Course Descriptions

Link: Current Undergraduate Courses                                                       Link: Current Undergraduate Catalog

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 Link: English 318R Application


Winter 2022


English 303-1: Writing Literary Criticism (formerly ENGL 295)  (Joseph Darowski)


English 303-2: Writing Literary Criticism (formerly ENGL 295): Jhumpa Lahiri  (Lorraine Wood)

We’ll use Indian-American writer Jhumpa Lahiri’s two collections of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies (1999), for which she won the Pulitzer Prize, and Unaccustomed Earth (2008), as the literary focus for our course on writing criticism.  Lahiri’s work explores issues associated with immigration/emigration, cultural identity and assimilation, and the complexities of family relationships, and these stories take us from the US to Europe, India, and Thailand, providing a multiplicity of cross-cultural contexts for the development of research and critical writing skills.


English 303-3: Writing Literary Criticism (formerly ENGL 295): Charles Dickens (and Friends)  (Jamie Horrocks)

So close to the end of the winter holidays, who could possibly not recall with fondness that beloved Dickens Christmas classic, the novella that helped make him famous throughout the world and that will be the focus of this section of ENGL 303? Readers of this book have to possess the stony heart of Scrooge himself not to chuckle at antics of the Nicaraguan natives as they subvert their British colonizers, not to fear for the safety of the fort during the pirate attack, not to hope the poor sailor boy finds true love (and perhaps even learns to read). Yes, this semester we will use Dickens’s collaborative Christmas story The Perils of Certain English Prisoners to think carefully about the processes of reading and writing literary criticism. There’s very little mistletoe and no snow at all in this story of adventure on the high seas, but it will help us examine issues of race, ethnicity, language, narrative, literary collaboration, ecology, gender, and more as we perform research and compose a series of essays that will hone your academic writing skills.


English 303-4: Writing Literary Criticism (formerly ENGL 295)  (Mike Taylor)

In this section of ENGL 303, 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 303-5: Writing Literary Criticism (formerly ENGL 295): The Short Stories of Flannery O’Connor  (Trent Hickman)

This section of English 303 will look at the work of one of America’s most important short story writers from the twentieth century, Flannery O’Connor.  As the writer of often startling, sometimes violent, but always deeply religious short stories, O’Connor offers us a special opportunity to learn how to research and write effective literary criticism aided by her essays on literary tradition and the creative process and her witty and perceptive letters.


English 328-1: Public Speaking  (Ben Crosby)


English 337R-1: Studies in Literary Form and Genre (formerly ENGL 359): Short Story  (Spencer Hyde)

In this course we will read works that challenge your understanding of narrative and literary distinction. The purpose of this course is to help you understand where, how, and why short stories fit in the literary canon. These stories span over 200 years and come from writers all over the globe. This course will help you develop a broad understanding of the short story and its intricate history. Specifically, we will assess how reading short stories helps us shore up our understanding of the cultural, political, and scientific movements that undergird the literature of the last two centuries.


English 337R-2: Studies in Literary Form and Genre (formerly ENGL 336): The American Road Novel  (Dennis Cutchins)

This American novel course will focus on that most American of American genres, the Road novel. In American Incarnation Myra Jehlen wrote, “The United States was defined primarily as a place, Indeed, the chroniclers of the early history viewed the possibility of change over time, as opposed to expansion through space, as inimical, possibly regressively entropic, or at any rate a sign that the growth was not going well.” Movement through space has long been one of those defining characteristics of Americans. In this course we’ll be reading a number of novels that all have the idea of travel or movement at their heart. I have not settled on a final reading list, but we may be reading Huckleberry Finn, In Cold Blood, Station Eleven,  Catcher in the Rye, On the Road, All the Pretty Horses, The Sun Also Rises, The Grapes of Wrath,  and Ready Player One.


English 345-1: Literature and Film  (Dennis Cutchins)

This course is designed to help students learn to think and write critically about both literature and film, and about the relationships between literature, film, and culture more generally. The course is built on three basic assumptions.

