Fall 2012 Course Descriptions
English 333: The English Novel (Dane Spencer)
This course on the English novel will explore the novel’s form, content, history, and transformation. Broadly, we will engage the conceptual and material origins and history of the literary genre “novel." To this end we will read several critical essays that attempt to define the generic conventions of the “novel,” situate it in literary history, and clarify its stylistic development over roughly 300 years. The majority of our class will center on the reading and discussion of the novels themselves. Novel readings will include: Oroonoko, The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story, Emma, A Christmas Carol, Treasure Island, Heart of Darkness, The Thirty Nine Steps, The Hobbit: or There and Back Again, and Neverwhere. Grades will stem primarily from several writing/interpretative assignments, reading journals, a midterm, a final exam, and classroom participation.
English 336: The American Novel (Dennis Cutchins)
The purpose of this class is to give each student a chance to study a handful of American novels in a focused manner. The class readings will include 8 novels and several theoretical readings. The reading list is not necessarily representative of the best novels in American literature, though they are all good books and a few are favorites of mine. Unfortunately, we cannot read everything we should in this class, so we will instead attempt to create a general understanding, or a foundation for further study of the genre. I have created this particular reading list with two goals in mind. Formally (that is, in terms of form) I want to develop some understanding of what it means to tell a story in the “novel” form. The novel has been the preeminent literary art form for probably 200 years now. But that was not always the case. Novels were “invented,” though we rarely think of literary genres in those terms, and they have a specific way of telling stories. I hope we can explore the way these novels are specifically “novelistic.” The class has a thematic focus too. Thematically we will be reading novels built on the idea of a journey. In each case the characters seem to be looking for something, and in a few cases they actually find it. That image of movement is so prevalent in American literature that it led Myra Jehlen to suggest that when we stop moving we start to feel that something is wrong.
Here’s an important note: If you are looking for an easy class you may want to consider taking something else. The reading list is fairly heavy, and the expectations for the class are somewhat demanding.
Above all else, this is a literature class and we will study the mechanics of language and narrative in some detail. We will look at some of the theoretical, historical, critical, and personal forces which have shaped this genre, in addition to the social contexts from which the literature springs, the social contexts which the literature creates, and the social contexts in which the literature is taught. The approach I will take to the texts is based on a mix of close reading (new criticism/deconstruction) and contextual studies (primarily new historicism.) Please don’t take the course unless you plan on reading every word and being prepared for class each day.
English 345: Literature and Film (Dennis Perry)
A course on film adaptation, it will examine the influence of Edgar Allan Poe on filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock himself affirms Poe’s influence: “I can’t help compare what I try to put in my films with what Poe put in his stories. . . .” We will see several Hitchcock masterpieces, along with reading a great number of Poe’s tales and poems and try to understand how Hitchcock’s films were impacted by Poe’s work. We will also learn film terms and principles of the adaptation of texts into film.
English 350: The Bible as Literature (Steven Walker)
“The Bible as Literature” explores better ways of reading, tries out new reading approaches that inform not just scripture but other types of texts and ultimately life. We’ll practice reading proactively “between the lines,” familiarize ourselves with cross-pollenating patterns like biblical allusion, try speed reading for its informative perspective. We’ll find individually applicable ways of “likening unto ourselves,” discovering personal relevance in biblical texts through literary lenses that illuminate the life-effecting insights in its provocative parables of human experience.
English 355: English / Classical Civilization (Talbot)
An introduction to the study of Classical Reception: how ancient Greek and Latin literature has shaped, and continues to shape, English literature. Students will be introduced to the method by juxtaposing ancient and modern authors: Catullus with Tennyson, Horace with W. H. Auden, Virgil with Seamus Heaney. This semester’s course will take as its special focus Epic literature and its influence on English. Homer, Virgil, and Ovid will be read against Milton, Pope, Christopher Logue, and a number of other contemporary English writers.
English 356: Myth, Legend, and Folktale (Jacqueline Thursby)
Many myths, legends, and folktales were intended for an audience of children, but collectively they have been shared, read, and enjoyed even more by adults. During many periods of literary history, writers have adapted themes and motifs from children’s literature and written stories strictly for adults. In addition to reading selections of myth, legends, and folktale, we will examine leading theories of myth, legends, and folktale emergent in various fields of study (anthropology, sociology, psychology, and religious studies). Students will learn about classifications and indices of the three genres as well as folkloric elements present in myth, legend, and folktale. The text for the class will be The Norton Anthology of Children’s Literature edited by folklorist Jack Zipes, and there will be additional handouts.
