Course Descriptions

Link: Current Undergraduate Courses                                                       Link: Current Undergraduate Catalog

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

 Link: English 318R Application Download

Winter 2021



English 295-1*: Writing Literary Criticism: Shakespeare’s King Lear  (Michael Lavers)


English 295-4: Writing Literary Criticism: ?   (Brice Peterson)

What is literary criticism? What is a literary critic? In ENGL 295, we will answer these and other questions about the discipline of English. More specifically, we will learn how to (1) analyze literature, (2) read literary criticism written by other scholars, and (3) produce our own criticism.

In this course, we will build a foundation of analytic, writing, and research skills to produce a conference-length paper (ten pages), a core assignment in most 300- and 400- level English classes. This class focuses on the craft of writing literary criticism rather than discussing literature. However, we will augment our discussions by looking at the poetry of Anne Bradstreet and the short stories of Kate Chopin (and how they grapple with questions of gender, religion, knowledge, and existence), as well as literary criticism about these authors and their works.


English 295-5: Writing Literary Criticism: Form and Meaning in Art Spiegelman’s Maus  (Joseph Darowski)

Art Spiegelman’s Maus is a graphic novel that presents the true 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 295, 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 336-1: The American Novel: The Nature of Evil and Good  (Dennis Cutchins)

This American novel course will focus on the interrelated natures of evil and good. The novels we’ll read, which lean toward the modern and contemporary, each treat the idea of good and evil a little differently, but suggest some important notions about what actually constitutes evil and what is means to be good.


English 337R-1: Adv Contemporary Poetry: The Sonnet  (Kim Johnson)

This course traces the development of the sonnet from its origins in Renaissance Italy through our contemporary moment.  We will examine how trends in politics, religion, culture, and in Anglophone society at large are reflected in the innovations and renovations of a single literary art form over centuries, with the larger aim of exploring the relations between history and aesthetics.


ENGL 337R-002: Advanced Studies in Genre: Belief and Doubt in Literature and Life (Terryl Givens)

Survey the rise of religious disbelief in the Christian West, and the debates that ensued in literature, philosophy, and science.


English 371-1: British Literature to 1500 – The Medieval Period: Arthurian Worlds (Juliana Chapman)


English 375-1: British Literature 1832-1900 – The Victorian Period: Golden Age of Children’s Literature (Jamie Horrocks)


English 384-1: Major Authors – British Authors: George Eliot  (Leslee Thorne-Murphy)

Mary Ann Evans wrote under the pseudonym George Eliot.  Why?  Because she refused to conform to the subject matter, voice, and lifestyle expected of a conventional, respectable Victorian woman.  This class will explore the identity Evans carefully crafted for George Eliot.  As Eliot she entered the most hotly contested debates of her time and cultivated a literary talent that brought the mode of novelistic realism to new heights.


English 390-1: Transnational/Transatlantic Literature: 1900-Present: Poe and the World  (Emron Esplin)

To claim that no other U.S. writer has had as much influence on world literature as Edgar Allan Poe is not to practice hyperbole. Variously proclaimed as a master of the macabre, the inventor of detective fiction, a precursor to science fiction, the inventor of the modern short story, and a dark poet-prophet, Poe’s figure casts multiple shadows on the world. In this course, we will study Poe’s influence on and affinities with writers from across the globe, and we will also analyze how the world has shaped the Poe that we know in the United States today. Our course readings will include a few of Poe’s poems and essays, a large portion of his short fiction, and various poetic and prose responses to Poe from France, England, Japan, Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. Our course material will focus on Poe the writer, but we will also approach the figure of Poe as a pop culture icon.