  • The first is that things like movies and novels, and even more ephemeral things like jokes and commercials, carry a great deal of information embedded in them. Some of those things may be accessed by close reading and analysis. We will, thus, be reading and analyzing the films and other texts in this class closely to see what we can find.
  • The second assumption is that popular films and literature are important because they are popular. In literature and film classes we often study texts that may not have been very popular when they were published or released, but we read them because they have grown more important over the years. Melville’s Moby Dick is one of my favorite novels, and is great example of that. But popular media, particularly in retrospect, may be even more important. Sometimes these texts can tell us something about culture, about the way people lived and thought, that is often difficult to access in other ways. A very popular movie, song, television show, or novel is like a little time capsule offering a glimpse into the past. It’s popularity is our guarantee that it represents the values, fears, or aspirations of the moment. In this class we will treat each text we study as a little time capsule to see what it reveals about a moment in history.
  • The final assumption this course is built upon is that very few works of art, particularly works of art as complex as movies, spring from whole cloth. They are the result of the work of dozens, or even hundreds of people, and they often have bits of other texts inserted in them, just as most of us have tiny bits (1-4%) of Neanderthal DNA in our genes. Texts, in other words, are largely made of other texts. That means that a movie released in 1951 has bits of other texts in it, and (in turn) that movie becomes part of the building material for later texts. We will actively look for these “influences,” if you will, in this course.


English 384R-1: Author Studies: Shakespeare: Three Pairs of Plays  (Sharon Harris)

We will read and watch three pairs of plays that represent each of Shakespeare’s major genres. Each pair, considered together, offers rich comparisons to address questions such as: In the great books tradition, Shakespeare is the only author held on par with the Bible. How does that affect how we read his work? Does this dead white guy have anything relevant to say about twenty-first century social concerns such as believing women, race, and nationalism? What kind of craftsman is Shakespeare? How does he riff on other traditions? How do genre and poetics make meaning? And how does hearing and seeing Shakespeare’s plays influence our study of them?

1st pair: The Spanish Tragedy NOT by Shakespeare but by Thomas Kyd and Hamlet

2nd pair: As You Like It and The Winter’s Tale

3rd pair: Othello and Henry V


English 384R2: Author Studies: 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 384R3: Author Studies: Herbert (Kim Johnson)

This course examines George Herbert’s prose and poetry, including his early work, his pastoral handbook, and his wildly influential book of poems, The Temple.  Through close reading of Herbert’s literary corpus in within the context of the political and ecclesiastical tensions of the early seventeenth century, we will explore the ways in which the cultural controversies of the day ramify into Herbert’s engagement with both literary convention and religious practice.  Further, we will consider the ways in which Herbert’s work balances faith with doubt, a negotiation that will come to characterize the unsettled spiritual life of the seventeenth century.


English 384R-4: Author Studies: Marilynne Robinson  (Makayla Steiner)

Marilynne Robinson is one of the most celebrated writers in contemporary American letters. She is a recipient of the Pulitzer prize, the National Book Critics Circle award, the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction, and in 2012 was presented the National Humanities Medal by former President Barack Obama for “grace and intelligence in writing.” Robinson’s fiction is frequently lauded for its attention to what Ray Horton calls “rituals of the ordinary” and its reverent depictions of religious and rural life. In theme and style her writing is influenced by the 19th century transcendentalists, Shakespeare, and Faulkner, and Oprah Winfrey recently selected not one, not two, but four of Robinson’s novels for her book club. This semester we will read those novels, which include Gilead (2004), Home (2008), Lila (2014), and Jack (2020), as well as Robinson’s first novel, Housekeeping (1980). We will also study a handful of her many fine essays. And if that isn’t enough, we will have the privilege of witnessing first hand Robinson’s mind at work when she gives the BYU forum address on January 25, 2022.


English 384R-5: Author Studies: Wrestling with Milton: Reading and Being Read by Paradise Lost  (John S. Tanner)

It is sometimes said that Paradise Lost reads its readers, meaning that their responses reveal as much about them as about Milton.  It is an argumentative, pugnacious poem.  It prompts one to wrestle and argue with it as well as admire it.  This course will invite you to wrestle with Milton’s Paradise Lost.  We will read the poem twice—once quickly and then more slowly. The second time we will read it in the context of Milton’s other works and other readers, including ourselves.


English 386R-1: British Literature before 1800 (formerly ENGL 371)  (Miranda Wilcox)

In this course we will examine stories written in medieval England by and about people of the Book – Christians, Jews, and Muslims. The concept of a “People of the Book” originates in the Qur’an and refers to communities oriented around reveled scripture – the Gospels, the Torah, and Qur’an. These communities and books intersected in complex ways during the Middle Ages. We will trace their different visions of pluralistic communities of believers through narrative contours. We will contextualize English Christian attitudes and policies towards religious minorities with the dhimma contract, a political agreement that defined and regulated the status of the People of the Book living under Muslim rule. Texts will include translations of Old and Middle English, Arabic, and Hebrew poetry, fables, travelogues, chronicles, romances, and saints’ lives as well as secondary contextual readings.


