Fall 2019 Course Descriptions

ENG 110A, Introduction to Literature in English: Telling (about) time in film and literature

Leslie Ortquist-Ahrens

Though “time” may seem like an obvious and natural concept, a modern Western notion of it first emerged in late nineteenth-century Europe and Britain together with developments in science and the introduction of temporal standardization to facilitate rail travel. This sense of “time” came to be defined in very particular terms, eventually overshadowing and crowding out other ways of experiencing and being in the world, other “temporalities.” At this same moment, the concept of time travel appeared in literature, and it has gripped the human imagination in stories and films ever since. In this course we’ll read and watch a number of such narratives, starting with excerpts from one of the earliest, H.G. Wells’s 1895 novella, The Time Machine, and zooming across the next century and a quarter to consider Ava DuVernay’s 2018 film A Wrinkle of Time.  Along the way, we’ll explore Octavia Butler’s 1979 novel Kindred, that combines time travel with the genre of the slave narrative, and German director Tom Tykwer’s 1998 film, Run Lola Run, a loop narrative in which the protagonist Lola has 20 minutes to secure 200,000 Marks to save her boyfriend. We’ll consider why such stories are so ubiquitous and why we find them so compelling.  But we will also learn about other ways time is fundamental to narrative—structurally, thematically, and ideologically.  Narrative literature and films are forms of art that unfold in time, but they are also forms that depend on an array of artistic devices to represent and create a sense of time. We’ll consider what impact writers’ and filmmakers’ choices can have and why they make choices about manipulating the order, duration, and frequency of events, considering Lisa Kron’s 1996 autobiographical play 2.5 Second Ride and German director Michael Verhoeven’s 1990 film, The Nasty Girl, both of which deal with coming to terms with the Nazi past.  Finally, throughout the course, we’ll ask questions about what exactly time itself is, how we experience time in our lives, how our contemporary understanding of time has been culturally and historically determined, and what narratives such as Chris Eyre’s 1998 film Smoke Signals can teach us about a wide range of temporalities that have been marginalized.Meets the Arts Perspective.

ENG 110B, Introduction to Literature in English: That’s So Lit! Young Adult Novels as the New American Lit

Gale Greenlee

Young adult novels are not just for kids. In fact, some of our most beloved classics (like Little Women and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) teeter along the fuzzy border of adult fiction and children’s lit. This course examines one of the most popular and bestselling book genres published today: young adult literature. We’ll look at the emergence of the “young adult” in the mid-twentieth century and argue over who “qualifies” to carry the moniker. But we’ll mainly focus on contemporary writers and novels highlighted by the “We Need Diverse Books” movement. We’ll read award-winners, banned books, and high-energy texts (including fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, and poetry) that take place in worlds that are real and fantastical. We’ll also tackle some YA criticism (from blogs to scholarly articles), consider the current state of YA book publishing, and explore why and how this previously-dismissed genre is now changing the landscape and face of American literature. Meets the Arts Perspective.

ENG 124A/ENG 124B, Introduction to Creative Writing

Jacinda Gides (A), Jason Howard (B)

An introduction to the forms of creative writing (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama), combining the careful reading of established works and original student writing. Conducted as a workshop, with frequent writing exercises and student and instructor criticism of works. This course counts towards the minor in Creative Writing. Meets the Arts Perspective.

ENG 140, Appalachian Literature

Silas House

A class that looks at the fiction, poetry, drama, nonfiction, and other media (film, comic strips, etc.) written by and about Appalachian people over the last five hundred years, beginning with Native American oral history and continuing on the most contemporary examples from current literature. Meets the African American, Appalachian, and Women’s Perspective (AAAW).

ENG 200E, Early British Literature Survey

Jason Cohen

What is a person, a home, a nation, a world? What we now call “English literature” begins with these questions, imagining a cosmos filled with gods and heroes, liars and thieves, angels and demons, dragons and dungeons, whores and witches, drunken stupor and religious ecstasy. Authors crafted answers to these questions using technologies of writing from parchment to the printing press, and genres old and new, from epic and romance to drama and the sonnet. Develops skills of critical reading and writing that are essential to majors and non-majors alike. Meets the Arts Perspective.

