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


Fall 2021


English 303-1: Writing Literary Criticism (formerly ENGL 295): Form and Meaning in Art Spiegelman’s Maus (Joseph Darowski)

Art Spiegelman’s Maus is a graphic novel that presents the story of Spiegelman interviewing his father about the Holocaust. While the story is true, Spiegelman’s postmodern interpretation of his family’s history presents all the characters as animals (the Jews as mice, the Nazis as cats, etc.). The resulting text is difficult to categorize, but rich in thematic impact and literary merit. In this section of 303, students will become conversant in the strengths of the comic book/graphic novel medium, explore the unique aspects of Spiegelman’s iconic work, and develop proficiency in applying secondary critical sources while engaging in literary analysis.


English 303-2: Writing Literary Criticism (formerly ENGL 295): The Impossible Heap of Words (Peter Leman)

In this course, we will study a few works by the Irish/modernist writer Samuel Beckett, but our goal will be to use those works as a means of exploring, understanding, and practicing the conventions of written literary criticism. Although this course is officially titled “Writing Literary Criticism,” however, I think it is slightly misleading to speak of it solely as a “writing” rather than “literature” course—it is, certainly, not focused on literary content or literary history, but your ability to understand literature such that you can articulate intelligent, well-formed arguments about it depends upon your ability to close-read texts, conduct in-depth research, and, simply or not so simply, write. Thus, I like to think of 303 as a writing and 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. With apologies to Samuel Beckett, therefore, we will not waste time in idle discourse this semester as we ever write, ever revise, write again, revise again, revise better, grain upon grain, one by one, until one day, suddenly, sometime in December most likely, there will be a heap, a little heap, the impossible heap of words we call literary criticism.


English 303-3: Writing Literary Criticism (formerly ENGL 295): Conceptual Implications of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Jill Rudy)

This course focuses on close textual reading, inquiry, research, conceptual implications, and a slow-motion process for producing papers and writing literary criticism. Making multiple drafts, revising, sharing writing, talking about writing, crafting sentences, relishing words–we will accomplish all this and more by focusing study on a central text. L. Frank Baum’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) entices readers to explore ways the mundane and the unexpected require unlikely characters to form friendships and face deep needs, fears, and longings. His story invites literary criticism by lending itself to transnational and multimedia popularity, adaptation, and critique. Literary criticism is a distinct genre of writing that comes with its own set of conventions, rhetoric, and research procedures. We will work on five specific skill sets that make a substantive, smart literary analysis: Claim & Scope, Sentence Sense, Argument Development, Textual Analysis & Research, and Summit Implications. Plus, we will study and practice the rhetorical skills related to oral communication and presentation. English 303 was designed by the department, and certified by General Education, to prepare students for the lifelong benefits of consistently practicing and employing deeper conceptual thinking through close reading and writing about literary forms, stories, performances, and relationships.


English 303-4: Writing Literary Criticism (formerly ENGL 295): Or, How to Launch a Thousand Questions (Brice Peterson)

Literary criticism is all about asking questions. It is the practice of becoming perplexed, befuddled, and confounded by a word or phrase and then wrestling to make some sense of it. Throughout the semester, we will learn how to conduct literary analyses (i.e., ask questions about literary texts), read literary criticism (i.e., learn how to understand others’ questions about texts), and produce our own criticism (i.e., develop answers to our own questions about texts). We will augment our discussions about the craft of writing literary criticism by looking at Christopher Marlowe’s drama and Kate Chopin’s short stories. Indeed, just as Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus looks at Helen and asks, “Is this the face that launched a thousand ships?”, we will look at our texts and learn to launch a thousand questions about language, genre, patterns, perspective, irony, time, titles, sound, visual appearance, and historical context.


