Semester Course Offerings

Fall 2018 Courses

This list of courses is continually updated. You can find the complete English department course slate on the Registrar's Schedule of Classes. Check back for more course descriptions throughout the registration period.


Tuesday and Thursday, 12:45 - 2:00 pm
Prof. Evelyn Schreiber

This Dean’s seminar takes advantage of the theater offerings in Washington and asks the question: What is new about new plays? Are contemporary playwrights reworking classical themes or are their works entirely new entities? What themes reappear and how are they presented? The course also considers how classical plays are re-imagined for modern audiences. For example, is a Shakespearean work staged in a different political or social milieu than the original production? Why would directors make these types of artistic decisions? What does it mean for plays to be culturally relevant? Students will consider who attends the theater and who will be in the audience in the future. These questions form a large part of decisions about what plays are selected to be produced each year and the nature of those productions. We will read at least three classical plays and three new plays as well as attend two new plays.

Monday and Wednesday, 12:45 - 2:00 pm
Prof. Holly Dugan

Is there a difference between art and economics, between writing well for its own reward and writing for monetary gain? And, if so, can you spot that difference in your own work and in others?

In this introductory course, we’ll begin to answer these questions by practicing our skill at observing great writing at its very highest level (deemed by many to be canonical works of literature) and we’ll then work towards transferring these observations to our own writing. Along the way, we’ll explore different and often competing systems of value, including aesthetic, cultural, psychological, and monetary. Some authors, for instance, argue that not everything that has value can be monetized. Others argue the reverse: everything has a price. Our goal will be to understand not only how these authors stylistically represent the relationship between art and economics but which ones we value the most and why.

Students will learn how to write short, elegant, clear, persuasive, and passionate arguments about literature. We will do this by practicing the art of reading: learning how to appreciate difficult literature (ie books that we see have value even though we may not like or enjoy them) while examining a personal point of view about the links between financial and artistic imagination.

Texts include: Ben Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack, Virginia Woolf’s Three Guineas, Jordan Belfort’s Wolf of Wall Street, Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games, Olaudah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative, William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Aldus Huxley’s Brave New World, and Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

Monday and Wednesday, 2:20 - 3:35 pm
Prof. Patricia Chu

How do modern writers adapt the conventions of fantasy narration and the bildungsroman--the novel of education--to address questions of identity, class, gender, species, social dissent, and desire? We'll explore the connections between fantasy genres in the English literary canon (fairy tales, myth, medieval romance, and the gothic novel), coming of age themes in young adult fantasy, and dystopian and magic realist fiction.

Texts include: Maria Tatar, The Classic Fairy Tales, Brian Stone, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Mary Renault, The King Must Die, Stephen Mitchell, Gilgamesh, Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, Rachel Hartman Seraphina, George Orwell, 1984: A Novel, and Ruth Ozeki A Tale for the Time Being.

Tuesday and Thursday, 9:35-10:50 am
Prof. Tara Wallace

This course surveys texts from two of the traditional units of British Literature: the Romantic period (roughly 1785 to 1832) and the Victorian period (1832 to 1901). We will read some of the major poets (Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Keats among the Romantics, Tennyson and Browning among the Victorians); three novels (Austen’s Persuasion from the Romantic period, Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Gaskell’s North and South from the Victorian period); essays on the British Empire and on the Woman Question; and two late-Victorian plays by Anglo-Irish writers Wilde and Shaw. We will finish the semester with a look at a few poems from the World War I period. Our discussions will consider the political, social, and cultural context of these works, including the Napoleonic wars, the industrial revolution, and the British empire. This course satisfies the WID requirement.

Tuesday and Thursday 3:45 - 5:00 pm
Prof. Ormond Seavey

Introduction to American Literature I offers an overview of significant literary and cultural texts from 1492 to approximately 1865. Proceeding into a barely imaginable territory that Europeans began to investigate in 1492, the writers of the various periods in this course witnessed what has been called “the last and greatest of all human dreams.” A portion of the Americas settled by English speaking immigrants gained political independence near the end of the Eighteenth century. The efforts of these writers to secure intellectual and literary independence and to deserve the world’s attention for their imaginative accomplishments constitute the greatest achievement of the United States. Always beset by ethnic and cultural conflicts, the writers of these periods foreground an array of problems and resolutions living with one another. Their issues remain our issues.