English 390-2: Transnational/Transatlantic Literature: 1900-Period: Contemporary European Fiction  (Nick Mason)

While English majors typically become well-versed in the leading authors, works, and movements of centuries past, they often learn little about the literary scene of today, especially outside the English-speaking world. This cross-listed course for English and European Studies majors aims to begin filling this gap, introducing a range of important European artists and thinkers from the modern and postmodern ages. We will study both contemporary literary superstars like Elena Ferrante (Italy), Karl Ove Knausgaard (Norway), and Olga Tokarczuk (Poland) and an array of romantics (Rousseau, Goya, and Blake), realists (Flaubert, Courbet, and Tolstoy), and modernists (Proust, Woolf, and Picasso) who continue to heavily influence the literature, art, and culture of twenty-first-century Europe. This course can be taken as an elective or for the major’s 1900–Present requirement. All readings will be in English.

Book List
  • Olga Tokarczuk, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead (9780525541349)
  • Elena Ferrante, The Lying Life of Adults (9781609455910)
  • Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle (Book 1) (9780374534141)
  • Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse (9780156907392)
  • The World’s Greatest Short Stories (Dover Thrift) (9780486447162)
  • Various online readings


English 394-1: Applied English: Professional Writing Internships (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 will produce a polished writer’s portfolio they can use in applying for future internships and employment. Each month, students will meet and talk with guest professionals working in diverse professional writing-related fields such as web design, journalism, public relations, corporate and media relations, technical writing, medical communications, and non-profits. The visiting professionals talk about their own and related careers, show samples of their work, and answer student questions.


English 394-2: 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 395-1: Studies in Literature: Bob Dylan and Literature (Brian Roberts)

There had been whispers about it for years. And then it happened. In 2016, the famed musician Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Following the announcement, Sara Danius (of the Swedish Academy, which awards the prize) said, “He is a great poet in the English-speaking tradition.” She continued: “Homer and Sappho…wrote poetic texts that were meant to be listened to, they were meant to be performed, often together with instruments, and it’s the same way with Bob Dylan.” She suggested, “If you want to start listening or reading, you may start with Blonde on Blonde, the album from 1966.” This course offers students the chance to spend a semester thinking about Dylan’s work as literature, and more specifically as poetry. It also affords an opportunity to consider this poetry’s place in the cultural landscape of the United States and the world from the mid twentieth century to the present day. A few of the many topics we will consider: Dylan and poetic forms, Dylan’s literary ancestors and inspirations, the significance of major albums including Blonde on Blonde, questions of sampling (including allegations of plagiarism), performance’s role in making and remaking literature, and the recurrent matter of Black lives in Dylan’s lyrics and music.


English 396-1: Studies in Women’s Literature: 1900 to present: Postwar American Women’s Lit (Kristin Matthews)

This semester’s English 396 will examine questions raised by and in American women’s literature from 1960-present—questions about gender, race, economics, language, self, beauty, and the body. Reading fiction, non-fiction, poetry, drama, and autobiography, the course will be run as 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 much 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. Our class will rely upon your readings and questions to propel the discussion. This is a rigorous class—be prepared.


English 397-1: World Literatures in English: African Literature 1900 to present (Aaron Eastley)

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


English 418-1: Advanced Creative Writing – Fiction (John Bennion)

This fiction workshop will include daily short presentations on technique, generally led by participants. Each presentation will also include an exercise designed to help participants apply the technique to their current work. The goal of the course is to finish a novel, a second draft of a novel, or a cluster of short stories. Participants should leave the course with a writing sample they can use for application to a graduate program, admission to a writing workshop, or in some cases, sending to an agent. Consequently the workshop will divide into three groups (depending on the interests of the class members): a first draft novel group, a redrafting novel group, and a short story group. In general the workshops will follow Michael Martone’s hypoxic workshop pattern, quick or “breathless” writing to get through a whole draft of a novel or to draft several short stories.


English 495-1*: The Senior Course: Movies Make Arguments: Rhetorical Genres and Film (Brian Jackson)  (Rhetoric)

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 495-2*: The Senior Course: William Wordsworth and Literary Geography (Paul Westover)  (Late British)

The imagination has its own geography, and England’s Lake District has become an essential region within it for readers of British literature. William Wordsworth (1770–1850) is the primary reason; never before had a poet so thoroughly grounded his work and personal identity in a particular region. Because Wordsworth permanently altered the way readers imagined their relationships to place and to “nature” generally, exploring his work and legacy offers an ideal introduction to research on the interactions of writing, reading, and local experience.


