect the people who encounter it), reception history (how the text or expression has been received by people – how it has affected them), and the critic’s own process of making and sharing judgments about the quality of the text or expression and the values it advocates.

English 366: 20th and 21st Century American Poetry (Trent Hickman)


English 384: Major Authors: Charles Dickens (Jamie Horrocks)

Everything we read in this major authors course will be either by or about Charles Dickens, the Victorian writer who played a major role in shaping our notions of what nineteenth-century England was like. We’ll study some biographical material, but the majority of our time will be spent with Dickens’s prose: his journalistic writings (from the Morning ChronicleHousehold Words, and All the Year Round), his Sketches, his short stories (including the co-authored portmanteau tales), and his novels. Our goal will be to create a series of original research projects, using archival materials held in the HBLL’s Special Collections, that we can present at the 2019 International Dickens Symposium, which will be held in Salt Lake. The class will thus be ideal for students wishing experience in archival research and scholarly presentation. (Students wanting to register for this class must have completed ENGL 251, 295, and the 290-series (291, 292, and 293 or 294). Students may not be enrolled in these courses concurrently with 384R.)

English 394: Applied English: Provo City Lab (Jamin Rowan)

This section of English 394R, the Provo City Lab, helps students translate, activate, and narrate the competencies they have developed in their undergraduate courses by inviting them to collaborate with partners such as Provo City Community Development and Utah Transit Authority to improve urban design, public transportation, and local communities. Students from all majors are welcome to register for the course.

English 394: Applied English: Inscape Magazine (John Bennion)

Students in this section of 394R publish the print version of Inscape Journal: Poetry, Fiction, Nonfiction, Art. Staff members learn the business and craft of editing and publishing through soliciting, evaluating, editing, and laying out pieces of writing. The staff uses publishing and management software such as WordPress, Asana, Submittable, Photoshop, InDesign, and others. This course is valuable to editing minors, writers, and those who want to work in the publishing industry.

English 395: Literature and Culture in 20th Century Harlem (Greg Clark)

This course will study the literature of Harlem in its cultural context, a context that includes music, visual art, dance, film and drama, as well as the economic and social circumstances  shared by those who created it. Harlem in the 20th century was a community of gathering and refuge for African-Americans from many places that, like other American minority enclaves, developed writers and artists who expressed their unique experience, including their economic troubles and political complaints, in elegant ways. Emphasis will be on the 1930s through the 1960s. Students will study literary texts from that period in the context of the Harlem community culture as it is documented in other art forms of the time, in published histories, and in a collection of unpublished oral histories that has been recorded by the National Jazz Museum of Harlem during the last twenty years that students will access.

English 494: Liberal Arts and Leadership (taught in conjunction with 495 course below) (Nancy Christiansen)

English 495: Liberal Arts and Leadership (Nancy Christiansen)

The big question of this course will be whether and to what extent literary studies belong in leadership training.  This question is as old as literary studies themselves, and for the first several millenia of western civilization literary studies formed the core of leadership training, while during the last 250 years the two subjects have been regarded generally as opposed, with leadership very much an aspect of “the active life” and literature merely a pleasurable pastime or spect of “the contemplative life.” Much is at stake for both literary studies and leadership training in how this question is answered.  To examine the relationships between these two disciplines, we will compare and contrast the earlier unified language arts (rhetorical) curriculum with the more recent bifurcated cirricula of English departments (literary studies) and business schools (leadership training), along with recent scholarship on what makes good leaders and good leadership training.  Then we will explore through both analysis and practice what literary studies can provide for leadership training and what leadership studies can provide, if anything, for literary training. Such work will enable us to answer: “What is the value of a literary education and why?,” “What would the ideal curriculum for literary studies be and why?” and “What would the ideal curriculum for leadership training be and why?” Students will also leave the course having developed improved literary and leadership skills.

English 495: Religion in Early America  (Mary Eyring)


English 495: Utah and Mormon Regional and Religious Folklore (Eric Eliason)


English 495 Contemporary African American Literature (Kristin Matthews)

America has been called “home 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. Given the recent events that have sparked new ways of talking about this centuries old “race problem,” we will read literature written in the last five years to examine how our contemporary writers of this moment are addressing what W.E.B. DuBois called “the problem of the color line.” 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, one’s nation, and one’s own skin.

We will read a wide range of texts as we explore the concept of “home,” including novels, poetry, and drama. Our work will often be interdisciplinary, drawing on visual sources, sociology, philosophy, and historical materials. The course emphasizes critical thinking, which we will arrive at through spirited exchange, discussion, and much writing. Our class will operate as a seminar, and you will have the opportunity to co-lead one session during the course of the semester. Written requirements include one midterm, one article review (to be distributed to the class), two short papers, and one 13-15 page seminar paper due at the end of the term.


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