Wednesday 12:45 - 3:15 pm
Professor Kavita Daiya

This course is a selective, historical introduction to the industry of popular Hindi film known as Bollywood. Bollywood is today the world’s largest producer of films; since the fifties, its consumption beyond India, in places from Pakistan to Kenya, Nigeria, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt, Russia, UK, and North America, suggests that it is also the most widely consumed popular cinema. Based in Mumbai, India, Bollywood, despite its name, has its own generic conventions, identity, and visual codes, distinct from Hollywood. Bollywood films are musicals well-known (and sometimes criticized) for their formulaic and “unrealistic” storylines, their simple moral codes (good vs. evil), and their typical happy endings.

This lecture course will introduce students to Bollywood through screenings of a range of films from the 1950s until today. We will place individual films within their larger political, social, and aesthetic contexts; simultaneously, we will develop a set of reading practices that allow us to find meaning in melodramatic texts which often appear resistant to interpretation. Topics discussed will include rebellion, politics, nationalism, modernity, religion, gender, sexuality, globalization, cinephilia, heroism and villainy. At the same time, we will consider how technologies of filmmaking, practices of visual representation, and generic features such as stars, storylines, and song-and-dance sequences contribute to the centrality of popular film in Indian life. While the overall approach will be multi-disciplinary, literary and filmic methodologies will be the primary lens through which the class is conducted. There are no pre-requisites for the course.

Required Texts:
Tejaswini Ganti, Bollywood: A guidebook to popular Hindi cinema
Madhava Prasad, Ideology of the Hindi Film: A Historical Construction

Tuesday and Thursday, 3:45 - 5:00 pm
Prof. David McAleavey

In the Bulletin, ENGL 2210 is described as focusing on the “craft and technique of creative writing and/or theories of creative writing,” and it satisfies a 3-credit-hour requirement for the major in Creative Writing and English. It is open to all interested students, not just majors.

For Fall 2018, we will approach that agenda by studying “prose poetry,” reading and writing “prose poems” or “poems in prose.” In the family of imaginative brief prose forms, prose poetry, flash (or “sudden”) fiction, and short works of creative nonfiction (including memoir, personal essay, etc.) are siblings. Cousins to this immediate family are the joke, the news item, the dream narrative, the autobiographical anecdote, and the letter (among others). But we’re looking at poems. In prose.

“Prose,” in this context, refers to writing that is presented using the whole width of a physical column of type (usually the width of the page, minus margins on both sides), often justified on its right margin as well as its left. Poetry, in contrast, traditionally depends on lines (or stichs) whose length, determined by other means, is independent of the printed page. Traditionally, poems have been lineated.

The rebellion which has become the genre (or sub-genre) of prose poetry engages with a challenge: how can a mere chunk of writing, a block of continuous prose, be considered poetry, since it is not lineated? We will address that question historically and inductively, by reading examples from the history of the prose poem, as well as practically and creatively, by writing our own defiant prose poems.

Prof. Jonathan Hsy

What’s the point of literature, or any form of art? Can reading a novel change your understanding of the world? How can poem inspire violence or social transformation? How does literature apply to your life, values, and goals beyond the classroom?

This course invites you to explore urgent questions through a key figure in literary history: Geoffrey Chaucer. Although he is known to most people as a comic poet, the author wrote in a surprising array of genres: epic, romance, saint’s life, love lyric, elegy, and scientific treatise. In this class, we’ll discover how Chaucer helps present-day readers rethink notions of gender, sexuality, social class, and identity (including race, ethnicity, and disability). We will trace how varied modes of reading—feminist, crip, queer, psychoanalytic, and postcolonial, to name a few—generate new ways of understanding all aspects of culture (past and present).

Short assignments include response papers, an analytical essay, and an annotated bibliography. The final paper (which you will write and revise in stages) requires you to synthesize more than one critical perspective to discuss a literary work.