English 303-5: Writing Literary Criticism (formerly ENGL 295): Writing About Poetry and Prose (Makayla Steiner)

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” —Stephen King

English 303 is a course that intends to help you become a better, more effective writer. As Stephen King has wisely noted, good writing is born of careful reading and deep thinking, so this course will require a fair amount of reading, a lot of thinking (alone and with others), and a significant amount of writing. We will concentrate on two texts: Natasha Trethewey’s 2006 collection, Native Guard: Poems, and Toni Morrison’s 2008 novel, A Mercy. Both texts encourage readers to consider how the nexus of race, religion, and geography influence what we choose to remember and forget in our quest to articulate what it means to be an American. The course will focus on individual and collaborative writing practices designed to help students develop and hone their written and oral communication skills. Assignments may include—but are not limited to—reading journals, textual annotations, crafting abstracts and/or proposals, writing short essays, and preparing formal and informal oral presentations of their work. In order to take part in the scholarly conversations that surround the assigned texts, students will practice identifying and integrating credible sources into their own analyses, properly document those sources, and regularly share and reflect on their writing process. Substantive revision and workshops will be a core element of the course, and the culminating project will be an 8-10 page work of original literary criticism.


English 337R-1: Studies in Literary Form and Genre (formerly ENGL 366): Poetry (Michael Lavers)


English 337R-2: Studies in Literary Form and Genre (formerly ENGL 339): Nonfiction (Joey Franklin)


English 337R-3: Studies in Literary Form and Genre (formerly ENGL 333): British Novel (Billy Hall)


English 357-1: Literature, Ethics, and Values: Literary Ethics and Moral Scholarship (Keith Lawrence)

Using controversial American novels and novel pairs–beginning with Charlotte Temple/Lucy Temple, through with Huckleberry Finn and Catcher in the Rye and Sanctuary/Requiem for a Nun, and ending with The Bluest Eye and perhaps a Judy Blume scorcher–together with John Gardner’s critical text, On Moral Fiction, we will examine historical critiques of panned-and-banned texts and explore how contemporary believing scholars might appropriately read, engage, discuss, and write about them.


English 384R-1: Author Studies (formerly ENGL 382): Shakespeare – Works and Legacy of Shakespeare across different genres and media (Gideon Burton)


English 384-2: Author Studies (formerly ENGL 382): Shakespeare – Women in Shakespearean Drama (Brice Peterson)

Readers of Shakespeare love the dynamic women that populate his plays: witty Beatrice, bombastic Katherine, traumatized Ophelia, calculating Lady Macbeth, and resolute Hermione. However, scholars continue to debate the way in which Shakespeare represents women. Does he stage a liberating view of women as capable, autonomous individuals? Or does he reinforce the limiting view of women popular in his time as silent, object-like vessels? In this class, we will explore the ways in which Shakespeare either challenges or upholds (or perhaps a mix of both) early modern ideas about womanhood in context of religion, society, politics, medicine, genre, and the occult. Our texts will include As You Like ItMeasure for MeasureHenry VIIIMacbethTitus Andronicus, and Cymbeline.


English 384-3: Author Studies (formerly ENGL 383): Milton – (coming soon) (Jason Kerr)


English 384-4: Author Studies: Marie de France (Juliana Chapman)

“My name is Marie, and I am from France,” is the enigmatic introduction to one of the foremost female medieval authors. Living in England in the 13th century, writing in a dialect of Old French, associated with the court of King Henry II, Marie is a mysterious author. We know little about her historically, though her literary works demonstrate a range of interests, aesthetics, and genres: from folklore to religion, from blending music and poetry to establishing the genre later known as courtly romance. Her life and works highlight the role of female authorship and cultural exchange in medieval England.


English 386R-1: British Literature before 1800 (formerly ENGL 385: The Late Renaissance): (coming soon) (Jason Kerr)


English 386R-2: British Literature before 1800 (formerly ENGL 373: The Enlightenment): A Wild Romp through the Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Theater (Brett McInelly)


English 387R-1: British Literature after 1800 (formerly ENGL 374: The Romantic Period): British Romantic Poetry (Paul Westover)

Back in the 1990s, when I was introduced to the British Romantics, the class I took focused primarily on lyric poetry. We read the “Big 6” poets—Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, and Keats—almost exclusively. That class was old-fashioned even then, as the range of Romantic Studies had broadened dramatically in recent years. Still, I treasure “my first acquaintance with poets,” to borrow a phrase from William Hazlitt. I fell in love with a core of writers who remain central to my discipline and my experience of literature, and over the years I’ve expanded that enthusiasm to include many other writers (men and women) from the period. However, not all students share this love immediately—at least, some find their love mingled with self-consciousness. When pressed, they often confess to having fears about poetry. This is a class for overcoming such fears, building skill, confidence, and enjoyment in reading while exploring one of the greatest bodies of verse in the English language.