ENGLISH 360: Early American Bestsellers (Zach Hutchins)
The novels that fly off the shelves of big box booksellers today rarely meet with critical approval from readers who browse the Literature section at Borders, and academic scholars have likewise—at least until the late twentieth century—turned up their noses at the Bay Psalm Book, the Day of Doom, Charlotte Temple, and other bestselling texts from the colonial and early republican periods. In this class we will ask what bestsellers teach us about the aesthetic preferences and cultural history of early America that critically acclaimed works often do not. Because colonial America was at least partially dependent on imported books for reading material, we will be reading several works written by British authors that were widely read in North America; this class is interested in a history of early American reading not necessarily linked to authors writing on this side of the Atlantic, especially since most of the authors writing in North America before the Revolution considered themselves to be English, not American.
ENGLISH 362: Doubt (Zach Hutchins)
Are you sure that this is the right class for you? That this is the right major? At the right university? How can you know? These questions are meant to arouse at least some small measure of doubt, the topic that this class will investigate through the lens of American literature produced between 1865 and 1914. In the wake of: the Civil War’s unprecedented violence; the rise of Nietzschean and Marxist philosophies; technological breakthroughs calling into question commonplace assumptions about the limitations of mankind’s abilities; the advent of microscopes; physiological studies of the brain that made epistemology a scientific rather than a philosophic question; and Darwin’s The Origin of Species, men and women of this time period confronted all manner of doubts. In this class we will examine the literature they produced in an effort to work through economic doubts, philosophical doubts, religious doubts, social doubts, personal doubts, and more. We will consider the relationship between doubt and faith. We will read works by Emily Dickinson, Herman Melville, Henry James, William James, Henry Adams, and Jack London, among others. In the process, we will learn from the methods by which each of these authors wrestled with doubt and then apply those methods to doubts of our own. Or at least that’s what I think we will do over the course of the semester. Let us be honest with one another—you and I cannot be sure what will happen in that classroom until we have entered it. Until then, there’s always room for doubt.
English 364/American Studies 300: Literature of the American West (Dennis Cutchins)
The literature of the West is an important subgenre in American literature. The West has been one of the most significant influences on the American consciousness since Europeans first landed on these shores. (It has been a strong influence on European culture and consciousness, too.) But we must remember that “the West” is almost always a construction, and the way writers and film makers have constructed the West is often every bit as interesting as the actual landscape. In short, the way people think about themselves is different because of the West or what they imagine the West is or was. This course will expose you to some of the major literary and film texts that frame the American West. We will also be reading theoretical texts that work to conceptualize the West. By the end of the semester I’ll expect you to be familiar with a few dozen primary and secondary texts, and be able to discuss the concept of the West in several different contexts (including Native American relations, settlement and frontier imagery, cowboy and gunfighter imagery, wilderness ideals, etc.).
English 366: Studies in Poetry (Susan Howe)
Eng. 366 will study the poetry of Emily Dickinson and its influence on later American poetry.
English 368: Literature of the Latter-day Saints (John Bennion)
This class focuses on literary Mormon writing, but will include at least one popular work in the genre of young adult fiction. We will read and discuss the following: Maurine Whipple Giant Joshua; Virginia Sorensen Where Nothing Is Long Ago; Angela Hallstrom Dispensation; Lance Larsen Backyard Alchemy; George Handley Home Waters; Patrick Madden Quotidiana; Shannon Hale Princess Academy; and a selection of other essays and poems. Students will write a short response paper and a longer researched paper; they will also report on an LDS writer of their choice (including a review of critical responses).
English 371: Medieval Heroes: Warriors, Saints, and Lovers (Wilcox)
In our journey through medieval literature, this class will meet three types of heroes: warriors, saints, and lovers, and we will explore three medieval genres: epics, hagiography, and romances. The stories of these heroes will help us understand the conventions of their literary genres, the history of their communities, the traditions of their religious faith, and the sophistication of their cultural milieu. Some of the heroes we will meet this semester are: Beowulf, Judith, Frideswide, Aethelthryth, Cuthbert, Andreas, Havelok, Margaret, Magdalene, Gawain, Apollonius, and Arthur.
Required Texts: Broadview Anthology of British Literature: Medieval Period, The Age of Bede, Four Romances of England, Middle English Legends of Female Saints, Le Morte D’Arthur, The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Romance, articles on electronic reserve.
Assignments: secondary scholarship analyses, research paper, imitation of a medieval genre, daily posts on the class discussion board.
English 372: British Literature to 1500 (Kimberly Johnson)
This course surveys the literature and culture of the Tudor reign from Henry VII through Elizabeth I. With special focus on the development of THE SONNET in the sixteenth century, we will examine related trends in contemporary politics, religion, aesthetic culture, and in English society at large. We will pay particular attention to the ways in which these spheres interpenetrate by virtue of their collective expression in the language and form of the sonnet tradition.