No previous experience with Chaucer is expected, but note we will read Chaucer’s works in the original Middle English. This course fulfills the critical theory/cultural studies requirement for the English major.

Monday and Wednesday, 2:20 - 3:35 pm
Prof. Jennifer Green-Lewis

This course is for students who want to hone their reading skills through intense close analysis of Woolf’s experimental work of the 1920s. We’ll slow-read three of her novels, focusing on their formal accomplishment and overlap. We will also consider their debt to other disciplines, such as painting and music. Although the focus of study will be narrow, our range of discussion will be wide. Topics of discussion will include Woolf’s representation of beauty; the cultural influence of World War One; and the relationship in the novels between memory and identity. Written assignments will include journal writing, critical analyses, and creative projects drawing on Woolf’s work.

Monday and Wednesday, 11:10 - 12:25 pm
Prof. Lisa Page

American Memoir is a course designed for students with an interest in creative writing and narrative structure. It is both a literature course and a creative writing course, examining structural elements of contemporary American Memoir. It includes a writing workshop component as well as a history of the genre. Students will utilize literary strategies, constructing their own memoir material. Oral presentations on memoirists are also required. No prerequisite.

Monday and Wednesday 3:45 - 5:00 pm
Prof. Ormond Seavey

Alien but familiar also, the writers of Early American Literature begin but do not complete the exploration of all the central preoccupations of American literature. A brave new world separated by the ocean from other regions, early America posed considerable interpretive challenges for writers between the early seventeenth century and 1830. There might be treasure to discover, or there might be other cultures to decipher. It might serve as a refuge for Puritans and other adventurers. The indigenous inhabitants of this multicultural gumbo of a place greeted those who arrived with a mixture of diplomatic caution, acceptance, and hostility. The physical world of the new world offered a level of variety and novelty unfamiliar to European settlers. Eventually the advent of political independence for part of British America required adaptation into new social practices which would both derive from and depart from English and European practice. Writers treated include Cabeza de Vaca, Bradford, Winthrop, Sewall, Saffin, Pain, Church. Franklin, Crevecoeur, Jefferson, Irving, Cooper.

Tuesday and Thursday, 11:10-12: 25 pm
Prof. DeWispelare

2018 marks the two-hundredth anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In order to celebrate Shelley’s provocative contribution to cultural life, this class on British Romantic writing will study the mass popularity and long afterlife of the literary tradition with which Frankenstein is most often associated: the Gothic. The central question of the Gothic is why audiences take pleasure in aesthetic objects that provoke fright. From ghost stories to hauntings to abductions to occultism to monstrous composites like Frankenstein’s creature: where can one locate the source of aesthetic pleasure in novels, poetry, and plays that stage these things? Is it suspense, exoticisim, terror without danger? As we study examples of gothic literature from the period between roughly 1750 and 1850, and set in a wide variety of global locales, we will learn that the gothic was one of the most popular and common types of fictive writing. Indeed, not only was the Gothic a very lucrative section of the book market, as the success of the Minerva Press and its mostly female authors show, Gothic literature also created a certain hysteria regarding reading practices and cultural consumption. Should impressionable young readers really be reading frightful and scandalous texts like these?

Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto (1763)
Clara Reeve, The Old English Baron (1778)
William Beckford, Vathek (1786)
Ann Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794)
Matthew Lewis, The Monk (1796)
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818)
James Hogg, Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824)

…and more…

Monday and Wednesday, 11:10 - 12:25 pm
Prof. Jennifer Green-Lewis

This fast-paced and demanding course will give you a sense of the breadth and range of novels written in Britain during the nineteenth century. It will also help you develop an ear for the different sounds of these authors by examining the stylistic peculiarities that differentiate each author from the rest. Most important, it will answer your question: If you could read only five novels in your life, which five should you choose?

In addition to reading works by Bronte, Dickens, Eliot, Thackeray and Hardy, we will look at developments in the visual arts to inform ourselves about preoccupations of the nineteenth century. All students should come to class the first day having read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice or, at a bare minimum, seen the movie. The first book we’ll read will be Jane Eyre. Please note this course has a heavy reading load; if you can read one or two of the works over the summer, please do so.