ENG 205/305, Creative Anachronism: Medievalism in Politics and Popular Culture

Beth Crachiolo

What does it mean to “get medieval”? That question presents us with an entertaining way to look at the phenomenon known as medievalism, but this class explores much more than that. From Vikings and Game of Thrones to politicians’ rhetoric to white supremacists’ phony histories, medievalism is all around us, and it has been since the 19th century. In its various constructions, the Middle Ages has been barbaric, pure, pious, violent, dirty, ignorant, peopled by Arthurian types, and filled with dragons. We’re going to try to discover the reasons for medievalisms. Why construct the Middle Ages? Whose history is this? What impacts does medievalism have on ideologies surrounding issues like racism, misogyny, nationalism, and anti-intellectualism? It’s been said that the roots of much of western culture’s assumptions can be found in the Middle Ages. We’re going to find out whether that’s true. We’ll read a few medieval texts, but we’ll spend most of our time analyzing modern artifacts like movies, television, and other media, as well as such apparently unconnected things like post-9/11 speeches and the goth subculture.

ENG 205/305, Black Girlhood Geographies

Gale Greenlee

This course introduces students to the burgeoning field of Black Girlhood studies. We will pay particular attention to how Black girls are embedded in geographic and social spaces that shape their experiences of race, gender, class, and age. Students will explore Black girlhoods as social and political categories, and lived experiences that are represented, constructed, and shaped by literature, history, politics, and popular culture. Drawing heavily upon literature from the 19th century to our contemporary moment, and tapping cultural productions including music, film, and TV, we will discuss how Black girlhoods shine a light on issues of race, sexuality, gender violence, and environmental justice while offering unique models of #BlackGirlMagic, agency and freedom.

ENG 210/310, Tolstoy and Kundera

Steve Pulsford

Two extraordinary novels: Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (often said to be the greatest novel of all time), and Milan Kundera’s amazing Unbearable Lightness of Being. Written a hundred years apart, they relate beautifully and both engage the ultimate fun meaning-of-life questions.

ENG 240, Introduction to Digital Humanities

Jason Cohen

This course will introduce you to the exciting intersection of the humanities (Languages, Arts, English, Philosophy, and History, among others) and computer science. This course introduces basic concepts that shape emerging fields like machine learning and data analysis that help us today to make sense of the large amount of information that we have available to us. Text — words on the screen or page — are data. Big data. We will examine some techniques and tools that provide us with ways to analyze text from various digitized archives and other sources in the humanities. The conclusions that we can draw from reading one book are very different from those we can derive from reading 1,000 or a million books. In fact, some of the techniques covered in this course can be applied to your own histories and stories. We want to ask about how those large scale trends map onto close reading, slow reading, of a book or even just a line. How does the “distant reading” that computers enable compare with our own close readings? We will show you how to use pre-built tools in text analysis and apply them to various bodies of text to analyze them. The will also be exposed to computational tools to aide in their efforts such as text editors and computer programming environments. This course one gigantic experiment in thinking and teaching, and it wouldn’t surprise at least one of us if we model real failure in this course. You’ll watch us struggle with this stuff (and maybe just plain old fail), too, so you should know at the outset that you’re not the only one trying to figure it out as we go along. This course satisfies the prerequisite for CSC226: Software Design and Implementation.

ENG 270, Introduction to Methods in English

Steve Pulsford

This course is an introduction to the methods of literary and cultural study. Alongside some primary works of literature, ENG 270 involves substantial reading of literary criticism; introduction to several theoretical and methodological approaches to literary study; and instruction in writing about literature, including MLA style and documentation. ENG 270 is required for all English majors and should be taken as early as possible as a foundation for subsequent ENG courses.

ENG 282F, Workshop in Creative Writing, Fiction

Jacinda Gides

“Write what you know” is standard creative writing advice but how much more depth do we attain when we write what we don’t know? How do we, as writers, effectively research and write the things we don’t know factually but seek to know emotionally? How do we research and write historical fiction or elusive creative non-fiction topics? Writers will write one piece of fiction, and one piece of creative nonfiction about an area or areas of inquiry that they don’t “know” but about which they seek to learn more.

ENG 282, Workshop in Creative Fiction, Poetry

Rebecca Gale Howell

This course develops students skills in the craft of writing fiction through exercises, analysis of literary models, increased knowledge of craft terminology, and both student and instructor critique of student work in a workshop format. Taught once every two years.

ENG 470, Advanced Methods in English

Beth Crachiolo

This course emphasizes research skills and is preparation for ENG 485. Students in this course will investigate various dominant methodologies or approaches in the field; select research questions and develop initial project proposals for their capstone essay; and systematically consider which methodologies or approaches will be most effective for their individual projects. By the end of the course, students will write a fully developed, actionable proposal that will become the basis of their capstone work. ENG 470 is required for English majors, and should be taken in the semester immediately preceding ENG 485.