English 373: The Scottish Enlightenment and Literary Form (Matt Wickman)
The Scottish philosopher, historian, and man of letters David Hume famously remarked in 1759 that Scotland was the nation the “most distinguished for literature in Europe.” By “literature” Hume was referring to the broad category of “educated discourse,” but the eighteenth century is also the period when literature begins acquiring its modern designation as imaginative writing. But this also means that the category of literature is still unformed during this period, and that what poems, novels, and plays might do still open to dynamic possibilities. Taking seriously the question of literary form, we will explore how key works from the Scottish Enlightenment imagine their worlds and redirect modern notions concerning the status and purpose of literature.
English 374: British Literature of the Romantic Age (Nick Mason)
English 374 will provide students with a deeper appreciation of the complexity and vitality of British literature from the Romantic Age. Rather than pursuing any one particular theme, this section will allow students to gain broader familiarity with major authors they likely encountered in English 292 (Austen, Scott, and the Romantic poets). At the same time, the course will also explore lesser known writers such as James Hogg and the links between Romantic literature and early nineteenth-century science. Textbooks will include an anthology of Romantic poetry, Austen’s Persuasion, Hogg’s Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, and Richard Holmes’s The Age of Wonder
English 374: British Literature 1789-1832 (Dane Spencer)
Our course on British literature from roughly 1832-1900 (Victorian Period) will cover a wide range of texts while seeking to trace vital currents in the literary and social history of the time. Specifically, we will engage with developments in gender (using the Pre-Raphaelites and other important artists of the period to frame our study of both femininity and masculinity) with secondary foci on topics such as the condition of England (individual and industrial), religion, and imperialism. To this end we will read a variety of key poets, nonfiction prose, novellas, and four full length novels. The majority of our study will be negotiated through thoughtful, informed class discussion. Extended readings will include: Wuthering Heights, Lady Audley’s Secret, A Christmas Carol, and Treasure Island. Grades will stem primarily from specialized reading journals, an extended thematic project, a midterm exam, a final exam, a brief summary memo, and—of course—participation.
English 376, Bloomsbury: Beyond Pemberley (Watts)
This course will explore the art, literature, and culture of early twentieth-century England through the works of The Bloomsbury Group. We will examine the relationships among the literary works of Bloomsbury authors such as E.M. Forster, Katherine Mansfield, T.S. Eliot, and particularly Virginia Woolf, focusing our attention on their perspectives on English society and personal experience. We will also consider their work in light of their 19th-century predecessors (Matthew Arnold, Walter Pater, Oscar Wilde, G.E. Moore) and in light of the post-impressionist visual artists and art theorists of the Group (Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell, Clive Bell, Roger Fry).
English 382 (section 003): Shakespeare (Rick Duerden)
Eight plays chosen from the comedies, histories, tragedies, and romances. The one assumption we begin with is that each play can be read several times, from different angles, to produce several kinds or levels of interpretation, from language and artistry (how is a play designed, how does it work aesthetically?) to issues and ideas (what concerns does the play address, what ethical challenges does it ask us to face?), and on to historical, political, or theatrical contexts (what social and political work does a play do? at what points does it subvert or undermine its own or others’ conventions, ideas, or prejudices?).
Our particular emphases in this course will be (1) Shakespeare’s career and his development as a writer and thinker, (2) methods of reading, including critical and theoretical approaches to the texts (recurrent theories include culture studies, speech act theory, deconstruction, and feminism), (3) contexts of reading, including our efforts to reconstruct the historical contexts of the plays and their issues, as well as critical reflection on our own assumptions and the contexts we bring to our reading, and (4) scholarly research and writing.
English 382 (section 005): Shakespearean Tragedy (Christiansen)
We will begin by examining the genre of tragedy as it has been conceived through the ages, beginning with Aristotle and extending through the 20th-century. Then we will read 8 of Shakespeare’s tragedies, plays that extend from the beginning to the end of his career. We will compare Shakespeare’s uses of the genre in his plays to each other and to the various descriptions of tragedy. In the process, we will come to understand how Shakespeare conceives of tragedy, how he plays with the genre to question convention, how he innovates and matures in his artistry, and how we believe tragedy should be defined. We will also read these plays within the context of the rhetorical education of the Renaissance that determine the assumptions about reading and writing that both Shakespeare and his audience would have shared. Assignments for the course will include 8 take-home reading quizzes, 1 short paper analyzing Shakespeare’s use of rhetoric to create character, 2 exams, and 1 research project, involving both a class presentation and a research paper (8-10 pp.).
English 383: Milton (Kimberly Johnson)
This course examines Milton’s prose and poetry from early lyric work through his major epic, Paradise Lost and later long poems. Through close reading of Milton’s literary corpus in context of the political and religious upheavals of the seventeenth century, we will explore the ways in which cultural controversies of the day ramify into Milton’s own negotiations of literary conventions. Further, we will consider the ways in which Milton’s sense of his own vocation (poetic, civic, religious/prophetic) undergirds the production of his prose and poetry. Milton rocks, now as then, and we’ll discover why in the weeks ahead.