Monday and Wednesday, 12:45 - 2:00 pm
Prof. Ormond Seavey.

By the end of the Civil War, American Literature had achieved a position as a national literature of international importance so the writers who would emerge into prominence in the following decades faced the challenge of sustaining the achievement of American literature in an era when their work could enjoy a new promise of prominence. The writers of that period are noteworthy for their diversity—Mark Twain, Henry James, Henry Adams, William Dean Howells, Charles Chesnutt, Sarah Orne Jewett, Stephen Crane, Edith Wharton, Willa Cather. Out of their work would come a new-found confidence mixed with longstanding national anxieties. In their view, they had departed from the more secure and limited achievement of earlier American writers and launched forth into a variety of interlinked directions. Their own past claimed their attention and invited a literature of self-reflection somehow combined with modes of depiction some of them would characterize as Realism.

Tuesday and Thursday, 2:20 - 3:35 pm
Prof. Liz Moser

America is a country born from protest. Yet, as much as we might claim that protest and resistance is our birthright, it is easy to miss calls from the many marginalized voices within our society. In order to explore this alternate cannon, this course will approach contemporary American literature on the subject of protest and resistance from a wide variety of minority perspectives. Together we will address literary protests along lines of racial discrimination, gender politics and non-binary sexuality, class conflict, immigration and nationality, and antiwar movements. Texts include Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale, Colson Whitehead’s alternative history novel The Underground Railroad, and Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Vietnam War spy novel The Sympathizer among others.

Required Texts: Atwood, Margaret, The Handmaid’s Tale
Beatty, Paul, The White Boy Shuffle
Erdrich, Louise, The Round House
Feinberg, Leslie, Stone Butch Blues
Lahiri, Jhumpa, The Lowland
Nguyen, Viet Thanh, The Sympathizer
Whitehead, Colson, The Underground Railroad
Yamashita, Karen Tei, Tropic of Orange

Tuesday and Thursday, 11:10 - 12:25 pm
Prof. Evelyn Schreiber

"Race, Memory, and Aesthetics"

This course links authors Toni Morrison and William Faulkner through the ways in which their fictional and discursive practices reflect on each other. Specifically, we will examine how the texts of both authors reenact and resist racism and patriarchal structures; how they explore the ways in which memory and the past construct identity; and how they experiment with style. We will consider the ways in which the texts illuminate a continuum in American literature through discussions of socially constructed identity and issues of race, class, and gender. In addition, the class utilizes cultural studies, trauma studies, and psychoanalytic critical approaches to the texts of these authors.

Texts include: Light in August, The Sound and the Fury, Absalom, Absalom!, Song of Solomon, The Bluest Eye, Beloved, God Help The Child.

Monday and Wednesday, 12:45 - 2:00 pm
Prof. Jonathan Hsy

Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, Vikings, Harry Potter: in popular media, tales of heroism, romance, and magic set in the medieval past have enduring appeal. What are the literary origins that gave rise to such contemporary media? How do fantasies about the medieval past influence contemporary culture and global geopolitics?

This course will examine how medieval storytelling traditions shape popular media (including film and TV, visual art, spoken word poetry, political activism, and fandom communities). We will read works of medieval literature and discover how these texts inform present-day cultural issues as wide-ranging as religious conflict, ethnic identity, and the mysteries of love.

Major medieval texts include Beowulf, Vinland Sagas, Marco Polo’s Description of the World, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, The Book of Margery Kempe, Malory’s Le Morte Darthur, and Shakespeare’s Othello.

Contemporary media in this course will include the Game of Thrones franchise and its global audience reception. We will consider how the Western medieval past is appropriated across Anglo-American, indigenous, Asian American, Jewish, and African diaspora contexts.

Assignments include a close reading, a public-facing review of a work of popular media (such as a TV series, film, or graphic novel), and a final project that integrates literary analysis and contemporary scholarship.