English 389R-1: American Literature after 1800 (formerly ENGL 361: American Literature 1800-1865): Hawthorne and Poe (Emron Esplin)

This class will focus on the literature of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe, two antebellum U.S. writers whose works are often discussed together due to their similar tones and aesthetics. Hawthorne and Poe never met, but they knew many of the same people, and they were well acquainted with one another’s work. Our course will offer an in-depth study of the fictional works of both authors. We will focus primarily on short fiction, although we will also read one of Hawthorne’s novels, and we will study a significant amount of literary criticism about the work of each writer.


English 389R-2: American Literature after 1800 (formerly ENGL 363: American Literature 1914-1960): Writing the American City (Jamin Rowan)

Prodded by the passing of the landmark year (2008) in which the global population became more urban than rural for the first time in our planet’s history, individuals and institutions have been busy figuring out how to respond to what many are calling the “critical issue of the twenty-first century”: the rapid urbanization of the planet. In this course, we’re going to think about what those of us working within the field of literary studies and, more broadly, the discipline of the humanities have to contribute to the current conversations about global urbanization and its attendant issues by engaging with the urban narratives that U.S. writers have developed over the past two centuries—narratives that continue to shape our conversations about urban life and its complexities.


English 389R-3: American Literature after 1800 (formerly ENGL 358R–Ethnic Literatures): Transethnic Asian American Literature (Keith Lawrence)

This course will consider the works of established Asian North American writers against a troubling backdrop of texts about Asians or Asian North Americans by non-Asian writers. The course is designed to heighten student understanding of stereotype formation and perpetuation–and of the fact that, when creating fiction about Asia or Asians, most non-Asians write first from rather narrow economic, political, religious, or “moral” agendas–and, as a distant second, from motivations related to aesthetics or story.

In the end, the course will enable participants to build on their knowledge of theory and aesthetics to develop a sound appreciation for the unique qualities and concerns of Asian American literature and an understanding of its deep connections to the broad American literary canon.


English 394-1: Applied English: Inscape Magazine (Cheri Earl)

Students will publish the print version of Inscape: a Journal of Literature and Art. Staff members learn the business and craft of editing and publishing through soliciting, evaluating, content editing, and formatting pieces of writing. The staff uses publishing software such as WordPress, Photoshop, InDesign, and others, and such platforms as Scholars Archive and Submittable. Students will also create a resume or vita, articulate their skills/competencies in the form of a letter of application or personal statement, and practice being interviewed for a position.  This internship class is designed for creative writers and those who want to work in the publishing industry; it can be especially helpful to editing or creative writing minors.


English 394-2*: Applied English: The Provo City Lab (Jamin Rowan)

In this section of English 394R, students will work with local government and other civic-minded organizations to improve urban design, public transportation, and community development. Students might, for instance, assist city planners in developing and writing one of the city’s neighborhood plans or help develop a culture of active transportation on campus. The course is designed to help students recognize that they can draw upon the competencies they have developed in their English, General Education, and other courses in their efforts to contribute in important ways to the communities to which they belong.

For IP&T 495R (taught together w/394) Design Thinking Minor.

Students in the Provo City Lab (IP&T 498R, Sec. 1) will work directly with Provo’s urban planners and residents from the Pleasant View Neighborhood to develop a plan that will guide future development in the neighborhood. Students will learn principles of urban design, community development, and transportation planning as they work alongside professional planners and active residents to create and document a vision for a more livable, sustainable, and inclusive neighborhood. Students will assist residents from the Pleasant View neighborhood in presenting the neighborhood plan to the Municipal Council and Mayor. The course is designed to help students recognize that the competencies of design thinking and other disciplines can help them to contribute in important ways to the communities to which they belong.