English 495-3*: The Senior Course: Political Theology and Shakespeare’s Richard II (Jason Kerr)  (Early British)

How does political power become infused with the sacred? Or what happens to the sacred when it becomes political? Shakespeare explores these questions in his play Richard II, which portrays the fall of a king who understands his kingship in Christological terms. As this course prepares students to write a 20-page critical essay on the play, it will ground them in the complex theoretical and critical issues at hand while also using assigned critical essays as case studies in how to write effective literary criticism at article length.


English 495-4*: The Senior Course: Literature of Imprisonment at Topaz Internment Camp (Brian Roberts)  (American)

During World War II, the United States government unconstitutionally imprisoned 110,000 US residents of Japanese descent, about two-thirds of whom were US citizens. Around 9000 of these prisoners were sent to the Topaz War Relocation Center, an internment camp in central Utah’s Sevier Desert about an hour and a half drive from BYU. As students and scholars of literature here at Brigham Young University, we are uniquely positioned to study the moving literature surrounding this event, much of it written by important figures in the Asian American and broader US literary tradition. During the course of the semester, we will read a vibrant selection of poems, short stories, novels, memoirs, and essays that not only speak to the prisoners’ experiences in central Utah during WWII but that also relate to urgent national conversations that are unfolding today. During the semester, we will make a fieldtrip to the former site of the Topaz Internment Camp and (health guidelines permitting) to the Topaz Museum in the nearby town of Delta, Utah.


English 495-5*: The Senior Course: Art and Culture of Harlem  (Greg Clark)

In the early years of the 20th century, an urgent project of African Americans was to articulate for a new sense of identity as fellow citizens with the white majority in a democratic nation. This was a time when many whose parents were born in slavery moved from the South to the North for better living conditions. During these years a critical mass of them gathered in the Manhattan neighborhood of Harlem where artists and intellectuals created a vibrant community where visual art, music, dance, theater and political writing expressed their unique experience of life in America in ways that claimed  African-American equality. They also articulated important ideas about what African-American artistic expression should look and sound and feel like (aesthetics) as well as how it should work to change the attitudes and actions of all in the post-slavery nation (rhetoric). We will read and discuss literary expressions of this rhetorical aesthetic as well as study it in other artistic forms. Student work in this research-based course will focus on, first, examining African American artistic expression and then will develop from that study their own explanations of effects and influences of the arts and culture that Harlem produced.



Spring 2021



English 495-1: The Senior Course: William Wordsworth and Literary Geography (Paul Westover)

The imagination has its own geography, and England’s Lake District has become an essential region within it for readers of Anglophone poetry. William Wordsworth, the leading poet of English Romanticism, is the primary reason. Never had a writer so thoroughly grounded his work or his own identity in place. Wordsworth permanently altered the way readers imagined their relationships not only to the Lake District but also to location and to “nature” generally. Thus, it is no surprise that by the late 1800s readers were referring to the Lake District as “Wordsworth Country” and going there on pilgrimage. Wordsworth had helped create one of the first modern literary landscapes.

We have recently seen a “spatial turn” in the Humanities. One of its manifestations has been the acceleration of interdisciplinary work on literary geography. An exploration of Wordsworth and his legacy, as offered by this senior capstone course, provides an introduction to this realm of study. At the same time, investigating Wordsworth will show us that literary geography is not in itself new; in fact, it was a major preoccupation of nineteenth-century culture. Thus, we have in the writing of Wordsworth and his contemporaries a rich archive on the interactions of places, books, and personal experiences—an archive that we can explore with tools both old and new. Students in this class will do just that and produce their own original scholarship.


Summer 2021


English 495-1: The Senior Course: 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?