No previous experience with medieval literature is required. All medieval texts will be provided in modern English (or bilingual) translation.

This course fulfills the pre-1700 requirement of the English major.

Monday and Wednesday, 11:10 - 12:25 pm
Prof. David Mitchell

This course will explore the systemic, historical disenfranchisement of disabled people in the U.S. and other global locations. Students will leave with an ability to analyze how bodily capacity, appearance, and functionality are all normative aspects of what it means to be a citizen and how the provision of public supports are leveraged against some of the most vulnerable populations in modern nation states.

Tuesday and Thursday, 4:45 - 6:00 pm
Prof. Patricia Chu

Asians have been coming to America since 1849, but the writings of the immigrants and their descendents didn’t become “Asian American” until the word was coined, and students demanded courses in Asian American Studies, in 1968. In fact, there was no such racial group in 1878 when the United States Congress created a new legal category, “aliens ineligible to citizenship,” just for Chinese, and then began to pass laws that also excluded other Asians and Pacific Islanders from immigration and citizenship—setting them apart from Europeans and placing them into a middle category, neither white nor black.

Asian Americanist scholars argue that the treatment of Asian Americans in America has always been shaped by U.S. foreign policy objectives, by the Orientalist perception of Asians as unassimilable aliens, and by a suspicion of “orientals” borrowed from European colonialism and re-framed just for America. In response, Asian American writers have turned from writing only about their efforts to claim identities as fully American citizens to questioning American “exceptionalism” and to reconceiving themselves as citizens of the world. Or have they?

This course introduces Asian American literature as a tradition that questions mainstream constructions of Asian American race and ethnicity and provides alternative accounts of Asian American experiences. We’ll discuss the political roots of the terms “Asian American” and “Asian American literature”; Chinese immigration and exclusion; Japanese American internment narratives; feminist, national, and postcolonial influences; adoption and mixed race families; theories of narrative, genre, mourning, melancholia, and loss.

Texts include: David Henry Hwang, M. Butterfly or Chinglish; Shyam Selvadurai, Funny Boy; Deanne Borshay Liem, First Person Plural (film); Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being; Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Sympathiser; Celeste Ng, Everything I Never Told You; Salman Rushdie, Haroun and the Sea of Stories.

Monday and Wednesday, 12:45-2:00 pm
Prof. Robert McRuer

English 3980: Transnational Film Studies and LGBTQ Cultures: The interdisciplinary field that has come to be called “queer” studies over the past two decades has always concerned itself with questions of representation: how are, for instance, lesbians and gay men, or bisexual or transgender people, represented in film, in novels, in other forms of media? As the field has developed, these questions of representation have increasingly been linked to other, complex questions, involving political economy, globalization, and transnationalism: in what ways have lgbt people been incorporated into contemporary nation-states? What identities and desires threaten “the nation” as it is currently (and variously) materialized in our world? How have identities such as “gay” and “lesbian” circulated globally? How have those recognizable minority identities come into contact and conflict with other ways of identifying around non-normative desires? Have those identities at times functioned imperialistically, especially as “gay tourism” has become a recognizable part of global capitalism? Conversely, what kinds of unexpected alliances have been shaped across borders as queer movements have globalized? How have these movements theorized race, gender, class, and ability; what connections have been made with other movements organized, however contentiously, around identity?

This film studies course will consider how questions of queer representation intersect with questions of queer globalization(s). From November 7-15, we will travel to Prague, Czech Republic to attend Mezipatra: Queer Film Festival along with students in Professor Kateřina Kolářová’s class.

Monday 9:00 - 11:30 am
Prof. Tony López

This course teaches English Honors students the basics, complexities, and pleasures of research in literary and cultural studies with a view toward writing the senior-year honors thesis. It covers everything from how to choose texts and topics to how to do archival research and make sense of the print and digital differences in the materials encountered along the way. Our ultimate goal is to perfect research practices en route to drafting a thesis chapter by the end of the term. With that in mind, the course will also include writing workshops in which we’ll exchange and comment on drafts in small groups to make as much progress on the thesis as possible by December.