Topics Courses

Fall 2019

Each quarter, the English Department offers variable topics courses such as English 315 (Studies in a Literary Genre), English 324 (Studies in Literary Topics) and English 515 (Senior Seminar). Because the topics change each quarter, the courses may be repeated for credit . Those scheduled for Fall 2019 are described below. 

ENG 440: Experimental Poetry and Poetics (Jessica Luck). TR 10:00-11:50   
If the genre of poetry can be defined as “language made strange,” then experimental poetry is language made really, really strange. After all, 21st century experience is disturbingly and exhilaratingly complex—confusing, over-the-top, messy, and bizarre. Consequently, it requires new ways of speaking and new forms of thinking in order for us to navigate it and even to push back against it when necessary. Contemporary experimental poetries not only reflect this culture, but they can also help us enliven our capacities to make sense of who we are, where we are, and where we want to go within it.  In this class we will explore various modes of experimental poetics, including their roots in the modernist avant-garde, but the bulk of our study will be on innovative poetries of the Americas, from the 1970s to the present. Experimental writing invites and calls for us to invent new forms of reading, discussing, and interpreting texts, so the modes of reading, writing, and learning that we practice in this course may end up quite different than any methods you’ve encountered before. Along with the poetry, we will read statements of experimental poetics and listen to performances archived on the web. Experimental modes we will discuss will include Concrete Poetry, Projective Verse, L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry, the New Sentence, collaboration, documentary poetics, digital poetics, sound poetry, Flarf, Oulipo, and VisPo.
ENG 441: Toni Morrison (Yumi Pak). MW 6:00-7:50   
In her 1993 lecture for the Nobel Prize in Literature, Toni Morrison says, “She is convinced that when language dies, out of carelessness, disuse, indifference and absence of esteem, or killed by fiat, not only she herself, but all users and makers are accountable for its demise.” How does language die? What does it mean to be careless with language, to not use it, to be indifferent to it and rob it of its esteem? What does it mean to kill or stifle language by official decree? In our course on Morrison, we will engage with the writings of one of the most preeminent writers and critical thinkers in American literature in order to examine the powerful and provocative ways in which she asks and answers these questions. We will situate her as a cultural critic, one who produces novels, short stories, essays and speeches through the lens of Black Feminist Theory, Black Power and Black Arts. Moreover, we will engage with Morrison as a scholar and writer who works through and with legal discourse, American imperialism and queer sexualities, among other fields of study. In doing so, we will collectively unpack the ways in which Morrison’s writings have guided, contested and informed American literary production in the 20th and 21st centuries.

ENG 463: (at PDC) American Radicals--Emerson, Thoreau and the Transcendental Rebellion.
F 9:00-12:50. (Chad Luck)  
New England Transcendentalism was arguably the most important intellectual and aesthetic movement to emerge in the first one hundred years after the American Revolution.  Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, and dozens of other writers, thinkers, and reformers came together to produce an incredibly vibrant and influential body of work, a body of work that dramatically altered the course of American literature.  But the rise—and fall—of Transcendentalism is a story of conflict, a narrative of new ideas struggling to gain a hold against entrenched ways of seeing the world.  Transcendentalists fought with the established church, they fought with scientists and philosophers, they fought with poets and novelists, and, perhaps most of all, they fought with one another.
This class will map the fertile field of Transcendentalist conflict.  We will begin the quarter considering the Romantic roots of the movement and reading some of the seminal texts by Emerson, Thoreau, Fuller and others.  As the quarter develops, we will turn our attention to other nineteenth-century American writers who were responding to Transcendentalism in all sorts of complicated ways.  So we’ll look at Emily Dickinson, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, and Walt Whitman.  In doing so, we’ll chart the complex web of cultural and historical connections that radiates out from the center of Transcendentalist thought.
ENG 515: Spenser's Faerie Queene (Jennifer Andersen). TR: 4:00-5:50
This course will introduce students to Edmund Spenser’s magnificent epic romance, the Faerie Queene, teaching them strategies for mythopoeic interpretation.  The Faerie Queene offers an excellent culminating challenge for senior English majors since it combines and experiments with multiple genres, narrative modes and techniques such as interlaced narrative structure, doubling of characters, and allegorical levels (moral, historical, typological, political, anagogical, eschatological).  With its continual oscillation between narrative movement and symbolic tableaux, the poem teaches readers to become active, sophisticated, and capable of taking in ever greater degrees of complexity. Meditating on textual tradition in the poem stimulates thinking and sends the mind down unexpected paths. The course will incorporate and engage with a number of departmental goals for the B.A. in English.
ENG 566: Child Language and Literacy Development. TR 12:00-1:50. (Sunny Hyon and Parastou Feiz)
In this team-taught course, we will explore not only how children learn to talk but also how they become readers and writers.  Attention will be paid to different theoretical explanations (e.g., nativist, cognitive, sociocultural) of child language and literacy development, as well as to the impact on children of familial (i.e., home culture) orientations to spoken and written language.  In addition, the course will cover atypical development in children on the autism spectrum and in children with learning disabilities such as dyslexia.  This course is particularly relevant to students with interests in language acquisition, speech pathology, and/or language socialization in home and school contexts.