English 384: American Authors (Dennis Perry)
This course examines the life and works of Edgar Allan Poe, a writer whose tales represent a broad range of styles and genres, from Gothic to Detective tales, Satires to Science Fiction, Adventure to psychological narratives, and Indefinite poetry to Cosmology. We will study his works in terms of his variety of genres, reading scholarship that helps define them. One of the most influential of American writers, Poe is a watershed figure through whom much of subsequent gothic fiction inevitably must pass.
English 396: Women’s Literature (Kristin Matthews)
This semester's English 396 will examine questions raised by and in American women's literature from 1960-present—questions about gender, language, beauty, economics, race, faith, and the body. Reading fiction, poetry, drama, and autobiography, the course will be run an interdisciplinary seminar drawing from various historical, philosophical, and sociological texts to supplement our literary readings. The course emphasizes critical thinking, which we will arrive at through spirited exchange, discussion, and writing. The class does not operate by lecture; we are collectively responsible for its intellectual activities. Because these texts demand self-conscious and ethical readership, I too expect you to be a responsible reader, an informed discussant, and an engaged participant in the course's production of meaning.
English 419: Creative Writing Projects (Kimberly Johnson)
WHAT IS A POETICS? A theory of poetry and its function. Think Aristotle’s Poetics or Sidney’s Defense of Poesy. Start thinking now: what is YOUR theory of the function of poetry? What does it do? What is it good for? How does it achieve its ends? Why do you write it?
This class is conceived as a course in discovering an answer to those questions in the process of developing a major poetic project: a coherent collection with a developed arc which might serve as the foundation for an MFA application packet, a chapbook, or even a publishable collection. More importantly, perhaps, the task before you in this course is to become a more independent writer. A culmination of your creative writing education at the undergraduate level, this course should have been preceded by an introduction to the practice of creative writing in 218 and an intensive workshop environment in 319. Those courses helped you to identify stylistic techniques and practices and to develop a stronger sense of your strengths and weaknesses in implementing those techniques and practices in your own work. This course, by contrast, seeks to help you articulate for yourself which techniques and practices are essential to your poetic project. And for you to do that work, you must have a clear sense of what your poetic project is, what you intend your poetry to communicate and why—in other words, your own poetics.
With that goal in mind, we will seek to explore the components of a strong poetry collection, and gain a vocabulary for defining our own poetic projects by studying the work of others who have thought about such issues, both poets and critics. Our work in this course will be both theoretical and practical, as we apply poetic theories we discover to the practice of making poems.
English 420: Literature for Adolescents (Chris Crowe)
This course is designed to help students gain an understanding of and an appreciation for the wide range of young adult (YA) literature. By the end of the semester, students should have
- a familiarity with a broad range of YA books and authors.
- a general understanding of the history, development, and characteristics of YA literature
- the ability to select appropriate quality YA books for classroom, school, and personal use.
- the ability to analyze, verbally and in writing, YA books.
- the ability to pair an appropriate YA book with a recognized classic literary work.
- an in-depth knowledge of at least one YA author.
- a general understanding of the various genres of YA literature.
- the ability to read quickly and to talk and write clearly and convincingly about what you read.
In addition to writing a research paper on some aspect of YA literature, students will read approximately 30 YA books by the end of the semester.
English 452: Literary Theory 2 (Muhlestein)
English 452 is designed to bring you face to face—or at least face to text—with many of the literary theorists who have in the last sixty years transformed the study of literature into what it is today. By now you have probably heard of theorists like Frye, Levi-Strauss, Bakhtin, Barthes, Derrida, Fish, Gramsci, Althusser, Eagleton, Foucault, White, Greenblatt, Montrose, Howard, Lauter, Showalter, Gilbert, Baym, Kolodny, Robinson, Tompkins, Rich, Sedgwick, Kristeva, Irigaray, Cixous, Spivak, hooks, Morrison, and the like. This semester, you will have both the opportunity and the obligation to read each of these theorists—and many others like them—in detail.
My goal is not merely, or even primarily, instrumental. For although I certainly hope that I can help you add to your toolbox of techniques for literary analysis, my primary goal in English 452 is more philosophical than tactical: I sincerely hope that in the process of studying individual theorists we can begin to contextualize the study of literature in ways that will allow you to re-conceptualize, critique, and—in certain instances—perhaps even transform your experience and perspective in the major. I also hope that the theoretical and philosophical insights you gain while reading these tests will serve as both a capstone and a foundation: a capstone for your present study, a foundation for your future work.