English 386R-2: Author Studies: Wrestling with Milton: Reading and Being Read by Paradise Lost  (John S. Tanner)

It is sometimes said that Paradise Lost reads its readers, meaning that their responses reveal as much about them as about Milton.  It is an argumentative, pugnacious poem.  It prompts one to wrestle and argue with it as well as admire it.  This course will invite you to wrestle with Milton’s Paradise Lost.  We will read the poem twice—once quickly and then more slowly. The second time we will read it in the context of Milton’s other works and other readers, including ourselves.


English 387R-1: British Literature after 1800 (formerly ENGL 375): Nineteenth-Century British Children’s Literature  (Jamie Horrocks)

Alice, Long John Silver, Peter Pan, Mowgli: the fact that you know these characters by name (and perhaps by heart) attests to the enduring literary significance of nineteenth-century British children’s literature, which will be the focus of this section of ENGL 387R. We’ll use these texts to become familiar with the overlapping theoretical projects of nineteenth-century realism and fantasy, to study the changing notions of childhood and adolescence, to explore Victorian perceptions of empire, industrialism, and the rising middle class, and to examine related fields of study like adaptation and illustration. You’ll have the opportunity to work individually and collaboratively in Special Collections as you perform original research that brings the enduring alongside the ephemeral. And yes, we will spend time thinking about the relationship between nineteenth-century children’s literature and the later texts it inspired, works by writers like Lewis, Dahl, Rowling, and Gaiman.


English 387R-2: British Literature after 1800 (formerly ENGL 376): The Modernist Short Story  (Jarica Watts)

This course will examine some of the finest short stories of the early twentieth century. If the nineteenth century saw the flowering of the genre, the short story becomes the site of some of the most ambitious and adventurous experiments within early twentieth-century literary modernism. During the first half of the semester, we will investigate a range of more ‘experimental’ stories by writers such as Mansfield, Joyce, Lawrence, and Woolf; we will use the second half of the semester to examine the shocks of the short story form as it plays in the fiction surrounding World War I. Throughout both units, we will investigate the formal characteristics of the short story—plot (or its frequent absence), narrative technique, arrangement of scenes, tone—in relation to literary modernism, and how structure determines the treatment of a range of contemporary ideas: time and consciousness, subjectivity, alienation, sexology, body and gender, fantasy, imperialism, and immigration.


English 388R-1: American Literature before 1800 (formerly ENGL 360) Religion and Trauma in Early American Literature  (Brice Peterson)

War, pestilence, fire, drought, death. These are only a few of the phenomena that traumatized the peoples inhabiting pre-1800s North America. On the one hand, this semester we will examine how indigenous American Indians, black enslaved persons, and white European colonists drew upon faith to recover from such tragedies and turned to the Divine for healing, hope, and understanding. On the other hand, we will explore how religion was also an instrument of trauma: how faith was used to justify brutality, breed hatred, and rationalize slavery. We will discuss this complex relationship between religion and trauma in the works of writers such as Anne Bradstreet, Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Samson Occum, and Phillis Wheatley.


English 389R-1: American Literature after 1800 (formerly ENGL 362)  New York City and Urban Modernity (Ed Cutler)

This course examines the emergence of New York City as a capital of literary and cultural modernity in the latter decades of the 19th century. We will consider major New York writers–Walt Whitman, Henry James, and Edith Wharton–and discuss how experience within a rapidly transforming world metropolis shapes cosmopolitan ideals that have come to dominate American life. We’ll study how urban modernity both intensifies social divisions and opens new ways of freely exploring individual identity, along with how technical new genres of representation and design (such as photography, panorama, art nouveau, motion pictures) chart the course for America’s virtual, dream-like popular aesthetic.


English 389R-2: American Literature after 1800 (formerly ENGL 365): American Literature, 1960 to the Present  (Trent Hickman)

Since the 1960s, American literature has become increasingly concerned with human perception, language’s ability to communicate such perception, and how the slippage between the two might affect our view of what is real.  Our course will study how these concerns of perception, language, and reality manifest themselves in literature which challenges the traditional forms and shapes of literary texts, the relationships between author and reader, and the tension between history and story in an increasingly diverse America.