English 394-3: Applied English: Multicultural Collaborations (Mike Taylor)

In this course, students will work directly with local Native American organizations to learn how to effectively navigate multicultural professional environments and use humanities-based competencies to serve culturally specific initiatives. Students will have the opportunity to select from a range of collaborative projects including archival and curatorial work, content writing, curriculum design, oral history, transcription, and audiovisual editing with such organizations as BYU’s Native American Alumni Chapter, Utah’s Title VI Indian Education Program, NavajoStrong, Urban Indian Affairs, and the Native American Curriculum Initiative. Throughout the course, students will enjoy a range of professional experiences within a multicultural setting while helping to rebuild positive relationships between BYU and our local Native American community.


English 396-1: Studies in Women’s Literature, 1800-1900: Transatlantic Women’s Literature: A Tradition of Their Own (Paul Westover)


English 494-1: Professional Writing and Rhetoric Senior Capstone: Movies Make Arguments: Rhetorical Genres and Film (ENGL 494-001 will substitute for ENGL 495 for students completing the legacy major requirements) (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 495-1: Senior Capstone: 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 reorient and refresh this discussion, they still frequently find themselves revisiting the past and memory in its individual, familial, collective, national, environmental, and biological iterations.   Our course will familiarize you with some of the seminal theoretical texts on this return to studies of memory in its various forms, will introduce you into some of the current scholarly debates surrounding them, and will finally ask you to identify how the contemporary American literature we will study together incorporates representational strategies which speak to these concerns.


English 495-2: Senior Capstone: Transnational Norris (Aaron Eastley)

Theorists like Steven Vertovec (Transnationalism, 2009) have brought renewed attention to the age-old issue of the influence of place on literary art—or more specifically, the influence of multiple places that exert influence on specific writers. Enter Leslie Norris. The life of poet and short story writer Leslie Norris was almost perfectly divided in thirds: born and raised in Wales, he spent his midlife years in England and the final third of his life in America (at BYU!). So, what is he? A Welsh writer? A British writer? A writer of the world? Or does it even matter? And isn’t the condition of living in multiple places rather typical these days? In this seminar we will focus on Norris as a way of interrogating issues of contemporary literary transnationalism. As Robin Cohen observes in the recently revised second edition of Global Diasporas, “Patterns of international migration that once would be assumed to be merely unidirectional–‘migration to’–are being replaced by asynchronous, transversal, oscillating flows that involve visiting, studying, seasonal work, temporary contracts, tourism and sojourning, rather than whole-family migration, permanent settlement and the adoption of exclusive citizenships” (123). This observation runs parallel to observations made by Kachig Tololyan, long-time editor of the journal Diaspora, who has noted how in many instances present-day diasporic individuals have “abandoned exilic nationalism for diasporic transnationalism.” This sounds nicely liberating, yet Stuart Hall cogently observes that it is “precisely because [cultural identity] comes out of very specific historical formations, out of very specific histories and cultural repertoires of enunciation, that it can constitute a ‘positionality’, which we call, provisionally, identity. It’s not just anything.” The ideas of these and other theorists will inform our discussions, as will a few primary readings from authors similar to Norris in their transnationality: Derek Walcott and Zoe Wicomb. But our main fare will be Norris, especially those works that seem to speak to his different identities, and to the confluence of place-influences in his work.


English 495-3: Senior Capstone: Contemporary 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 will focus on the complexities of “home” as represented in contemporary African American literature. Our texts pose key questions about “home” and its relationship to citizenship, ancestry, language, history, class, gender, and systemic oppression. Our approach will be deliberately and self-consciously antiracist. Our readings ultimately invite us to examine what it means and what it takes for Black citizens to feel “at home” in today’s America.


English 495-5: Senior Capstone: Senior Capstone: Religious and Regional Folklore: The Latter-day Saints (Eric Eliason)

This capstone course will look at scholarship on religious and regional folklore, focusing on Latter-day Saints as the primary example. “Mormon folklore” has been well-represented in the field. There is a long history of Latter-day Saint folklorists, and topics like The Three Nephites and J. Golden Kimball stories are known outside our community. Students will select and investigate their own topic in this area using scholarly, archival, and ethnographic methods. The primary assignment will be to produce a publication-ready academic article. Students will workshop their papers and present their research in class.