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: 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 396-1: Studies in Women’s Literature: Women Writers and the Gothic Tradition  (Lorraine Wood)

Emboldened by the extreme popularity of British novelist Ann Radcliffe in the 1790s, women writers have historically used the Gothic tradition to explore and critique issues of patriarchy, confinement, and subjection, often presenting a counternarrative to dominant gender, class, colonial, and racial ideologies.  This course will trace the development and transformation of the Gothic tradition among women writers from its beginnings in the 18th century through its reconceptualization and globalization in the 21st as we explore the following questions: Why were so many women writers initially drawn to the Gothic tradition and why has this trend continued in modern times?  What characteristics are unique to the Gothic genre as constructed or reconceptualized by women writers?  (Is there a “female Gothic”?)  What issues do these writers explore through the grotesque and/or the supernatural, and in what ways?  Does this attraction to the Gothic ultimately mainstream or marginalize women writers and the genre as a whole?  What relationship do these Gothic texts have to the Gothic Revival and Neo-Gothic movements in art, architecture, film, and pop culture?  What is the enduring legacy and relevance of the Gothic among women writers in our modern world?  Authors will include some familiar favorites (Radcliffe, Austen, Shelley, the Brontës) along with a host of lesser known historical, postcolonial, and contemporary writers.  These texts are page-turners, so expect to be terrified, amused, entertained, challenged, and ultimately “haunted”!


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

How universal is our lived human experience? What are the dangers of consciously looking for evidence of universality, or of specifically shunning the notion? Acclaimed theorist Edward Said encourages a careful embracing of the idea, while pioneering African novelist Chinua Achebe says he would like to see universalism banned “until such time as people cease to use it as a synonym for the narrow, self-serving parochialism of Europe.” This course will look for evidences of shared humanity, while appraising the dangers of seeing it too often or too easily, explored in relation to literatures of Africa and the African diaspora. Texts will be clustered around similar themes and experiences. We’ll first read Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1958) and Arrow of God (1964) alongside Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899)—a literary precursor that Achebe famously condemned. We’ll then consider Zoe Wicomb’s October (2014) in light of Marilynne Robinson’s Home (2008)—a book that tells a story which Wicomb’s narrator repeatedly invokes as an American version of her own Scottish-South African experience. Finally, we’ll juxtapose Derek Walcott’s vision of the Middle Passage and present-day Caribbean cultural memory in his epic-length poem Omeros (1990) with the riveting linked stories of migration and return in Ghanaian American Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing (2016).


English 495-1: The Senior Course: Literature and Spiritual Experience  (Matt Wickman)

Literature may be our finest tool for capturing the breadth and intensity of human experience. Significantly, this includes experience of a special kind – spiritual experience. This class will explore how spiritual experience registers in literature and how literature can help attune us to a wide range of spiritual impressions. Our objective will not be 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, presumably, that spiritual experience may appear in a variety of ways across the spectrum ranging from content to form — or, perhaps, that certain configurations of content and form are especially conducive to spiritual experience, or help instill in us the types of sensibilities we associate with spiritual experience. What we will undertake in our discussions, then, is not a theology of spiritual experience but rather a literary theory of it.


English 495-2: The Senior Course: Forster and Woolf  (Jarica Watts)

This class will focus on two 20th century masters of English prose, E.M. Forster and Virginia Woolf. These two authors knew each other well, and many consider Forster a periphery member of the Bloomsbury Group. In this course, we will cover a representative sample of both writers’ work-fiction and non-fiction, as well as critical and biographical scholarship about them. Both authors wrote about the writing process. Given that a capstone paper is the final requirement for this course, we will concern much of our time with parsing what makes not only good literature but also good criticism.


English 495-3: The Senior Course: The Devotional Lyric  (Kim Johnson)

This course will examine the long history of devotional poetry, paying particular attention to the ways in which the act of seeking colloquy with the divine provokes innovation (formal, syntactic, argumentative) in the speaker of the lyric. Since lyric poetry is constituted as private utterance, it lends itself particularly well to prayer. But the privacy of the lyric space is complicated in devotional poetry by the presumption of an auditor-in this case, a divine auditor. The tension between performance and isolation animates the history of devotional poetry. This course will trace the history of the devotional lyric from its ancient origins through its heyday in the English seventeenth century, seek to determine causes for its sudden disappearance during the Restoration, and explore the status of this major literary subgenre in contemporary writing.


English 495-4: The Senior Course: Translation Studies & Literature in English  (Emron Esplin)

What can a course on translation studies offer an English major? For starters, it will reveal that our literary canons are grounded on translated texts and that our very language changes as translated texts enter our literary traditions. “English” as a field of study relies heavily on the translation of ideas, theories, concepts, and literary texts from other languages. This course offers an introduction to various theories of literary translation and to the growing field of translation studies. We will examine several versions of key translated texts that form the center of literary study in English—e.g., the Bible, The Iliad, 1001 Nights—we will question the notions of translatability and fidelity, we will highlight the importance of paratextual materials, and we will challenge the hierarchical relationship between “originals” and translations. The final course assignment will allow both for projects that examine texts in two languages (e.g., a Spanish-language original alongside an English-language translation) and for projects that analyze multiple versions of one or more texts in English.